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CEO Fran Horowitz remade Abercrombie—and it’s luring back the millennial shoppers it ostracized as teens

November 24, 2021, 1:04 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Grammys chose some controversial nominees, Parade is taking on Victoria’s Secret, and CEO Fran Horowitz has remade Abercrombie. If you’re celebrating, have a happy Thanksgiving—the Broadsheet will be off for the U.S. holiday through the end of the week. We’ll see you here on Monday.

– Abercrombie, but for millennials. The Washington Post perfectly captured a recent experience of mine in its new story on the resurgence of Abercrombie & Fitch. In past days, I’ve clicked on influencers’ affiliate links to fall basics—jeans, sweaters, tees—and found myself—a mid-millennial—on the website of Abercrombie, a retailer whose dim, thumping, fragrant stores I sheepishly browsed as a teen. I can still smell the Fierce cologne and conjure the feelings of inadequacy.

But today’s Abercrombie is not the A&F of the aughts. The graphic tees are gone, so too are the shirtless male models, standoffish sales associates, and sizes that topped out at a women’s 10. That was Mike Jeffries’s Abercrombie. The CEO took over in 1992 and remade the 130-year-old company into a preppy teen retailer, but is probably best known for touting the brand as “exclusionary.”

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids,” he said in a 2006 interview.

Fast fashion and athleisure nearly killed that version of Abercrombie. Today’s Abercrombie is the work of Fran Horowitz, who eventually became CEO after Jeffries retired in 2014. She’s spent the last several years hunting for Abercrombie’s next generation of shoppers and found it in young millennials. Her inspiration for Abercrombie’s inventory nowadays is everything that consumers would pack for a four-day getaway, the Post reports.

Horowitz closed underperforming stores and opened smaller ones. She also improved the quality of Abercrombie clothes and expanded sizing to accommodate more body types—not just the thin (white, blond) women who once graced the retailer’s catalogues.

Abercrombie’s third quarter earnings, out yesterday, speak to how well Horowitz’s strategy is working: net sales for the parent company, which also includes Hollister, grew 10% year-over-year in the third quarter; they were up 5% from 2019 levels.

Horowitz acknowledges that the Abercrombie of the past was about “fitting in.” Now it’s about “belonging.” And she says, there’s a “very, very big difference” between the two.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- And the nominees are? This year's Grammy nominees included a few unexpected choices: multiple performers who have been accused of sexual misconduct. Louis C.K. was nominated in the best comedy album category for a special in which he jokes about those allegations. Marilyn Manson, who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women (he denies the allegations), was nominated for his work on Kanye West's Donda. On a brighter note, some other leading nominees include Doja Cat, H.E.R., Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo. NBC News

- A first in Sweden. Sweden's parliament on Wednesday approved Magdalena Andersson as the Nordic nation's first female prime minister. The 54-year-old is the new leader of the center-left Social Democrats, a role she clinched by a single vote margin. BBC 

- Holiday shopping. Looking for some podcast recommendations for your holiday travel? Try the latest episode of Fortune's Reinvent, where Beth Kowitt and Geoff Colvin break down the rising popularity of gender-inclusive kids' toys and clothing. Execs from Mattel, Abercrombie, and more share what's motivating the move away from the gender binary. Fortune/Spotify

- Parade is on. If you shop for bras and underwear online, you've probably come across Parade. The brand is led by 24-year-old CEO Cami Téllez, who started the company in 2019 and has raised $40 million from investors. With affordable, colorful basics, she's taking on everyone from Skims to Victoria's Secret. Bloomberg

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Epstein associates. Ahead of Ghislaine Maxwell's trial, lawyers for the associate of late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein are trying to prevent jurors from seeing Epstein's "little black book." The book contains the contact information of powerful people in Epstein's orbit. The trial is scheduled to begin on Monday. In related news, new NYT reporting puts together the details of Epstein's final days, drawing on prison records.

- Apple pay. Cher Scarlett, an engineer, says she advocated for pay equity at Apple and left the company after facing harassment and intimidation at work. She says she was asked to sign a nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreement, but declined. When Apple recently told the SEC that it doesn't use such agreements in cases of harassment and discrimination, she filed a whistleblower complaint with the agency. Apple didn't respond to request for comment in this story. Business Insider

- Booming business. Peek, the travel and experiences business cofounded by CEO Ruzwana Bashir, raised $80 million in a round led by a former Airbnb exec's venture capital firm. The startup struggled early in the pandemic, but saw business roar back past $2 billion in bookings as users sought outdoor activities and more over the past year. TechCrunch

ON MY RADAR

How to undermine a woman's success: Talk about her body Glamour

‘Nobody cares’: NWSL players say U.S. Soccer failed to act on abuse claims against Red Stars coach Washington Post

Of course stereotypes are holding women back Bloomberg

PARTING WORDS

"I’m so much better when I’m not working from any sense of fear."

-Actor Kirsten Dunst, participating in The Hollywood Reporter's annual drama actress roundtable. She stars in Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog

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