Abercrombie experience

April 22, 2007

Last week I was wandering the west end galleries, late in the day toward closing time and I was feeling a little whited-out. It was a surprise to hear slightly obscene animal noises and hollering at the otherwise sedate, uber-ultra-posh corner of Burlington Gardens and Saville Row. The new Abercrombie & Fitch store was in full swing: the “upscale casual” clothing line has stamped its London flagship experience store on a former Jil Sander neo-classical pile. I ventured in.

I don’t recall there being any flashy signage out front – instead, theatre. The door is flanked by greeters in matching A&F, who basically just hang around self-entertaining, framing the half-naked male model in the entrance (the source of animal sounds on my visit, egged on by the greeters). You can even get a free polaroid of yourself with the gang.

Inside it’s the attention-deficit ambiance of a top-flight casino: disorientation and dim, starry lighting, a maze-like layout with mirrors and a bracingly loud mix of songs you know covered by vocalists you can’t place. Really loud, like they must have had to sound-proof their walls for the neighbors. There was roughly one sales-person/model to every two customers, and the store was packed. But the staff was there for the show. Abercrombie is a teens and twenties disco inferno to Gap’s heavenly white ether-of-all-ages, and it’s not afraid to say so. It’s surprising to come across such a declarative marketing statement, so cleverly exclusive and precisely choreographed.

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[Photos by imagineering]

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