Spaghetti strap tank tops, oversized sweatshirts, 90’s style mom jeans, and chic baby doll tees are exactly what you are going to find at one of the hottest teen stores at the moment; Brandy Melville. While thousands of teen girls (like myself) are stuck at home in quarantine itching to do some online shopping, Brandy Melville has closed their website down once again. After reopening the site last week, too many orders came rushing in, and now their website is shut down until further notice. But we aren't here to talk about how I can’t order a new pair of jeans. While Brandy Melville is a pretty cute and popular brand, it reflects some pretty ugly ideologies and has stirred up a realm of controversies.
Brandy Melville started in Italy in the early 1980s by father-son duo, Silvio, and Stephan Marsan. The brand first made its way to the U.S. in 2009, opening its first store in Westwood, California, a less than 2-minute drive from the UCLA campus. There are now 39 locations in America hitting popular cities like SoHo, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, and more. The brand even made something around $300 million in 2018. With its brilliant product research team flooding Instagram with aesthetically pleasing photos of tall blonde models in their clothing items, it's no doubt to grow even further in the next few years.
However, Brandy Melville lacks diversity, extremely. Their clothing items don’t have the typical “small, medium, large” type sizes or number sizes for jeans and such. Except in the tag of every shirt or sweater, it reads “Fits small-medium”.
Pretty vague, huh? All of their clothes are deemed one size fits all and we know that they don't. I’m a pretty small girl so finding clothes that fit has never been much of an issue for me. I don't have much going on top or at the bottom, well maybe a little at the bottom since Brandy Melville’s skirts are a bit tight on me. But what about the girls who are draped in beautiful curves and are not size zeros? They shouldn't be excluded from Brandy Melville and all it has to offer. It feels like the popular girls fat-shaming other girls in high school all over again. Some people even dare to say, “Well there are plus size brands out there, why don't these girls just shop there?” No girl should have to feel pushed into a corner and feel like their only option is to shop in the plus-sized section at Forever 21. While there are so many amazing plus size brands out there that celebrate women of all sizes, bigger girls shouldn't feel ostracized from shopping at most stores. When you have thousands of teen girls shopping at your stores all year long and even waiting hours for warehouse sales, the corrupted message of being skinny means fitting in is being spread.
Going back to their aesthetically pleasing Instagram, it is cool how the brand does not use professional models, instead, they are typically Malibu-based girls who either work at the store or are customers. But every model looks the same. Shiny blonde hair, long legs, 24-inch waists, clear skin and are almost always white.
When you do rarely come across a Black woman or other women of color the comments will read, “Oh look your first Black model !”, “OMG SOMEONE THAT’S NOT WHITE!” or a paragraph from an angry customer expressing how sad it is that there is such a lack of diversity in 2020. My good friend, who has African American and Puerto Rican roots, stated “It does bother me that there are not many models of color on their website. However, there are a lot of girls of color who work in the stores which are inspiring to see and show signs that the company is being tied in diversity.” In this day and age where body positivity and diversity of all shapes, colors, and sizes are not only welcomed but celebrated, Brandy Melville has some explaining to do.
Yet wearing Brandy Melville feels cool. The clothes are relatively inexpensive, the store is gorgeous and my friends and I have made trips to the SoHo location more than once. Shop at Brandy, get a slice of pizza and take some cute photos for Instagram and bam a fun day has been created, just like that! As my friend Christy has said, “The brand is always on-trend.” I have heard people complain about how the workers at Brandy Melville are rude or “always seem to be judging you.” From the times that I went to the store, I didn't get such a vibe. Only once did I have a bad experience. Such as my friend Camila who said she felt “uncomfortable” shopping there because of an incident her friend had at the store. For me, I was handing back the clothes I decided not to purchase in the dressing room area and one of the workers, was nasty and didn't give me the time of day. However, the workers at the store are quite diverse. I’ve seen Black, Hispanic, Asian, and more ethnicities employed.
Even though I don't feel "judged" while I go at Brandy Melville, it does feel fairly intimidating to shop at the store. I mean there are these super cool, Instagram perfect girls who know they are the “stuff,” cashing you out in their Brandy Melville inspired outfits. Fairly easy to feel self-conscious. I asked my friend Theodora what she liked about the brand and she commented, “Most Brandy clothes fit me very well. I’ve always struggled with brands that are for teenagers/adults that have small enough sizes for me.” Brandy Melville’s sizes could indeed be the holy grail for girls of petite sizes. I’ve also always loved shopping at Brandy Melville because the store is so pretty, droned in fairy lights, and cute dressing rooms. Likewise, my bff Gabbi, a new shopper to the brand,
said the store is, “down to earth, neat and the dressing rooms are very pretty.”
Overall, it always seems like the most popular brands are the most controversial too. Although I don't know the logistics of a business’ manufacturing items of larger sizes, Brandy Melville needs to expand their sizes. No one should have to miss out and as my friend, Marame said, “More people of every body type should be able to find clothes that fit them at Brandy.” And while the employees working in the store may be diverse, the models that are used to show off their clothing on Instagram and their website should not only be in the blonde hair, and blue eyes category. I emailed the customer service line about these issues and I am currently awaiting a response. Brandy Melville is proof that when you wear clothes it is much more than that, you wear the company’s beliefs as much as the $20 tank top you just bought.