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Abercrombie Enlists J.Crew's Head of Brand Creative to Rethink Its Image

A look from J.Crew's fall 2016 presentation. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
A look from J.Crew's fall 2016 presentation. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

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For over a year now, Abercrombie & Fitch has dedicated itself with startling earnestness to a total brand overhaul, shedding its sexy teen elitist identity in the hopes of improving its tanking sales. And it's getting somewhere: in early March, the retailer reported that for the first time in three years, revenue returned to positive growth.

To keep that momentum going, Abercrombie announced Tuesday morning that it has hired as creative director of marketing Ashley Sargent Price, who until recently spent a decade at J.Crew as the senior vice president of brand creative, working on J.Crew, Madewell, and Crewcuts. Price was one of the key players in honing that unmissable J.Crew look: bright lipstick, wind-whipped hair, clean lighting, big smiles.

Although J.Crew's sales have been flailing for the last year, with a slight improvement in its performance at the tail end of fiscal 2015, the brand certainly had the recipe for retail pixie dust at one point. You can see why Abercrombie would place its image in Price's hands.

Her experience in mainstream American fashion runs deep: before J.Crew, Price held positions at Urban Outfitters, Coach, Gap, and Ann Taylor. At Abercrombie, her big challenge will be figuring out a brand identity that's separate from the sexed-up, black-and-white Bruce Weber photography that made it so popular in the '90s — but also distinct from the other teen retailers peddling promises of youthful, beachside perfection. Take a look through American Eagle and Abercrombie's Instagrams right now. Dare you to find any meaningful differences.

Can Abercrombie once again stand apart from the pack while finally proving to consumers that it's not just for the pretty, rich, and white? We'll find out.