Upset about Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’ recent explanation that his brand refuses to cater to plus-size people and would rather burn its returned clothes than donate them, an LA video producer named Greg Karber got a big idea: Give Abercrombie a “brand readjustment” by giving Abercrombie and Fitch clothes to people who are homeless.
The video and related hashtag are blowing up today online—the video has been viewed 1.2 million times—sparking mostly praise and warm fuzzy feelings among people who also think Abercrombie’s CEO is a jerk. But the campaign itself sends a terrible message and uses people experiencing homelessness as pawns.
Don’t get me wrong: Donating clothing to homeless shelters and charities is great. But as New York homeless-advocacy group Picture The Homeless explained, “If you give to the homeless only to punish douchebags, you’re probably a douchebag yourself.”
In the video, Greg Karber takes to the streets of LA to give away Abercrombie clothes to homeless people, with excruciatingly awkward results. Karber strolls around, singling out people he thinks look homeless. Then he strides up to them and thrusts Abercrombie apparel at them. Many people in the video are clearly made uncomfortable by a stranger approaching them and demanding they take his old pants. Many don’t want the clothes. He doesn’t offer them choices of clothes or even say hello. He seems to just force the Fitch upon them, then depart in search of more photo ops.
This clearly isn’t the kind of project where a person who is not homeless works collaboratively with folks who sleep on the streets as an ally to help them attain what they need and want in life. This is the kind of project where a dude demands homeless people be part of his media stunt, then makes a funny video about it.
Don’t label people homeless and then force your clothes on them all for a punchline, bro.
Writer Sara Luckey at Feminspire lays into the campaign’s exploitation of homeless folks,
“This isn’t how you treat people. This is how you treat disposable objects. It isn’t funny, noble, or helpful to try and stick it to Abercrombie and Fitch by using homeless people as the medium for your message. Would the American population at large be comfortable with any other minority group being used to make a brand look ‘bad’ by associating their clothing with that group?”
Homelessness is a major and persistent problem that’s worth talking about and helping make visible in the mainstream. And Abercrombie’s business decisions are demeaning. But forcing your Abercrombie clothes on people you perceive to be homeless isn’t good for anybody.