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Brandy Melville – a guilty pleasure that needs to stop

It's the convenient place for shrunken, affordable Gen Z clothing - where you walk in with the slight pang of guilt knowing you're somewhat giving into encouraged and toxic mentalities, but can push these thoughts away as you eye up the California inspired spaghetti strap dress and head for the 90s nostalgic tops.

We all seem to be on the same page that the Brandy brand is far from ethically sound. We've seen their shameless obsession with an unhealthy aesthetic, witnessed their bold political incorrectness, felt shame at their unabashed lack of care for inclusivity in the 21st century and heard the cries of workers forced into unfair labour practices. There's certainly something to be said about our generation's insecure need to fit into the 'ideal' that bring us back to the brand despite knowing these morally dubious facts.

That isn't to point the finger of shame solely on us as consumers, we're influenced and moulded expertly by targeted forces. With malleable eyes centred on the strategic marketing found on Instagram, one of the brand's key driving forces, it's not hard to see why multiple generations give into the appeal. Whoever composed their photography style acted with near genius, the candid and authentic shots are a fresh breath of air in contrast to the heavily reiterated and overdone pictures of heavily made up runway models of the past. It's relatable, it's stylish and it's significantly effective in keeping hordes of young fashion fans intrigued.

But it is also unacceptably backwards – this isn’t the first scrutinous piece on Brandy Melville and will undoubtedly be far from the last; still, it’s important to keep these issues in the spotlight.


Anna Schultz-Girl Looking Through Closet Anna Schultz / Her Campus


What are the specific problems at hand?

Brandy Melville adopt the fast production formula of one size fits all for their incredibly current and aesthetically pleasing clothes. It turns unfortunately toxic when Brandy’s choice to use clothes of UK size 4 to 6 sets the brand’s ethos in clearly unreasonable foundations. With the average young woman in good health fluctuating from sizes 8 – 14, Brandy requires sizes not even stocked in most high street stores. Unrealistic expectations on already pressurised young women flourish with an aesthetic seeking that perfect 90s throwback. It’s out of line, it takes us back to an era where malnourished and near anorexic looks were the only acceptable standard when we’ve increasingly seen so much progress towards encouraging fitness and balanced diets. Even worst, the effect on other retailers such as American tween to teen favourites H&M and Forever 21 to follow in trend and take up the one size fits all expands the reach of this cruel narrative on more primarily young teen targets.

It’s not just consumers at risk. Glassdoor, the review site for companies, reveals hundreds of former Brandy employees discriminated against in the workplace for their bodies. Gaining weight and cutting hair are notorious grounds for losing your job, and rumours that girls get paid different wages according to their looks suggests a backwards, corrupt and faulted company mentality. None of this is surprising considering the heavily reported incidences of sales associate workers being photographed while working without consent – to upload to social media and provide design inspiration. Brandy has already had multiple lawsuits over design theft – including one from Forever 21, and their lack of respect for both its staff and its own brand credibility is increasingly obscene. But the most shameful of problems are exemplified in the revelation from one employee “you will not get hired at a Brandy store if you’re black”.

This leads us onto a far more starting reality: a brand can thrive in the 21st century despite noticeably avoiding racial diversity. The brand’s campaigns idolise white skin in equal measures to its ultra slim priorities. Brandy’s website and social media advertisements depict white woman after white woman, and its connotations that light skin equates to beauty sends out upsetting messages to the next generation. Brandy Melville has responded to its unfair sizing comments but has yet to release a statement to racist allegations, and with no changes to its success formula on the horizon it’s likely the truth is they really just don’t care to make amends.


  Is it possible for the brand to change for the better?

The pressures Brandy put on young people across society to fit into very specific boxes appear a dying trend compared to the modern diverse messages of brands like Fenty makeup and Axe body spray.

Celebrated inclusivity is on an undeniable rise, but the thing is that Brandy's message isn't going anywhere; their Instagram account and website continue to exude a confident and fixed exclusivity of who they want their customer to be - slender, young and white. Pressuring a $125,000,000+ company to change their successful formula will not be effective in the current short term. What we might see, and hopefully will encourage, is a desire to remember Brandy's madly impossible standards. The culture of twenty - thirtysomethings becoming increasingly styled in throwback and laid-back fashions will bring a wider demographic into Brandy's mix - with their own demands and expectations for the brand to adapt to and provide for. Self love and conversations around our mental health needs  grow in importance everyday. This is important as these are the tools that will solidify the consensus that no one who is healthy and thriving should feel inadequate due to the underweight proportions which Brandy demands conformity to. Reiterating the brand's controversies in our everyday conversations and articles increases the prospects of society demanding the necessary change. They may not listen now, but they will have to listen eventually.

A good friend of mine gave me some very relevant advice recently - it is important, especially in the backdrop of the often pressuring and intense university experience, to be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up and demand self-respect. In line with that demand respect from the brands you dress in. There is beauty in the eccentricities of women's bodies and representing that should be the priviledge of our brands - not their burden.