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Abercrombie Strips Out The Sex And "Ivy League Heritage" From Brand Descriptions

The retailer, which is pursuing a turnaround, conveys a new image in its quarterly filing. "Idolized and respected" have been swapped for "confident and engaging."

Posted on June 9, 2014, at 7:09 p.m. ET

Abercrombie removed this language from a new filing:

Abercrombie & Fitch is working hard to regain its luster among American teens — and that includes changing how it describes its own brands.

The retailer removed references to "East Coast traditions and Ivy League heritage" and words like "sexy," "idolized," and "privilege" in its quarterly filing today, vocabulary it's used to describe its brands for years. (Such language was last used in both its annual report in March and a quarterly filing from December.)

Abercrombie now describes its namesake brand as "the next generation of effortless All-American style." It goes on: "The essence of laidback sophistication with an element of simplicity, A&F sets the standard for great taste. From classic campus experiences to collecting moments while traveling, A&F brings stories of adventure and discovery to life. Confident and engaging, the Abercrombie & Fitch legacy is rooted in a heritage of quality craftsmanship and focused on a future of creative ambition."

That's less elitist than Abercrombie's previous description of its namesake brand: "Rooted in East Coast traditions and Ivy League heritage, Abercrombie & Fitch is the essence of privilege and casual luxury. The Adirondacks supply a clean inspiration to this preppy, youthful All-American lifestyle. A combination of classic and sexy creates a charged atmosphere that is confident and just a bit provocative. Idolized and respected, Abercrombie & Fitch is timeless and always cool." (Abercrombie, in this sense, literally checked its privilege.)

Abercrombie was once the coolest brand among America's high schoolers, selling expensive $80 jeans and $50 T-shirts with marketing likened to softcore porn, thumping nightclub-like stores, and the stench of cologne. Now, teens' tastes have shifted and Abercrombie is opening up the windows at Hollister, toning down the scents (which have been found to make people anxious), and trying harder to keep up with fast-fashion chains.

The retailer has also been cutting back on the sex to some extent, removing the pictures of teens canoodling from investor presentations, for example, though the hallmark of a flagship opening is still hordes of shirtless young men.

Abercrombie, in today's filing, referred to its kids' chain as "a&f kids" instead of "abercrombie," and cut out phrases saying it's "the essence of privilege and prestigious East Coast prep schools," and "directly follows in the footsteps of Abercrombie & Fitch." Now, the chain is "the essence of fun and friendship," and "celebrates each moment by sharing its effortless great taste with the world."

The language around Hollister — "the fantasy of Southern California" — is largely unchanged in today's filing though two points stand out. Gone is the phrase "hot lifeguards," but guess what made a new appearance? A phrase that hasn't been used at Abercrombie all that much in the past 20 years: "totally accessible."

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