According to a former pilot making the claim in an age discrimination lawsuit, the rules (you can check out the engrossing manual with all its amazing rules here) include wearing Abercrombie & Fitch polo shirts, boxer briefs, jeans, flip-flops and black or white gloves (depending on the task stewards are carrying out), no coats (unless the temperature falls below 10°C), a whiff of the retailer's own aftershave, and - this is probably the most vicious thing - playing Phil Collins on the homeward journey.
While most of us will probably sarcastically agree with me in considering the Phil Collins rule as the harshest, the Abercrombie & Fitch manual sounds more like a book on human right infringement than a training manual for workers.
The contents of the manual actually follow the youth-focused policy established by chief executive Michael Jeffries, a policy that also usually implies hiring hordes of topless and muscled male models and parking them outside the doors during the opening of new A&F stores.
Yet, while the company's youth-centred campaigns didn't manage to avoid it falling into recession like many other retailers, it also didn't save it from the accuses of former staff members.
Staff from the Milan store claimed they were forced to do press-ups for punishment and workers from other stores claimed they were moved in a part of the shop where they couldn't be seen because of the company's "look policy".
If you think about it, the company's store staff or the private jet stewards aren't the only ones who end up being “abused” by such brands: recruiting staff only for their appearance and using male models to attract customers during the openings implies thinking that consumers are too silly and that they just stop at the surface without caring about what's underneath.
In previous cases the company actually seemed to think that most of us stop at the surface: in 2005 A&F released slogan T-shirts aimed at women that stated “Who needs a brain when you have these?" printed on the chest, while last year it produced a triangle push up bikini bra for girls as young as seven and kids' thongs.
Such products meant the brand was at the centre of many disputes especially with feminists, but I often seriously wonder why some companies and fashion houses think we – the consumers – are just a flock of silly and superficial sheep.
I was for example struck by a recent Valentino newsletter announcing the latest Red Valentino collection was available online.
According to the advert showing a model with a digital background of fairy tale-like castles, elves and a horse (or is that a unicorn maybe?), the collection is called “Chick Lit” and it's inspired by "great 19th century writers".
I'm obviously very ignorant about literature since - even though I spent most of my life reading books - I thought that clever women such as Mary Shelley, Emily Dickinson and Rosa Luxemburg were 19th century writers while, if I believe to this image, 19th century writers lived in a land of flying fairies and pink unicorns and wrote about princes and princesses.
Besides, I also thought that “Chick Lit” was a kind of demented classification created in the 21st century to define only superficial books about cupcakes, shopping, make-up and shoes with covers in 50 shades of pink that feature, well, cupcakes, shopping bags, make-up and shoes (I admit I'm completely biased about the term “Chick Lit” as I was traumatised 10 years ago when, at a Women in Journalism meeting, a woman introduced herself as a "Chick Lit" author and then started recounting tales about her kids going to a crèche where children were requested not to wear primary colours – as you may guess this encounter somehow completely affected my perception of what is a “Chick Lit” writer and of the need of such a profession in our society...).
In fact not even Jane Austen could be technically classified as "Chick Lit" for too many reasons, the main one being that her works weren't surrounded by an undesirable saccharin aura.
The REDValentino collection features instead quite a few saccharin looks (and themes - anybody up for the "Enchanted Daydream" or "Delicate and Romantic" trends on the online store?) including frilly tulle skirts, little cashmere jumpers in pastel colours and other amenities that may turn you into a crossover between Lolita and the rather superficial cupcake baking heroine of a Chick Lit novel.
Maybe some contemporary brands and fashion houses are playing a bit too much with the dignity of their staff, while others are instead playing with the dignity of the consumers offering us products in packages that seem to imply a certain stupidity from our side.
Think about this: founded in the late 1800s in Manhattan as Abercrombie, the company boasted among its clientele Amelia Earheart, Katharine Hepburn and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, while Valentino used to be favoured by actresses, celebrities, socialites and iconic women such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
You wonder why even brands that could boast connections with pioneering or strong women have to try and attract modern consumers with beef and chicks. Maybe society rather than evolving is going backwards, or maybe them - the big brands - just think that we - the consumers - are a bunch of gullible idiots. Let the final answer be food for thought on your next shopping spree.Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
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