‘White Hot’ Panel Review: How a fashion empire crumbles

Ashleah Flores, News Reporter

Flyer for the event.     Provided by Kegley Institute of Ethics.

Carla Barrientos is a CSUB alumna and guest of the Kegley Institute of Ethics’ newest panel, introducing the Netflix documentary, “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch.”

The panel is a part of series hosted by the Kegley Institute of Ethics called ‘Ethics in Film’.

The film features Barrientos as she speaks about her experience with discrimination while working for the franchise and the lawsuit that ensued thereafter.

Carla Barrientos was a communications student and 19 years old when she first decided to work at Abercrombie & Fitch. She shared “…they sat everyone on a large couch in the middle of the store and asked silly questions like ‘if you could be any breakfast cereal, what cereal would you be?’”

She described the unusual hiring process as an opportunity to see if you had the ‘look’.

Soon, she’d become the store’s regular night shift cleaner and not be scheduled shifts on the floor. She explains in the film that she was never scheduled at all again after asking for more hours.

Barrientos states, “I decided to be a part of the lawsuit because I knew what happened to me wasn’t right and I had to say something about it.”

According to KIE Director, Dr. Michael Burroughs, the panel is “an opportunity for reflection on ethical issues that are present in the film.”

The panel was held at CSUB in the Walter W. Stiern Library on Wednesday, September 14, at 6 p.m. and was open to the public.

By 6 p.m., the selected room for the screening and panel of “White-Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” was filled with students, faculty, and other guests. So many people attended that student volunteers had brought out more chairs for incoming guests. The room was tense, and the audience attentively watched the documentary shown.

As the screening went on, details having to do with the documentary were presented to the audience. Each of the people who were interviewed in the film gave their own recounts of different experiences they had while being a part of the franchise. Some were employees, other customers, and even people within the media. The lawsuit was handled in a settlement, but the company quickly got back to their known ways of exclusionary practices with how they were treating employees and customers.

The Q&A was held after the screening of the film by KIE director, Dr. Michael Burroughs, and guest speaker Carla Barrientos. Dr. Burroughs started off the panel by asking Carla questions regarding the film and her experiences filming it. She responds with what she was conditioned to know by employees that were higher up than her. She also states that she and fellow employees were taught what was valued and what was not when it had to do with the brand and its ‘mission’.

Barrientos goes on to say, “I was there, but I was not there,” sharing how she felt that, as an African American woman, she was not acknowledged properly due to the blatant discrimination she was facing at the time. She also compares the era in which the brand’s rise came about and how different those goals were then compared to now with the ‘inclusion is in’ motto.

After the panel, Barrientos said she felt the event went well and was well attended and that she hopes we as a community can keep the conversation going about past inequality and the inequality that may come.