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FORT SMITH â€” When Southside High School graduate and former Fort Smith resident Greg Karber saw and heard what he calls "a social ill," he was appalled. So he grabbed his cell phone, hopped into his car and dove into film-making action.
Last week, the 26-year-old Karber, now a Los Angeles resident, writer and filmmaker, created the video, "Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment," which addresses quotes made by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. Karber's video, which has gone viral with almost 7 million YouTube views and more than 1.2 million Facebook "likes," features quotes made by Jeffries regarding the clothing company's marketing practices â€” "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. We go after the cool kids. A lot of people don't belong, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
"Abercrombie & Fitch is trying to suggest that if you purchase their clothes, you'll be one of those cool kids, which I think is so stupid and ridiculous," said Karber, a freelance writer who is the son of Sherri Karber of Fort Smith. "I think it's wrong for a corporation with a $7 million advertising budget to use that money to make people feel worse about themselves.
"It's just a horrible, elitist company," he added of the New York City-based retailer. "I had also seen some articles written on Abercrombie & Fitch's policies about women."
Garnering recognition from TV host Ellen DeGeneres and many others, Karber said his video also is a reaction to Abercrombie & Fitch's practice of refusing to stock clothes for plus-size women, as well as the company's statement that it would rather burn damaged clothing than donate it to people in need, the Southwest Times Record reported (http://is.gd/My8vjz).
In the video, Karber is seen giving A&F clothing to homeless individuals on Skid Row before asking viewers to donate their A&F clothing to homeless people; he is calling this campaign "Fitch the Homeless."
"I've seen online posts that people are donating to the homeless or that they plan on doing it, so that's great," said Karber, who earned a bachelor's degree in English literature with an emphasis on creative writing and mathematics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a master's degree in writing for screen and television from the University of Southern California. "I hope it gets done.
"However, I hope people don't do it the exact way I did it in the video," he added. "The video was more of a visual illustration. If people want to give to the homeless â€” and I hope they do â€” they should go through homeless shelters and other facilities that help people. Call the shelter and find out what they need besides clothes."
Jeffries responded to Karber's video by making a public apology on his company's Facebook page, stating, " . I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values. We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics."
Karber said he doubts Jeffries' sincerity.
"Mike Jeffries said he was sorry that his resurrected words were taken out of context," he said. "It was a classic corporate apology, because it's absolutely silly to say his quotes had been taken out of context. There are several sentences in his apology that negates the apology, but it does show that if enough people put pressure on a company, they can force that company to reconsider its policies."
A longtime fan of satirical comedy, Karber said he plans to produce more videos.
"I've always been a goofier filmmaker, but there's been so much positive response to this latest video," he said. "It's funny because I made this video so quickly. I had the idea Thursday, went out and shot it with my iPhone in three or four hours and then edited it over the weekend."
Within an hour of its online posting, the video received responses.
"I felt Abercrombie & Fitch were doing a social ill, but I also know that I couldn't do something like shame GE into stop making missile weapons because of a video," Karber said. "I thought I could look at a company doing something bad and have people do something good."
Karber said he hopes people will donate more than A&F clothing in the coming weeks.
"People should take all kinds of clothing to help others," he said. "Don't make this just an opportunity to stick it to Abercrombie & Fitch, but turn this into something where people can really help other people in need."