Abercrombie & Fitch Photo Shoot

Like the Abercrombie and Fitch Web site will tell you, its quarterly magazine is “more than just a catalog.” The site goes on to say that the “magalogue,” as it’s called by the A&F staff who put it together, is “irreverent, unbiased and sexy.”

All those words could describe the Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot that visited campus last Thursday (except maybe “unbiased”). The production brought with it four caterers, two seamstresses, four hair stylists, about two dozen Budget rental cars, roughly 30 models and one very famous fashion photographer (Bruce Weber, who according to one Web site is probably responsible for mainstreaming the homoerotic image in advertising). For at least one day, Swarthmore’s sexiness quotient was considerably elevated.

After all, it’s not every day that glancing outside a Sharples window during lunch can produce the following scene: four seriously beautiful people, three guys and one girl, all bopping around to the Beatles’ “Come Together,” while a short, stocky man in a black sweater, beret and pink scarf snaps photo after photo. Said man is surrounded by assistants who do all the work for him. When one of his several cameras is out of film, they remove it and place in his waiting hands another newly loaded camera, ready to shoot.

The three male models, of course, have their pants pulled down around their ankles, with chef’s hats on their heads, showing off A&F boxer-briefs. If you listen closely, you can hear them chatting, trying to impress the girl:

“I’m the naked chef!”

So why Swarthmore? Ask Sam Shahid, the shoot’s artistic director: “It gave the look we wanted,” he said. “This one just had the look we wanted, sort of that Ivy league look.”

Or Damon Reynolds, a “magalogue” editor who lives near Swarthmore: “A lot of people referred it,” he said. “Swarthmore was on everyone’s lips as far as a place to go.”

Also, according to Shahid, the “magalogue” editors wanted to capture the feeling of, “Kids in school, learning to be chefs, stuff like that.” The “kids” picked to portray those students are not your average fashion models. In fact, A&F says it usually will only hire “found” models. According to Shahid, they can come from anywhere. “A lot of them are found in colleges, beaches,” he said.

Though these kids are unusually beautiful, they seem to see themselves as very much like the students here at Swarthmore. Self-described as ages 18 to 22, most are in college: at UC Santa Barbara, or Santa Monica College. Though many were natives of California, others were from homes as diverse as Green Bay, Wis., Rochester, N.Y., Maui and the former Czechoslovakia. Each came to the modeling business (and the A&F shoot) through different avenues: auditions in Los Angeles, getting picked off the beach, through agents. One had been an employee in an Abercrombie store.

Ryan Toner, from Los Angeles, said it was strange “to be gawked at, because we’re just like you. I’ll bet there are plenty of people on this campus who could be doing this job.”

All of the models were very excited to be on the A&F shoot. “Working with Bruce Weber is amazing. You get jobs just from working with him,” Holly Lynch of Venice Beach, Calif., said. Toner agreed. “Abercrombie gives you so much exposure,” he said.

So could the same be said of Swat? Will an appearance in the much-anticipated, much-read (or at least skimmed) back-to-school issue give us exposure? And is that a good thing?

Tom Krattenmaker, director of the Office of News and Information, seemed to think so. “P.R. is never a precise science, so it’s hard to tell exactly what an institution gets out of this,” he said. “But I can tell what I think we get, and that’s visibility.” Krattenmaker said that not only the fashion world but also the worldin general would give Swarthmore more attention after its Abercrombie appearance. “Many young people, some of whom may be prospective students, could read the catalogue and become aware of Swarthmore,” he said.

And though Abercrombie sought out the college, Krattenmaker said accepting the shoot was part of the college’s ongoing mission to become “better known, better appreciated. And if that’s your premise, then you want to cooperate with people to make that happen.”

Source: Swathmore Phoenix April 11, 2002

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