It is a windy afternoon on 5th Avenue between 12th and 13th Street. Shannyn Cory and her mother just emerged from their hour-long shopping spree at Brandy Melville, a popular clothing store amongst teen girls. Cory and her mother traveled from their home in Long Island to embark on one of their regular weekend visits to the Village. After browsing through the store’s abundance of mom jeans and maxi skirts, Cory leaves with a signature Brandy paper bag.
“I bought a sweatshirt, a long sleeve shirt, and a purse,” Cory said.
“And a necklace,” Cory’s mother adds.
Like many teenage girls today, Cory enjoys perusing through Brandy’s on-trend and reasonably priced clothing. Brandy Melville differs from its retail competitors through its niche marketing ploy: labeling all products “one-size.” Cory believes that this strategy eases her shopping experience.
“It’s easier going through the store with the little tops because they are all the same size.”
Although Brandy’s small sizing policy may reap its benefits, it also hinders many individuals’ shopping experiences. Like Cory, several other customers occasionally face difficulty fitting into Brandy’s clothing.
“It’s always nice to have different sizes,” Cory’s mother suggests.
Established in 1970 by Italian retail veteran, Silvio Marsan, Brandy Melville’s popularity expanded throughout Europe. The Daily Bruin reports that the brand’s name was inspired by a love story shared between Brandy, the American girl-next-door, and Melville, her British boyfriend. Marsan’s son, Stephan was responsible for the chain’s international expansion. In 2009, Brandy’s first U.S. location opened in Westwood, Los Angeles.
Despite having a mere 90 locations worldwide, HuffPost reports that Brandy Melville’s popularity continues to exponentially skyrocket. According to Fashion Law, the company brought in roughly $300 million in revenue during 2018 alone. LDN Fashion reports that the store’s sales have surpassed those of its esteemed competitors, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, and Free People.
“I’m able to work a pretty chill job with all of my friends,” Grace Stratton said.
Stratton currently works at Brandy’s flagship store on Broadway.
“Since I was in middle school, I always wanted to work there,” she said.
One could easily describe Stratton as a fashion aficionado after scrolling through her Instagram page. When she isn’t doing photo shoots with Vogue, or wearing thrifted clothing, Stratton can be seen sporting her employer’s stock.
Somaya Atharidge is an employee at Brandy’s 5th Avenue location.
“We are one size,” she says over the 90’s indie music blaring through the speakers. “It kind of makes it exclusive and it doesn’t allow for a lot of diversity for the clients.”
Conversely, Atharidge emphasized that the brand is attempting to expand its clientele.
“We do try and create some bigger shirts,” she says whilst folding sweaters. “We do have small, medium, and large for the jeans.”
According to The Cut, Brandy Melville’s research team is composed primarily of teenage girls. The store relies on social media for advertisement purposes. Marketing Leeds described Brandy’s posting style as “familiar” and “fantastical” for adolescent and teenage girls.
With support from influential celebrities and online influencers, Brandy is able to proliferate online activity. It is not uncommon for employees to ring up A-list celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens and Diana Silvers.
Tiegan O’Gallagher described Brandy’s one-size policy as “bullshit,” and “elitist.”
“But, I still give them all of my money,” she laughed.
O’Gallagher and Maya Krishana recently applied to Brandy’s Prince Street location. According to O’Gallagher, who had previously applied to Brandy, the application process was extremely “judgmental.” During the interview, an employee snapped a picture of O’Gallagher.
“So that the manager could see if you’re pretty enough,” she said.
Krishana can also recall being photographed by Brandy staff. However, her picture was taken for “outfit inspiration[al]” purposes.
“It’s a compliment but it also means you’re fitting into their stereotype,” she stated. O’Gallagher and Krishana’s recent application required that they provide their availability, age, and Instagram handle.
According to O’Gallagher, the typical Brandy girl is, “5’11, super skinny, has no boobs, and is preferably white.”
“Almost every Brandy employee I’ve seen has either been skinny or white,” Yasmina Khartami stated. Khartami recently purchased a Brandy shirt for her birthday.
“I was honestly struggling to find something that would complement, not only my body shape but, also my skin tone.”
Several online petitions exist, urging Brandy Melville to diversify its brand.
Aurelia Franks a user who signed one of the petitions stated, “This policy is downright discriminatory. I get picked on at school because I don’t wear Brandy clothes… It’s a discriminatory money pit!” Many users proceeded to complain about the lack of racial diversity on social media, noting that there are fewer Black and Asian models than white.
Although many oppose the company’s policies, teenage girls still stop by Brandy to purchase their trendy sweaters and cropped tees.
“If you fit this standard, you’re somehow better,” Khartami said in response to being asked how young girls feel when they fit into Brandy’s clothing. “It might give people some kind of sense of worth, or value to be a part of something that others cannot.”