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Netflix's White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch offers a potent mix of nostalgia and schadenfreude, but it also relies on its own weaning sense of trendy

  • "Why tell this story now?" Nick Allen asks of the documentary from director Alison Klayman. "The doc sometimes wrestles with that, and you can feel it in the pacing in the first half, despite the quirky visualizations and quick editing. White Hot also loses some edge by becoming a piece of disposable doc filmmaking itself—yes, each talking head is introduced as just initially sitting down, preparing for an interview, one of its more weary tropes. Klayman has a bit more direction when she directs the audience’s desire for outrage on how the company embodied the counter-intuitive approach of exclusionary business practices, showing how their focus on six-pack fascism and predominantly white leadership led to their downfall to only were they promoting a certain all-American white power in their ads, but it was how they treated employees of color, leading to lawsuits and a progressively openly toxic image. This is a documentary in which its angle also can be found in its attention to who speaks, and Klayman makes clear her emphasis on the non-white narrative throughout, whether it’s Asian Americans like Phil Yu (the Angry Asian Man blog) commenting on the company’s racist graphic tees, or Samatha Elauf who took a case to the Supreme Court regarding her having a hijab. An important takeaway from this story is that these perspectives certainly always existed, but aside from getting news attention, did not have a type of common outlet until the communities of social media. And with that visibility, the exclusionary practices of businesses have no longer become cool. It’s a great point this documentary doesn’t give enough space to."


    • Director Alison Klayman says Abercrombie & Fitch was “the perfect story to make seemingly abstract forces really concrete": "It shows you how bias in society is actually formally enforced in a top-down way," she says. "How do you explain systemic racism? Well, how about people from corporate headquarters coming to your store and telling a 20-year-old who they should hire and fire?”
    • White Hot is about the swinging pendulum of American popular values: “When I would talk to people about the idea of doing this film, immediately they’d be sharing a really personal story,” says Klayman. “Like, back to high school days, where they went shopping, how they thought about themselves, their family, their body in relation to other people—identity formation kind of stuff. And I thought, wow that shows this is such a cultural touchstone, and also that there would be interest from an audience to unpack this really significant touchstone in their lives.”

    TOPICS: White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, Netflix, Alison Klayman, Documentaries