Clothing company withdraws catalogue backing group sex

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The Independent US

Putting out a Christmas catalogue stuffed with naked young models having sex is a sure-fire way of attracting attention, which is no doubt what the US retail chain Abercrombie & Fitch was aiming for. But it does seem like an odd way of selling clothes.

Yesterday, the company - well known for courting controversy in its effort to become the defining label for suburban teenagers - was trying hard not to sound apologetic even as it pulled its "Christmas Field Guide", with its endorsements of orgies and group masturbation, from stores around the country.

Following an entirely predictable firestorm of indignation from conservative family groups, the company said it was taking the catalogue off the shelves - because it had a new line of perfume to market and needed the shelf space. The sex and "irreverence" would make a comeback, it promised, in the spring catalogue.

While conservatives fumed, marketing experts marvelled at the sheer audacity of Abercrombie & Fitch's strategy, which appeared aimed at appealing to the rebel it suspects lurks within its clean-cut, well-mannered teenage customers.

The catalogue, on sale for $7 (£4), featured so much naked flesh that the first item of clothing did not appear until page 122 of the 280-page volume. Among its images was a photograph of young men and women lying naked en masse beneath a Christmas tree. Alongside another image of 10 naked models was text discussing the possible varieties of group sex - "mixed-gender or same-sex, friendly or anonymous". And it added: "A pleasant and supersafe alternative to this is group masturbation."

While groups such as the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families have called for a boycott of Abercrombie & Fitch stores for purveying "soft porn", liberal and left-wing groups noted that the naked models were exclusively white and accused the company of continuing a pattern of racial discrimination.

Abercrombie & Fitch faces two class-action suits brought by black job applicants who allege they were turned down for shop assistant positions because their skin colour did not fit the company's image.

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