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By March 17, 2020Culture

What’s wrong with this picture? (Hint: Look closer than my reflection in the window.) It’s about the individuals who grace the giant promotional posters displayed in this Abercrombie & Fitch storefront. We learn from the photo captions that the ripped Gus and Kyle are both professional athletes; and that one of the two attractive women, Georgia (in an adjacent window), is a model.

The fourth (center) poster embodies, in my opinion, what’s right and what’s wrong here. First, good for the A&F marketing campaign to feature Halle Hathaway, who is, it seems, atypically shaped for the retailer’s brand. That A&F feels obliged to qualify her selection — the caption notes she is an “Influencer & Self Love Advocate” (@halle_hathaway) — marginalizes its purpose, unfortunately.

There is always a risk of unintended consequences with such calculated choices; they can sniff of pandering or worse, stereotyping. The grander (commercially riskier?) gesture would be to make a genuine, unqualified appeal to customers of all shapes and sizes.

No doubt it’s a stretch to expect an apparel retailer like A&F to set the example for being “blind” to ethnicity, gender and age, let alone physical appearance. It would be nice, though, if the influential trendsetter could reflect sincerity.

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