Abercrombie’s Sticky Situation
Published August 17, 2011
PER ABERCROMBIE’S WISHES, A PHOTO OF SORRENTINO THAT DOES NOT FEATURE THEIR CLOTHING. RATHER: VERSACE, EMPORIO ARMANI, JOHN HARDY, AND CARTIER.
When it comes to how to deal with Jersey Shore cast members’ affinity for your products, Abercrombie & Fitch could stand to learn a little something from the luxury houses. (And when couldn’t it?) Last week, Abercrombie placed a post on its investor-relations site proposing a “win-win situation” for Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino (and, it should be noted, “other members of the cast”): monetary compensation to stop wearing Abercrombie clothes.
“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino and the producers of MTV’s The Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand,” the statement explained. It also referred to Sorrentino as a “character in MTV’s TV show The Jersey Shore,” which is wrong on several counts: there’s no The in the title, and since it’s putatively a reality show, Sorrentino should be referred to only as a cast member. By offering money to his “character,” Abercrombie makes it seem like their proposed deal is a fictional one. (Which might be on purpose, now that we think about it—it all gets a little Kaufmanesque when you think about it too hard.)
The whole thing calls to mind a mini-scandal that broke right around this time last year, with an incendiary column from Simon Doonan in The Observer that alleged that Snooki’s new collection of luxury bags came from PR departments at other luxury houses—who were sending competitors’ bags gratis as a kind of pre-emptive strike to prevent Snooki from carrying their own bags. It was a sneakier approach than Abercrombie’s rather clumsy one—and probably more effective, in the long term.
Plus, there’s a slight sense of biting-the-hand-that-feeds to Abercrombie’s offer: as People StyleWatch points out, Sorrentino bragged to New York just last year that Abercrombie had told him their best-selling T-shirt at the time was one emblazoned with the word “Fitchuation.” That may be the best word for what they’ve gotten themselves into here.
Abercrombie & Fitch has not responded to our request for comment.