Benoit Denizet-Lewis for Salon: Mike Jeffries, the 61-year-old CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, is the Willie Wonka of the fashion industry. A quirky perfectionist and control freak, he guards his aspirational brands and his utopian chocolate factory with a highly effective zeal. Those who have worked with him tend to use the same words to describe him: driven, demanding, smart, intense, obsessive-compulsive, eccentric, flamboyant and, depending on whom you talk to, either slightly or very odd. “He’s weird and probably insane, but he’s also unbelievably driven and brilliant,” says a former employee at Paul Harris, a Midwestern women’s chain for which Jeffries worked before becoming CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch in 1992.
Examples of his strange behavior abound. According to Business Week, at A&F headquarters Jeffries always goes through revolving doors twice, never passes employees on stairwells, parks his Porsche every day at the same angle in the parking lot (keys between the seats, doors unlocked), and has a pair of “lucky shoes” he wears when reading financial reports.
His biggest obsession, though, is realizing his singular vision of idealized all-American youth. He wants desperately to look like his target customer (the casually flawless college kid), and in that pursuit he has aggressively transformed himself from a classically handsome man into a cartoonish physical specimen: dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips.
When I ask him how important sex and sexual attraction are in what he calls the “emotional experience” he creates for his customers, he says, “It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
[via Golden Fiddle]