Review by Camden Ferrell
Anyone who has stepped foot in a mall in the last few decades is undoubtedly familiar with the clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch. Experienced documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman explores the cultural impact of the brand over the years as well as its downfall in the film White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch. While this documentary provides an adequate snapshot of the climate during the brand’s reign, it only provides a surface level look into the different factors that led to the brand’s demise.
Despite being established over one hundred years ago, most people are familiar with A&F thanks to its rebranding in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They became a staple of shopping malls and quickly became a status symbol for teens and young adults everywhere. This documentary aims to tell the story of its rise to cultural prominence as well as its subsequent decline in popularity and success in more recent years. This is a really interesting premise due to how well known the brand is by its customers and even those who never stepped foot in one of its stores.
From the start, it’s clear that this documentary doesn’t have any ambition to explore too deeply into the history of the brand. It functions as a straightforward and often shallow look at the brand and its recent history. It’s a great jumping off point for novices to get a general idea of the brand and the controversy surrounding it, but it could have benefitted from a longer run time in order to adequately discuss and explore the cultural nuances of this story.
Even if it’s not as informative as it could have been, it’s hard to deny that it’s oddly nostalgic and entertaining. A&F might not be nearly as popular as it was in its prime, but viewers are sure to be engaged due to how iconic the brand was to many generations of teens. It definitely brings back some memories for people as they recall how it was impossible to avoid seeing the brand in their schools and in public.
The documentary doesn’t stray away from exploring the more controversial side of the company including the myriad of discriminatory lawsuits brought against them. It was refreshing to see many victims of the company given a platform to call out the incessant discrimination and racism within the company, and I wish they dedicated more time to them. While there are many factors that led to their downfall, I do believe that focusing on the victims of the company and its high-ranking members needs to be given serious consideration. The movie handles it respectfully, but I feel like it only managed to capture the tip of the iceberg in that regard.
White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is not as comprehensive as one would hope, and it succeeds mostly due to the brand’s previous popularity and nostalgia. With a brief run time, the movie feels rushed, and it doesn’t seem like it was able to give the issues within the company its due diligence. However, many people might still be interested in this documentary in order to learn more about why this one unstoppable company has seemed to fade into the background.
White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is streaming on Netflix April 19.