Victory! Abercrombie & Fitch to Carry Plus Sizes
Proud2Bme Ambassador and activist Benjamin O'Keefe reacts to Abercrombie's announcement that they will add plus sizes to their line this spring.
By Benjamin O'Keefe--Six months ago I sat in my room unable to fall asleep. I was doing what I did every night when I couldn’t sleep: reading. Little did I know that I would read something that would change my life forever.
When I stumbled upon the now infamous quote of Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, I was shocked at what I saw.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
“Are we exclusionary? Absolutely!” Could someone possibly think this? Could this even be real? How could anyone be so hurtful and discriminatory? Maybe it was my 18-year-old naivety, but I just didn’t want to believe it to be true. Well, it was true. And right then and there I decided I needed to do something about it.
As a young person who battled through bullying and anorexia, I knew just how harmful rhetoric like that of Mike Jeffries could be. I knew what it was like to want to wear the “it” styles and search the racks not finding anything that fit. I knew what it was like to look through magazines and not see anyone who looked like you. I decided I needed to do something about it and that is exactly what I did.
At two o’clock in the morning, I began a Change.org petition asking Abercrombie & Fitch to “Stop telling teens they aren't beautiful; make clothes for teens of all sizes!”
I wrote a press release, sent it out, and the next morning I awoke to what would be the whirlwind that has become the last six months of my life.
The story exploded across the nation and across the world. I had the opportunity to share my experience with some of the largest publications and television series in the world. It was terrifying to come out and discuss my past struggling through an eating disorder and bullying in front of millions of people, but it was also empowering! I cannot begin to explain how humbling it has been to hear from thousands of people who shared their stories with me and explained how my story touched them in some way. I learned a very important lesson. We all have a story and our story has the power to change someone else’s, or even change the world.
That is exactly what we did. With the help of tens of thousands around the world who joined the movement and the National Eating Disorder Association, we were able to bring our fight right to Abercrombie’s front door.
We met with Abercrombie & Fitch and discussed the issues we believed were paramount to fixing their brand: from their lack of plus sizes to the hypersexualization of their ad campaigns. We asked how they could claim to cater to the “All-American” when the average American woman wears a size 14 and their brand didn’t even make it past ten. We asked why they would sell a naked 25-year-old man to an 12-year-old girl. We gave their company all of the tools and resources that they needed to make a change and we left feeling cautiously optimistic that they would.
Alas, they did not make a change after that meeting; instead they engaged in PR stunts aimed at making it all go away. But it didn’t go away.
We continued our fight and today I am proud to say we won. Abercrombie has just announced that, beginning in Spring, their company will begin to carry plus sizes for women. This is not just a victory for me and the members of my movement. This is a victory for the world. I hope that our victory serves as a major reminder to everyone that we don’t have to fold to the pressures of injustice. It’s not always easy to stand up and fight for what’s right, but when we do good will always win out in the end.
And finally, I hope that Mike Jeffries has learned that it’s not the size of your waist that defines your worth, it’s the size of your heart and the length of your ambition. There is nothing “cooler” than that.
Benjamin O'Keefe is a Proud2Bme Ambassador.