Half-naked, all smiles: Abercrombie & Fitch opens in Hong Kong
Abercrombie & Fitch Hong Kong has the city in its grips.
A hundred hunks were flown in from all over the world to promote the city's flagship store in the week leading up to the opening on August 11 at 11 a.m.
The shirtless models have been clapping and hollering by the storefront as well as waving from the A&F bus that drives around town to attract attention.
And attention they got plenty of in the form of screaming women, stalled traffic and photos posted and liked on Facebook.
Abercrombie & Fitch Hong Kong needs the popularity of the hunks to translate into sales so they can make their rent of HK$7 million (US$902,000) per month.
Retail space in Hong Kong's Central district, where A&F will open, is poised to be the most expensive on the planet, surpassing New York's 5th Avenue in the next few years.
Mainland Chinese tourists are flocking to Western fashion giants such as Gap, H&M and now Abercrombie & Fitch, pushing the rent at store locations up into the millions.
But back to the hunks.
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Like a walk on the beach
The Abercrombie & Fitch Hong Kong models have been staying at the W Hotel for two weeks now, getting ready for shoots and media events.
The boys work four-hour shifts outside the store and five-hour shifts on the A&F bus.
It’s a tough job and most of them cannot stand the air pollution in Hong Kong, but hey, at least they don’t have to wear any clothes out there in the sweltering subtropical heat.
When not on shop or bus duty, they are given A&F clothing to wear, so the only things they really need to pack are just their socks and underwear.
Kelly, 19, from Los Angeles, who also wears the sweet, woody aroma of L’eau D’Issey Pour Homme, says that for A&F guys right now, “tightie whities are in and boxers are out.”
The youngest of the group at age 18 is the blond-haired Vince from Dayton, Ohio. It’s his first time outside of the American continent.
His story of how he got started with A&F is like most of the stories from the other boys.
Either A&F was your favorite brand, and you went in to the store and asked for a job, or you were recruited on the streets while partying.
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And how does one get to be picked to travel around the world and work at shop openings?
“You talk to people; you fold clothes; they take pictures of you; they take topless pictures of you. And if management liked you, you get to be promoted as ‘greeter’ and you get to stand outside the store.”
There’s no room for drama, emo or pouting for the A&F boys. These constantly grinning hunks are the face of A&F and they know it.
When asked if they feel awkward having to take their tops off all the time, boy-next-door Trey, 20, from Chicago, says: “It’s not that different than going to the beach.”
He stresses that it’s really not just the six-pack and the pecs that the company is looking for.
“A&F guys need to have personality and warmth -- we’re bringing that preppy American feel,” he explains as he looks you straight in the eye with a disarmingly friendly smile. Trey has it down pat.
"I don't believe in dieting"
Out of the 108 boys, six are local guys recruited for Abercrombie & Fitch Hong Kong.
Wilson Chung, 20, was recruited while out clubbing in Lan Kwai Fong. He finds people who feel up his chest and arms during photographs “pretty weird.”
But Chung obviously loves his summer job. It’s an opportunity to hang out with dudes from all over the world “doing all sorts of crazy.”
Plus the local boys get rooms at the W for two weeks as well.
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As for the upkeep of the legendary A&F abs, the company does not issue a strict gym regimen for them to follow.
“It’s up to us. That way, it’s more organic,” says Trey. He goes to the gym twice a day, around 15-20 hours a week.
“And I don’t believe in dieting. Oh my god, the omelet is amazing at the W.”
Yui, 27, from Japan is strikingly beautiful, perfectly bilingual and perfectly disciplined. He works out five or six days per week and is at the gym from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. before he goes to work.
Maito, a cute, baby-faced half-Brazilian, half-Japanese 19-year-old, actually plays for the Japanese soccer team Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan. He works out at the gym four or five times a week for two hours and also runs.
The boys are definitely enjoying the attention, as well as the camaraderie that comes with working and traveling with a group of like-minded guys.
Although they didn't get to fly into the city together to promote Abercrombie & Fitch Hong Kong.
“You do not want all of us in a pressurized container. Oh no,” as Trey put it.