As Michael Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, was responding to nationwide outrage over his statement that Abercrombie's "exclusionary" clothes are meant for "the cool kids … the attractive all-American kids," the death toll rose to more than 1,000 from the collapse of a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that was making clothing for Western retailers.
While Jeffries's remarks called attention to the brand's controversial marketing in America, the Bangladesh tragedy shed light on something further from home: the plight of workers in sweatshop-like conditions who make the clothing for popular retailers. The International Labor Rights Forum says these companies, including Abercrombie, employ workers who toil for long hours for poverty wages in unsafe working conditions and whose attempts to unionize or speak out are often suppressed.
Unfortunately, because Bangladesh seems so far removed, it is unlikely the tragedy will change consumer minds.
Our anger, petitions and boycotts should be directed not at Jeffries's rude remarks, but at the real scandal: the unjustifiable labor conditions in countries like Bangladesh that produce Abercrombie's cool, all-American clothing.
Helena R. Duncan