In the past, just the name Abercrombie & Fitch would send the girls and gays into cold sweats with recollections of buff bodies, scantily clothed models somewhere preppy’ishly chic with a hint of provocative and alluring. It was certainly the hottest brand of clothing as I came of age helped along with Bruce Weber campaigns which speak to a certain aesthetic. And wish fulfilment. And then suddenly something went horribly awry. A series of marketing missteps promulgated its decline as the brand became decidedly less Newport and more New Jersey. It even paid a considerable sum for product anti-placement preventing an MTV reality star from wearing its brand on-air. Burberry experienced the same before Angela Ahrendts arrived.
But that was then. The brand entered South Africa through the back-door of the Stuttafords department store. Just in time for my first serious pay-cheque but somehow as I got older, the brand came to represent misspent summers of my youth and opportunities. I would love to say that I didn’t buy it because my taste had matured to something more sophisticated [it had from college preppy to bespoke Tom Ford suits] but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t buy any of the product available in South Africa simply because I refused to pay a premium for it. Besides, there are many wannabe home-grown brands like Kingsley Heath and Stellies who have carbon copied their merchandise, advertising and retailing experience.
So that’s where the story would have ended. A retail tragedy perhaps but at a recent menswear magazine’s fashion event at which the appropriately headlined sponsor happened to be Abercrombie & Fitch First Instinct all my feelings about the brand bubbled up to the surface. From the stereotypical shirtless models (on a particularly cold Mother City evening, nogal!) who greeted you at the door aggressively trying to spritz you (despite already being gently clouded in Tom Ford’s Private Blend Oud Wood) who didn’t seem to be able to engage beyond the instruction to smile, flirt and spritz and move on. ‘No manners in the ordinary sense, no small talk, no apparent sense of irony,’ as Francis would have commented.
Truth be told I disliked the event for the sake of it. The venue? Snarky comment. The magazine? Snide retort. The crowd? Eye-roll worthy. I was ten kilogrammes overweight in a room of beautiful people not comfortable with what I was wearing. A nod to my friend @cloudsdrummond though who called me out on the fact, told it like she saw it and pointed this out the very next day. The lack of my usual sartorial style, not the bratty behaviour. So despite hating it, I did manage to catch-up with some really good people I haven’t seen in a long while. So while our sort doesn’t really mix with the Shimmy summer crowd, it did seem like it was the apex of Cape Town’s social scene.
It wasn’t until I opened the goodie bag handed out on our exit did I discover ‘the liquid encapsulated in a clear bottle of straight lines that presents a rippled surface allowing the slate hue of the aroma to be seen while the sides of the bottle are accented with silver touches branded with the label of the aroma matching the functional textured stopper’. The cologne is the product of leading perfumer Phillippe Romano (of Inter-Parfums who are the go-to for luxury branded scents) who was the nose behind Abercrombie & Fitch’s First Instinct cologne recently launched worldwide. My bias towards the brand would have meant I’d never have given it a second thought. I’m a Tom Ford boy after all.
When describing the process that went into imagining and producing First Instinct, Romano explained: “I wanted to create a modern fragrance that balances both the fresh elements of fougère with oriental warmth. All the notes together, create a scent with a worldwide appeal for the Abercrombie & Fitch man and beyond. The confident man who is not afraid to express his feelings.” For those who are interested in the details, the top notes include an aromatic gin & tonic accord combined with Kiwano melon; middle notes offer spicy Szechuan pepper, airy violet leaves and tangy citrus and base notes are comprised of suede musk with raw amber. The most important thing to know is that it’s actually quite a comfortable scent to wear.
So I’m mature enough to admit when I am wrong. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. And while we’re being honest, I admit I kinda like it and will definitely wear it more often.