A recently published Insider article reveals the racist and fatphobic truth behind a popular women’s clothing brand.
By Roya Amirsheybani
Like many California girls, I discovered Brandy Melville as a young teenager. Eventually, the brand’s ever-changing aesthetic was the sole determining factor of my personal style, and owning and wearing the boxy cropped tees and knit sweatpants became an obsession. While Brandy Melville’s clothing does not look remotely remarkable to the average person, to me, not even the most expensive brands could compare. That is, until recently.
On September 8, 2021, Insider journalist Kate Taylor published her article “Brandy Melville’s CEO Doesn’t Want Black People to Wear the Brand’s Clothing, According to an Ex-Store Owner”. As if the title was not alarming enough, Taylor goes on to reveal that Steven Marsan, the CEO of Brandy Melville, aimed to market the brand exclusively towards thin, white teenage girls, and says that overweight and black customers “ruin the brand’s reputation”. Fraco Sorgi, a former store owner, is suing the brand’s North American operations claiming that his termination was due to his lack of discrimination based on appearance and race when hiring employees. While this was occurring, friends and coworkers of Marsan exchanged offensive memes that featured the N-word or anti-semitic humor.
This information left me extremely disturbed. As a supporter of Black Lives Matter and an advocate for body positivity, I am extremely embarrassed and ashamed that I was once an avid fan of Brandy Melville. Needless to say, I highly recommend that anyone that currently supports this brand should stop doing so immediately.
“But the clothes fit me so well!” If you can fit into Brandy Melville, I can almost guarantee that you can fit into the clothes made by more inclusive and sustainable brands. Nobody *needs* to shop at Brandy Melville (or any clothing brand for that matter), especially not those who benefit from thin privilege and have the ability to fit into most clothing brands’ standard sizing. For example, clothing brand Universal Standard carries sizes 00 to 40, and 7forallmankind offers a variety of petite sizes for those that claim that Brandy Melville clothes are the only ones small enough to fit them.
“But no other brand fits my aesthetic!” While the store might seem to have a look all its own, it is, in fact, heavily influenced by current fashion trends. This means that if Brandy Melville sells a particular item, it was likely copied from a vintage or trendy clothing item. A short browse on the brand’s website is enough to notice that the majority of the clothing items available are catering to the early 2000s aesthetic that is popular on TikTok currently, and similar items can be found in thrift stores or purchased from online resellers on apps like Depop. In addition, purchasing Brandy Melville dupes second hand is a lot more sustainable than purchasing from the brand, which manufactures a lot of their goods in sweatshops with poor working conditions.
“But the quality is so good for the price!” While I used to share this opinion, I have found that it is not true with several of my Brandy Melville clothing items. Many dyed garments fade very easily, and shirts with delicate hems are prone to tearing. For example, when I visited the store last during summer 2021, I noticed that several of the tank tops had holes where the strap and bust hemlines met, and many of the sweaters were already starting to pill. In exchange for a slightly higher price, more sustainable and high-quality items can definitely be found elsewhere.
Next time you consider buying from Brandy Melville, consider this: Do you really want to support a brand that is overtly racist and fatphobic for the sole purpose of maintaining your personal aesthetic? Is a heart-printed lace tank top really worth it?
Melanie Moyer '22,