Pax Americana: Abercrombie & Fitch

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This marks the week that one of America’s most successful fashion brands hits the shores of Europe, with the opening of the first European Abercrombie and Fitch flagship in London’s Savile Row. The hype has been nonstop, with the media going crazy,  London buses trumpeting the new store’s appearance by draping themselves in images of perfectly proportioned models baring their torsos (and the preferred Abercrombie aesthetic) for all to see. According to reports, there will always be two models in swimwear in the store at all times.

Shopping at an AF store is about the experience of Abercrombie and Fitch. It speaks volumes about the brand and what it stands for. The signature music. The achingly hip (an invariably attractive) store associates. The artfully ripped clothes and distressed sweatshirts. I remember being shocked one day, walking into a suburban Chicago A&F store to see the sales associate spraying perfume on the mannequins in the store. It seemed to me that over years, the company had got its in-store experience down to an exact science, a formula that works in New York and Newport and everywhere in between.

The science of A&F is now being tested in London.  It will be interesting to see how this formulaic aesthetic and defined approach works in London. Up until now, the brand has had quite a bit of appeal here in Europe, especially because of the fact that it wasn’t (legally) available here. European shoppers would come back with one of those perfectly hip pieces of Americana — jeans or a sweatshirt — as a postcard of their latest trip Stateside. What Abercrombie does, it does very well indeed.

However, once the brand becomes more readily available here and the novelty factor wears off, this tried-and-true formula will be put to the same test as every other store’s offering. London shoppers are a demanding bunch and are used to rapid turns of inventory, cutting edge design, an innovative merchandising. They will be looking for something fresh each time they come into the store, and I suspect the formula may need some tweaking and constructive diversions from the tried-and-true in order to translate Abercrombie’s American success to this new market. With that said, I can’t wait to check out the store myself and see how it has all turned out.