Its controversial prices are one thing but Hollister’s even more controversial uniform policy has projected the company in a whole new light. Hollister, the popular clothing chain owned by US giant Abercrombie and Fitch, tainted its ‘perfect image’ earlier this week when a member of staff was told to remove her Remembrance poppy. Harriet Phipps, who works at Southampton’s West Quay Hollister, was told that a Remembrance poppy was not part of the uniform and did not come under company policy.
Miss Phipps, 18, told the BBC that she was “very upset” and “so angry” at the assistant manager’s request for her to remove her poppy. “He just said it wasn’t part of the uniform and that it’s not company policy”.
Having friends fighting out in Afghanistan, Miss Phipps felt it important to wear her poppy as a mark of respect for all who fought in World War I and World War II and those still defending their country today. She initially refused to take off her poppy but, after a second request, said that she was made to feel so “uncomfortable”, “pressured” and “intimidated” that she regretfully removed her little red poppy.
Aside from showing an apparent lack of respect for servicemen and women, the incident suggests that Hollister managers could be showing a little more respect for their own staff. Being made to feel intimidated at work is an unacceptable experience for any employee and will severely scar the Hollister brand which targets trendy young people.
Miss Phipps publicised the incident in the hope that the company policy would be reviewed. Fortunately, she has succeeded in her quest as Hollister has now changed its uniform policy to allow its members of staff to wear poppies in the run up to Remembrance Day. A spokesperson for the clothing chain said: “Having now better understood the issue, we have informed our associates that we fully support anyone who wishes to wear a poppy between now and Remembrance Day.” They further commented that the company very much appreciates the sacrifices of both British and American servicemen and women and will allow poppies to be worn as a “token of appreciation”.
When visiting West Quay’s Hollister store, it is clear that the models must project a certain image to look attractive in order to market the brand and achieve sales. An Abercrombie and Fitch spokesperson commented on the uniform policy, saying: “The appearance of our models in the stores is a critical part of the A&F store experience, and therefore it is true that Abercrombie & Fitch has a strict dress code for its store associates.”
So strict, that in August 2009, following a tribunal, a woman was awarded £8000 for unlawful harassment when she was made to work in the stockroom of Abercrombie and Fitch’s London store after wearing a cardigan to cover up her prosthetic arm. Every fashion company has a certain style aimed at a particular target market but Abercrombie and Fitch seems to have taken its image a step too far. This will certainly be unwelcome publicity for Hollister but they may have saved themselves a drastic decrease in popularity through changing the uniform policy. It remains to be seen whether the gesture will be enough to hold on to their faithful fashionistas.