American Casualwear Charms Europe

Distressed denim with an accent

The casual American look, as depicted in television series and movies, is making a mark on Europe. Retailers from the New World have been creeping across the Atlantic to find an eager market, ready to spend their hard-earned Euro on distressed jeans and artfully faded t-shirts.

France, famous for its cultural protectionism, has become one major target for American brands looking to make a profit in an already fashion conscious market. Abercrombie & Fitch is the newest kid on the Champs-Élysées block, opening an elaborate store on the famous boulevard last month. The new store has all the trappings of Abercrombie’s other operations, such as shirtless male models, techno pop blaring through speakers, and the less-than-subtle scent of its fragrance Fierce pumping through air ducts. But the European incarnation carries a different air.

Unlike many American consumers who immediately relate to Abercrombie as a polished version of something already familiar, the acceptance of the brand in Europe more represents an ideological shift in a younger generation of shoppers. Two decades ago, American retailers failed in this market, finding it hard to bow to strict regulation, high rent, and an indifferent consumer base. Now, after opening its grandiose gates in Paris, Abercrombie is overflowing, often with more than 100 people waiting outside with credit cards at the ready.

Some analysts say the sheer absence of the brands up until this point has boosted their appeal, while others claim it is the globalizing effect of the Internet at work. If you ask one of the eager teenagers waiting to get inside, they likely will tell you they just want to look more like their favorite Glee character.