By Dara Sharif
Abercrombie & Fitch is facing a major backlash over its decision not to sell women's clothes larger than size 10, including a pledge by actress Kirstie Alley to never again buy anything from the clothier.
The average woman's size in the U.S. is 14, but Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries once told Salon, "A lot of people don't belong in our clothes, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
Alley, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, said: "I've got two kids in that bracket who will never walk into those stores because of his view of people."
The clothing-size controversy isn't the first to embroil the clothing company. Last year, Jeffries' 55-year-old pilot claimed age discrimination in a lawsuit that said he was fired in response to the company's desire to maintain a "youthful, all-American style." Court documents also revealed that Jeffries required his all-male flight crew to wear Abercrombie polo shirts, boxer briefs, jeans, flip-flops and Cologne 41.
Women in New York and Chicago formed picket lines in front of Abercrombie & Fitch stores this week. And a Los Angeles filmmaker, in an effort being chronicled on YouTube, hopes to "rebrand" A&F by encouraging people to give unwanted A&F clothes to homeless people.
Psychologist Maria Rago told Good Morning America that the views expressed by the CEO were harmful. "It's the whole mindset that sets up bullying. You're included, you're excluded," Rago said.
In response to the latest backlash, Jeffries released a statement late Wednesday on A&F's Facebook page, saying he regrets "that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense."
"A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers," Jeffries continued. "However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values.
"We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other antisocial behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics."
Whether the mea culpa helps remains to be seen. At least one Facebook poster was unimpressed.
"It's about this man stating that this company is too good for certain people," a poster identified as Kenny Nabac wrote. "That's just wrong ... period."