Update: A&F Victory! One Up For Playgirl!

05Feb08

justice.gifWe’d like to think we had something to do with this (whether or not we did!):

Breaking headline: Virginia Beach plans to drop charges against Abercrombie store. City officials said Monday that they plan to drop obscenity charges filed against an Abercrombie & Fitch store manager at Lynnhaven Mall!

The Abercrombie & Fitch promos are found in A&F retail stores all over the country. One photo depicts the backs of three shirtless men, including one holding jeans that hover well below his waistline and reveal the top of his buttocks. The other, as described by a Virginia Beach police spokesman, shows a topless woman with her hand covering a portion of her breast.

A police officer cited the store manager, Brendon Payne, Saturday with violating the city code and issued him a summons to appear March 3 in General District Court.

The city attorney plans to recommend dropping the charges at that time. Deputy Police Chief Jim Cervera said the Abercrombie & Fitch posters would be returned to the store immediately.

Deputy City Attorney Mark Stiles said city officials decided Monday that the photos depicted nudity but did not fully violate the city code, which outlaws “obscene materials in a business that is open to juveniles.”

The city would have a difficult time proving in court that the posters appealed to prurient interests, were patently offensive to the prevailing standards of the adult community and had no serious artistic value, Stiles said.

Of the photo of the three men, Stiles said, “You might see that typical vision walking down the streets.”

Still, Stiles said, the officer had probable cause to issue a summons. The standards are higher when the case goes to court, he said.

“This was a tough case,” he said. “Abercrombie & Fitch’s advertising is designed to go right up to the line.”

Public attention to the incident had nothing to do with the decision to drop the charges, Cervera said.

Although police spokesman Adam Bernstein initially indicated that customer complaints prompted the officer’s action, he said Monday that he was unable to provide the number of complaints that police received. The officer, who works part time at Lynnhaven Mall in his police uniform to supplement the shopping center’s security, took spoken complaints and did not record them, Bernstein said.

That officer, identified by Bernstein only as Sgt. K. Reilly, had visited the store before Saturday and warned the manager to remove the images, leaving a copy of the city code and his business card. Bernstein said Reilly declined to comment further on the events.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. officials pledged Monday to defend the company and Payne, who would face a fine of up to $2,000 and up to a year in jail if convicted on the charges. Thomas Lennox, a spokesman for the retailer, called the citation an “incredible overreaction by city officials” and said he knows of no other complaints nationwide about the promotion.

“These photos are tame,” said Lennox, based at the retailer’s headquarters in New Albany, Ohio.

Lynnhaven Mall officials said they received few, if any, comments about the Abercrombie & Fitch posters and had nothing to do with the Police Department’s action. “We had very little response from customers about this particular issue,” said John Westbrook, the mall’s general manager.

MacArthur Center officials said they have received no complaints about the posters in the downtown Norfolk store.

While shopping at Lynnhaven Mall on Monday, Terry Lewis said his daughter likes to visit Abercrombie & Fitch.

“I don’t think they should advertise like that because it’s the kind of message they send to the youth,” said Lewis, who lives in the Beach. “But they’re really selling sex.”

His friend, Itzel Vargas of Panama, said the Abercrombie & Fitch ads didn’t offend her.

“I don’t mind if they want to show naked guys because they show naked women everywhere,” said Vargas, pointing down the mall corridor to the Victoria’s Secret store. “What about the Victoria’s Secret commercials on television? That is much worse than the Abercrombie & Fitch ads.”

Nikki Hawickhorst, a senior at Kellam High School, said she considered the posters a bit risqué because of the partial nudity but that “there’s a lot of worse stuff out there.”

Abercrombie & Fitch has a penchant for raising eyebrows with its promotions. In 2003, it recalled its holiday catalog after a nationwide consumer backlash over sexually suggestive photos of scantily clad models.

“The Abercrombie & Fitch brand is provocative and undeniably sexy,” Lennox said, acknowledging some of the past reaction. “But this is ridiculous.”



One Response to “Update: A&F Victory! One Up For Playgirl!”

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