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Cynthia Martin

Mike Jeffries Puts A&F Under Scrutiny

A new book looks at the retailer’s discriminatory tactics

Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, is making more controversial headlines. The popular retailer is again being accused of discriminating against plus-sizes, something that many people already knew.

The issue of body elitism by the company first came to light in 2006 during an interview in Salon with Jeffries. Jeffries made several statements that showed a clear prejudice against those classified as overweight.

“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores,” Jeffries said. “Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Retail industry analyst Robin Lewis’s book, The New Rules of Retail, takes a condemning view of Jeffries’ strategies.

“He only wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing.”

Lewis’ comments aren’t news to people. Abercrombie & Fitch ads usually show young, thin models wearing very little clothing. The ads are often considered risqué and inappropriate by many. Jeffries says that’s exactly the image that he wants.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said “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.”

And Jeffries makes sure they can’t belong. The retailer doesn’t stock sizes over large, and its pants only go up to a size ten.

In the long run, these practices not only generate bad publicity, but could also affect the company’s sales. Estimates suggest that two-thirds America’s clothes buying population is classified as plus-size. Meaning that Jeffries stance may have to change if he wants to keep his business.

Urban Outfitters: Retailers of Controversy

The popular chain is coming under fire again for some of its products

Urban Outfitters is becoming known more for its controversy than for its style. This time, the retailer is being criticized for products that some claim glamorize drug usage.

Shot glasses that look like pill bottles, flasks with labels for “Boozemin” and “syringe shot shooters” are three of the products in the line of novelty items from Urban Outfitters that have people fuming.

But it’s not that the items just resemble drug-related paraphernalia. The description on Urban Outfitter’s website for the syringe shooters makes it clear that the company is playing on a drug motif:

“Prescribe yourself a small dose of pleasure. Syringe-shaped shot container – press down top to squirt out liquid. Fill it up with booze and let the healing begin!”

Natalie Costa, a documentary film maker, leads the fight to get Urban Outfitters to remove the items from their stores. What affect the items might have on teens is her main concern.

“It’s not fun, it’s not a novelty, and parents are losing their kids,” Costa said. “We have a huge addiction problem. They need to find something else to sell.”

With the main clientele for Urban Outfitters being the tween demographic, societal pressure may cause the chain to cave to demands. But they have yet to make a statement about the issue.

This latest controversy comes soon after December’s issues with swear words in the Urban Outfitter catalogues. And in 2011, the store was accused of stealing jewelry designs.

Toronto fan's sign pokes fun at "Boston Strong" slogan

A Maple Leaf’s fan takes rivalry too far with “Toronto Stronger” sign

“Boston Strong” has been the rallying cry for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and their supporters. Many saw it as a source of hope and pride in their city. But a Toronto Maple Leafs fan had a different idea.

Monday’s game between the Boston Bruins and the Leafs was game three in the series. The game took place at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The teams were tied with one game a piece. Fans on both sides cheered on their teams to take the lead in the seven-game series.

It started as an average game, but the tone changed quickly when one Toronto fan came up on the jumbo-tron. The man’s sign read “Toronto Stronger,” a deliberate play on the slogan used by Boston in the wake of the bombing. By the second period, the sign was the No. 1 trending topic in Boston.

The sign garnered mostly negative responses, many showing up on Twitter:

@TheNHLHumor: “Classless disrespect from this Leafs fan.”

@felixpotvin: “That guy with the #torontostronger sign is so disappointing.”

@_Hailee_: “Dear Leafs fan with the Toronto Stronger sign, you are a complete douchenozzle and your hockey/Canadian/human card is hereby revoked #idiot.”

But there were a few who didn’t take it too personally:

@thomasczech: “I don’t see the problem with the #torontostronger sign. It’s just in good fun at hockey game. Whatever. Sensitive much?”

Finally there were those who turned it into a joke after Boston’s 5-2 win:

@BostonOnion: “Guy with “Toronto Stronger” sign at Bruins will be beat up by Boston’s Strongest after the game. #USA.”

CBS reporter Carly Agro pointed out on CBS Network News that many Torontonians had participated in a moment of silence prior to Sunday’s Toronto Marathon, reminding people that the Leafs fan is not in the majority in his view on Boston.

No matter the reaction, the outcome was still the same. Boston has the lead (2-1) going into game four on Wedsday, May 8 at Toronto.

Punk Takes Over the Met Gala

Celebrities bring out their best punk style to honor fashion’s elites

The Met Gala, benefiting the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, honored the fashion elite on Monday in what’s known as the “Oscars” of fashion. Themed “Punk: Chaos to Culture,” the celebrities that attended showed off their unique, and sometimes quirky, punk style.

Rooney Mara, star of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, started off the Costume Institute’s annual gala with a bang. She wore a white lace Givenchy gown sporting a train long enough to need two people to make sure Mara didn’t trip. The look was capped off with her black lips, a look few can pull off, but which designer Riccardo Tisci said was his vision for Mara. Mara had a different view on her look.

“I don’t think that fashion-wise I am punk rock,” she said. “I think it’s attitude, more of a way of being. I don’t think I’m dressed punk.”

Mara hosted the Met Gala along with Tisci and Anna Wintour.

Many stars took the gala as an opportunity to push the envelope with their fashion. Singer Miley Cyrus went hardcore punk with a simple mesh Marc Jacobs dress that accentuated her dramatically spiked hair.

But there were others who didn’t completely understand the Met Gala’s punk theme. Kate Upton stood out in a green dress, but for all the wrong reasons.
“I didn’t understand the punk theme,” the supermodel said.

Last to arrive was the queen of punk herself. Madonna ended the Met Gala red carpet in a studded gray tartan jacket, fishnet stockings and bright pink pumps. The look was from the Givenchy Haute Couture collection, also designed by Riccardo Tisci.

When asked about her most rebellious fashion moment, the singer replied, “It changes by the day, by the hour.”

The gala is meant to be a sort of teaser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s new gallery opening on Thursday and running until August 14.

"Call of Duty: Ghosts" Marks Transition for the Franchise

Microsoft announces that the new game will be a different take on the popular format

“Call of Duty” has been a staple first-person shooter in the gaming world for years. Wednesday brought players a glimpse of what the next stage in the franchise will hold.

Microsoft announced that “Call of Duty: Ghosts” will give gamers a whole new world. The game will be complete with a new story, new characters and a new world, “all powered by a next generation Call of Duty engine,” according to a press release from Activision.

Speculation about the game is rife since not a lot of concrete information was released on Wednesday. A short teaser trailer gave a taste of what may be in the game, but Microsoft is waiting for their “Xbox: The Next Generation” event on May 21 to release any details.

The game’s new direction comes at an opportune time. “Call of Duty” has had great success with its “Modern Warfare” and “Black Ops” games, but critical opinions and sales have been declining. With the introduction of a new console imminent, Activision is pulling out all the stops.

“Everyone was expecting us to make Modern Warfare 4, which would have been the safe thing to do. But we’re not resting on our laurels,” said Mark Rubin, executive producer of Infinity Ward. “We saw the console transition as the perfect opportunity to start a new chapter for Call of Duty.”

Since its release in 2003, the “Call of Duty” franchise has become the most successful in gaming history. Over 100 million copies of the series have been sold. The recent installments, “Black Ops II” and “Modern Warfare 3,” both reached $1 billion in retail sales worldwide in just over two weeks.

“Call of Duty: Ghosts” is still in development at Infinity Ward and is set to be released on Nov. 5 for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and the next generation console.

May Day March Turns Violent

Violence mars Seattle’s peaceful rally

May Day in Seattle could turn from a celebration for spring into a day of hate and violence. For the second year in a row, peaceful marches turned into riots with police using pepper spray and “flash bangs” to control the crowd.

Violence first broke out a few hours after a May Day march for immigration reform ended. The two groups that started the fighting hail from two very different viewpoints.

The White Student Union and the May Day Workers clashed over opinions on economic and immigration reform. It is unclear what actually sparked the fight, but racism could have been a factor from the May Day Workers’ side.

“I don’t even want to characterize them,” said John Zangas, a member of the May Day Workers, “but they’re fairly bigoted.”

The White Student Union saw the spark differently. When things turned violent, bags of urine and flag poles were the weapons of choice for the two sides.

“We were here to protest communism and to stand up for the blue collar working class,” said Matthew Heimbach, president of the White Student Union. “And then I got urine thrown on me.”

But as the violence escalated, protesters turned to throwing whatever was at hand. Police shielded themselves and businesses from glass bottles, rocks, street barriers and trash cans, among other things.

The incident is eerily similar to the riots that happened last May Day in the city. Many hope that this will not become a traditional May Day activity.

“We’re a bigger and better city than this,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said. “I look at this and I am disappointed that this is the picture the world sees of us.”

Other May Day rallies went off without a hitch. People marched in cities across the country to try to bring focus to immigration issues facing the nation. In Salem, Ore., Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill that will allow people without proof of legal status to obtain drivers licenses. Other marches, like ones in New York and Denver, drew thousands to their cause.

The violence in Seattle ended with the arrests of 17 people, eight officers injured and, what is likely to be, thousands of dollars in property damages.

Jason Collins Opens the Sports Closet

The NBA’s first active gay player comes out to praise and support

Jason Collins took a step Monday that professional sports has been anticipating for years. After keeping silent for over 12 years, the Washington Wizards center has come out as gay.

Collin’s first-person account of his life and motives for coming out appeared on Sports Illustrated’s website and immediatly garnered national attention. In one day, he went from a basketball player to a trailblazer for the LGBT community. Though it wasn’t necessarily a role that he wanted.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins wrote. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

While it is true that other professional athletes have come out, Collins is the first active player to come out in one of the four major American leagues: NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB. Robbie Rodgers, an American soccer player, also recently came out.

Many have speculated for years on who it would be to break the taboo, and now that it’s finely happened, the questions have turned to how this will affect professional sports. The reaction right now has been highly positive and supportive. Collins has been praised for his courage by other players, such as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and has even received a call from President Obama.

Collins says that his reasons for coming out have nothing to do with taking a political stance. “I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful,” he wrote.

What will come next for Collins and pro sports remains up in the air. As a free agent, Collins is searching for where the he’ll be next season.

“I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball,” he said.

Clearly, he is not ready for his career to be over. And with all the recent headlines, next season will probably find him on the court somewhere.

As for the future of gays in professional sports? Who knows? Collins hopes that his example will lead others to accept themselves and follow his lead if that’s what makes them happy. There’s not likely to be an outpouring of confessions. But Collins proves that the world is changing, and soon gay athletes will be as commonplace.