I never thought I would be writing a piece like this on the social impact of notebook collaborations but here I am. I have thought a lot about what has transpired over the past few days and I (think) am finally able to put my thoughts into words. Let me preface this by saying I am not obsessed or subscribe to the madness that is Field Notes collecting and selling. I am a user. I buy editions I find either visually appealing or editions that work for me in a particular way (Dime Novel I'm looking at you). I think that the opinion of a user and not a super-fan is what is not being recognized here. I speak as an average person which, statistically, probably makes up a large part of your customer base. One might be inclined to placate your fan group for if you rock the boat there, you lose free advertising and endless proselytizing of the brand. Just because a group is more visible does not mean they matter more. With that being said, I want to address the Abercrombie X Field Notes Collaboration.
When I saw the Instagram post about the notebooks, I loved the books. Then I read the description: "for men/for women" and was annoyed. Not at you, but at Abercrombie for gendering inanimate objects. I was also perplexed at the collaboration itself. Surely you must have known the history of Abercrombie's poor practices. They have been common knowledge for years. I question: are these the values that FN HQ priortizes?
The most egregious are the ex-CEO's many horrible statements he has made in the past as the voice of the company:
- “We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that.”
- "Listen, do we go too far sometimes? Absolutely. But we push the envelope, and we try to be funny, and we try to stay authentic and relevant to our target customer. I really don't care what anyone other than our target customer thinks."
- "In every school, there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," he says. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."
Also, lest we not forget the time Abercrombie refused to hire a woman because she wore a hijab. Or how about the time they sold racist t-shirts that featured long held stereotypes of the Asian community with the assumption that Asians would just *love* them? These are just a few of the many, many offensive things that Abercrombie stands for and why you would team up with them on a notebook collaboration is puzzling. Money or not, you couldn't have possibly not seen the problem in this which then makes me think that you are complicit. Also, when many women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and other marginalized folks expressed their upset feelings about your collaboration, they were met with offensive language and the minimization of their upset. I will not list these offensive comments here as they are still in the Field Nuts group and in the Instagram feed, but in the course of 24 hours, many have been made felt that they are being over-reactionary and frivolous. Terms like "triggered" and "SJW" have been thrown around-- words used by individuals that have a hatred for the progressive, for the "other." Sure that's not explicit, but you'd have to be blind not to see what's going on here.
It also has been implied that this push back is because of what is going on in the media when it comes to sexual assault and harassment being reported by women. This further invalidates and marginalizes those that love your brand, but find themselves not a part of the non-CIS white male group that has hurled these insults and snide remarks. You have created this online community (on Instragram that is) so police it. Tell me. Tell US how you feel about this. Respond. I don't want to stop buying your notebooks, but you are giving me every reason not to purchase them. I surely don't have pocket as deep as Abercrombie, but I do matter.