UC Berkeley students got a sneak preview of Abercrombie and Fitch's fall 2001 catalog when models and photographers visited campus this week. For the past week, Berkeley has served as a backdrop for the clothing company's popular quarterly catalog, a publication with over 350,000 subscribers across the nation.
The models made their statement in suit jackets with multiple layers of button-up shirts and wool sweaters over each other. Bundled up in several layers of chunky turtlenecks, one model commented that she fit right in with the layered look of UC Berkeley students.
"We wanted to go to the West Coast and Berkeley felt like it just fit," says Sam Shahid, creative advertising director for the company. "This was more what we wanted than Stanford, which didn't have the architectural feel that we were going for. The atmosphere here is just great and it's about the emotion that you get from the place."
Shahid, who has used campuses like Princeton University and the University of Virginia in previous issues of the catalog, says UC Berkeley's unique history rooted in the Free Speech Movement captivates the "aggressive" essence of this season's quarterly.
"Berkeley helped to find a voice for youth and that is what Abercrombie and Fitch does today," Shahid explains. "It's about feeling good and having a good time and having a statement to make."
While the female models wore somewhat conventional clothing, most of the male models sported more risque ensembles. One wore loafers, argyle socks, shorts and a trench coat while others posed in cut-off T-shirts emblazoned with words like "tease" and "easy." For the models, the shoot is a bonding experience.
"At the end of a shoot everyone is crying and exchanging phone numbers," Shahid says. "I look at them and say 'Oh my God, this is so great,' because they get so close-it's like summer camp."
To the delight of a gathering crowd, male models in boxer briefs paddled each other on the front lawn of Theta Delta Chi, a fraternity house on Durant Avenue.
Aside from the social fraternity portrait, catalog photographers also captured the campus side of college life.
Photographer Bruce Weber used Doe Library as the backdrop for a mock poetry reading and took pictures of models horsing around in Memorial Stadium and the locker room. Models also posed in a picnic on College Avenue.
Company policy, however, forbids the catalog makers from showcasing campus landmarks like the Campanile and Sather Gate in the catalogue.
Although no UC Berkeley students were in the modeling cast, photographers invited members of the Cal band, Cal dance team and the rugby team to the shoots. For several of the rugby players who posed with the cast, the shoot was not as much about glamour as it was just having a good time.
"It was funny because these people are so pretty and us rugby guys are nothing special," admits Elliot Geidt, a UC Berkeley rugby player. "A lot of these guys are 'pro-models' and real uptight, but we just jerked around and had fun with it."
Geidt laughingly says how, after the first day of shooting, the rugby players were eagerly anticipating the catered lunch that they had been promised for posing in the shoot. What they got, however, was not what they had expected.
"We walked in there, and there were like seven different types of salad and carrots and stuff," Geidt says. "I mean, we're a bunch of rugby players-are you kidding me? So we had to sneak out to a vending machine and get food. I don't know about those models." Although Abercrombie ads capture an all-American athletic "look," Shahid says that the clothes create the look more than the people wearing them.
"We are not partial to one particular type of person," Shahid explains. "The clothes dictate the look a lot more than people think. A woman can wear Prada or Banana Republic and look completely different in each."
Although Shahid cannot disclose the details of what the new catalogue has in store, he hints that it will contain some nudity and Berkeley locals.
He also contemplated approaching students on the street about appearing in the catalog.
"We saw two gorgeous guys and a girl today and were about to go up to them," he says. "I also saw some really great-looking guys at the gym."
Shahid says he receives nearly 400 letters a month from individuals looking to model for the lucrative catalog. Hopefuls enclose Polaroids and recommendations from boyfriends, girlfriends and family members advocating their modeling potential.
Casting directors make their selections after looking through these pictures-as Shahid's policy is to use a new cast for every shoot.
As the crew left Berkeley yesterday, Shahid says the college town has definitely lived up to its name.