Last week Abercrombie & Fitch canceled its racy quarterly magazine because of controversy over a corporate image built on young collegiate types prone to playing naked air guitar. The retailer announced that in the place of the provocative A&F Quarterly, it would expand a more traditional catalog it publishes. But this week the company, which has nearly 700 stores, revealed plans to shoot the newest edition of the catalog next month using, surprise, the same art director, Sam Shahid; photographer, Bruce Weber; stylists and crew who made the quarterly risqué in the first place.
One might say "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," as A&F executives prove themselves alert to the reality that the more things change, the less they really have to change at all.The move to pull the magazine came after the 280-page year-end edition, called the Christmas Field Guide, appeared in stores with a cover line promoting ice hockey and group sex. To the grief of randy teenagers everywhere, the company scrapped the quarterly under protests from socially conservative and religious groups and also dumped the photographs for the spring quarterly, already in hand. That pictorial, which cost in the six figures, had been designed by Mr. Shahid and photographed by Mr. Weber, who hauled a cast and crew of 60 to Rome last October and photographed them disporting themselves nearly nude at, among other places, Cinecittà, the legendary film production center.
"While it has enjoyed success with the quarterly over the years, the company believes it is time for new thinking and looks forward to unveiling an innovative and exciting campaign in the spring," the company said in a statement after the latest brouhaha.
Retail analysts agreed that Abercrombie's racy magazine had helped drive sales of its generic preppy wear to more than $1.2 billion in 2000. The consensus also held that the chain's recent drooping sales were attributable to a shift in its customers best described in two words: Lizzie McGuire.
"We just felt it was time to retire it and come back with something that has beautiful imagery and classical photos," said Hampton Carney, a company spokesman, referring to the more traditional catalog that the company plans to distribute next year.
Given that the same creative team that produced the quarterly is doing the catalog, it is worth asking how different that imagery is likely to be. "There will probably still be kissing and beautiful bodies," said a person familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There just probably won't be themes," like three-way sex.
Casting is now under way for models to pose in the new campaign, to be shot in Palm Beach, Fla. This time around there may be fewer bare behinds, provocative groupings and exposed nipples, Mr. Carney said, "but that doesn't mean they're going to go totally conservative and lose their nerve."
Source: New York Times, December 16, 2003