Brandy Melville and a 'One Size Fits All’ World

I spent this past summer working retail at Brandy Melville. For those of you who haven’t heard of the company, or who aren’t one of the 3.8 million (and counting) Instagram followers, Brandy Melville is a women’s retail brand. It’s an Italian company, its first American location opening in LA in 2009. The brand has skyrocketed since then, successfully marketing themselves to young women, primarily through the use of social media. Brandy Melville attracts the “average American girl” — classically cool, adorably edgy, long legs, often braless. It is a quintessentially young brand. The women who wear their clothes range from today's trendiest Instagram models to widely viewed Youtubers. Brandy has truly targeted and profited off the digital age, successfully tapping into the relationship between social media and consumerism.

Perhaps the most notorious, and controversial, fact about Brandy Melville is that the brand primarily produces clothing of only one size, supporting the idea that ‘one size fits all’. 

I had never worked retail before. But a Brandy Melville store had opened in my hometown and I reached out to a friend of mine who held a position there. I was interviewed by a sales girl, tan and blonde college student, whose film studies notes were open on the computer in front of her. She asked me less than five questions; where I go to school, was I in greek life, am I on a sports team, and when could I start? 

At the end of our ten minute chat, she took three pictures of me (“To send to my manager”), two of my outfit and one of my face, and wrote down my instagram username (also for the manager) on a Post-It note. Less than two hours later, a petite twenty-two year old requested to follow me on Instagram, and by that night I had been hired. The pure young-ness of the brand is perhaps the most shocking. Those who held manager positions ranged in age from seventeen to twenty, and the oldest girl employed was a junior at the local university. By all accounts, there were no “real” adults present. 

The job itself was straightforward. Work the register. Hang clothes. Unpack boxes. Fold clothes. Dress mannequins. I can assume that this sounds similar to the majority of retail jobs in the country. However, each day I would also be required to have my picture taken of my outfit (a “store style”), sent to those who employ us everyday. It was rumored that the company used those to suss out what's “popular” — or what styles to recreate within their own line — and to see whether their employees “look” the brand. Brandy is big on looks, that is undeniable. Almost weekly, a petite early twenty-something year old would scurry in, and rearrange the entire store — “I’m doing visuals!!” — often asking girls shopping if she could take their picture as well (sent to the manager). Brandy is focused on remaining current, and so far they have been more than successful at it. 

There were rules that had to be upheld. Some were common place (no flip flops at work) and some were sensible (don’t put the same colored but different styled shirts next to each other), but others were specific to Brandy Melville. We were also instructed to address the "one size fits all" debacle as a "fit", rather than a "size". When Brandy Melville opened their American based location, they faced more criticism than they ever had (it is statistically true that European women are generally physically smaller than American women), and as an employee, I had grown accustomed to the grumblings of older women and mothers (some would even pull shirts out of piles to hold up to other people — “Is this for a toddler?”). 

It should be said that I do fit the "fit", as all of their employees suspiciously did. That’s not to say that I was oblivious to the problems that this idea creates. One size does not fit all. I was an anomaly. The average American woman, according to the Washington Post and the CDC, weighs roughly 166 pounds. Brandy Melville does not, in any way, support the image of the average American woman. Their employees promote the opposite. A couple girls would be pulled every once in a while (the youngest and smallest of us) for photoshoots, which would take place around the neighborhood. When they were featured on the official Brandy Melville Instagram account, their own follower counts multiplied. 

So what is suggested to young women, when one of the most popular clothing brands of our generation only markets for one size, one type of girl? Brandy Melville has branded themselves as the label of the era, and if that's true, what does this impart to the thousands of young women who aren’t "one size". In many ways, Brandy Melville optimizes what's wrong with our culture. It upholds the standard that in order to be beautiful, and “trendy”, you must fit within a certain size; and that size is decided on by society. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and all are beautiful and should be validated and treated as such.