Mike Jeffries, the 68-year-old CEO of Abercrombie who famously geared his brand towards "the cool, popular kids" and then tried really hard to be one, announced today he will step down from his post. Immediately, Abercrombie stocks went up by 7%, presumably because investors know that his weirdo mandate to go after only the sexy people lost them a lot of potential customers.
Last year, Forbes ran a piece called "How a CEO Can Wreck a Brand in One Interview," about how a 2006 profile of Jeffries in Salonhad been resurrected, causing a new wave of Abercrombie backlash that went against the popular, pro-self-esteem wave of advertising from the likes of Dove. In the Salonpiece, Jeffries is described as "the Willie Wonka of the fashion industry," an obsessive-compulsive oddball whose need to resemble his Abercrombie ideal manifests itself in wild amounts of cosmetic surgery and alterations: "dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips." He told Salon, "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."
But that utopian ideal of some outdated suburban popular kid just does not fly like it did in the late '90s and early '00s—last year sales were down 17% in the first quarter alone, which some employees blamed on the presence of Jeffries' boyfriend Matthew Smith, who apparently had a heavy hand in the company. (He's the guy who was sued by an airline pilot who claimed he was fired for being "too old," a suit which was resolved out of court).
In a press release announcing his retirement, Jeffries stated, "It has been an honor to lead this extraordinarily talented group of people. I am extremely proud of your accomplishments. I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the Company forward in the next phase of its development." He did not announce his intent for the future, but here's to hoping it holds a totally bananas memoir that we can deliciously hate-read at the beach while sunning our perfect hot bods.
Image via Getty.