My Gay Paris : Abercrombie & Fitch Opening Draws Crowds to Champs-Élysées

American brand Abercrombie & Fitch may be a household name in much of the English-speaking world, but for a long time it was relatively unknown to French consumers. The clothing retailer’s sexy reputation is built around the gorgeous models it pays to man the inside of its stores and the pumping music and mood lighting which leave many visitors wondering whether they haven’t accidentally strayed into a nightclub. The new flagship store, which opened in Paris back in May, certainly didn’t disappoint.

Sporting Goods

The first incarnation of what is now Abercrombie & Fitch started life selling shotguns, tents and sporting goods, before eventually morphing into the brand we know and love today in the late 90s when a series of provocative ad campaigns attracted a new generation of fans—and also controversy over the sexual content of its ads. The company describes its products as ‘casual luxury’, and its relaxed style has won it a cult following, despite eyewatering prices.

Teething Troubles

For its first French store, where else but the Champs-Élysées, the number one destination for shopping in Paris? And who else to bring in the crowds but some of the store’s famous topless salesmen? In a blatant publicity stunt, a hundred of the ‘models’, as they’re officially known, paraded outside the new address in the week before opening, meeting passers-by and taking photos with lucky tourists.

The fun came to an abrupt end when local police, worried about the public nudity, asked them to put their shirts back on. Then again, perhaps their national pride was a little hurt by the fact that none of them were invited to join in: Abercrombie’s hot hundred were all invited from the company’s other stores in the US, the UK and Italy, without any strapping Frenchmen to welcome crowds through the door on the first day.

Launch Day

On the big day itself, details of the opening were shrouded in secrecy. In contrast to most of its neighbours on the Champs-Élysées, Abercrombie doesn’t have an immaculate window display, instead relying on a discrete exterior—and the famous boys—to pique the curiosity of passers-by. Some of the first visitors included teenage girls from Parisian suburbs who’d bunked off school for the day, while others had travelled from further afield. We’re sure one or two guys were eagerly waiting to get up close and personal with some of the staff as well!

23, avenue des Champs-Élysées

The new flagship has a prime location at 23, avenue des Champs-Élysées, with the nearest metro station Franklin D. Roosevelt on lines 1 and 9. As we mentioned, it doesn’t look like a typical store from the outside but once you walk through the gates and across the garden four floors of retail therapy await! Be warned, though: if you’re used to paying US prices, then you might be in for a nasty surprise.

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