Cancelled Clothing Chain


Phillip Pessar

Inside a Brandy Melville store.

The well-known fashion brand Brandy Melville has been under fire starting in June of 2020 due to the CEO and top executives’ racist and sexist behavior toward their employees and target audience.
Brandy Melville is an Italian fashion brand that was established in 1970. Although its first stores were in Europe, the clothing and pricing were all adjusted for its American customers. Its first retail store opened in 2009 near UCLA, Los Angeles, and the brand blew up worldwide in the following years. By 2015, Brandy Melville had 95 stores across the globe.
Brandy Melville had been a controversial brand for a while because of its one-sized clothing, which only fitted slimmer women. However, new accusations of the retailer’s racist actions further tarnished its image. When an ex-employee shared videos exposing discriminatory hiring practices on TikTok, boycotts began taking place. She later revealed more details about the ongoing racism at Brandy Melville stores, such as how most of the employees were tall, skinny, white cis females. She also addressed her boss’s questionable hiring practices, stating that he asked about her race before hiring her.
Afterwards, more people on social media opened up about their own experiences with working for the brand. It appears that Brandy Melville harmed many people emotionally and physically, as shown in the saddening case of an employee who developed an eating disorder because of the sizing discrimination. Given that individual stores’ managers were often allowed to run the store according to their own terms, the working environment was reported to be very toxic.
A former branch manager confessed that his agreement was terminated since he refused to discriminate against employees and customers based on their appearance. Many employees were fired because they did not fit the thin and blond criteria. Store managers were usually racist and also discriminated against other store managers. Offensive words that targeted people’s appearance were frequently thrown around, such as “ghetto”, “short”, and “fat.” Furthermore, there was a group chat in which acquaintances and coworkers of the CEO, Stephan Marsan, shared memes with references to Hitler, the N-word, and pornography.
Not only are the hiring and firing practices race oriented, the CEO does not want Black people to shop at the chain. Marsan believes that colored shoppers would ruin Brandy Melville’s reputation. Instead, he wants “good-looking rich little girls” to shop there. Along with other top executives, Marsan believes that the most beautiful teenagers are white and thin. This vision of what an “ideal” Brandy Melville shopper should look like may be extremely damaging for the store’s young clientele. While clothing is typically a form of self-expression, in this context, the CEO is setting unrealistic beauty standards that are likely to make girls feel insecure and hesitant about what they can or cannot wear.
“It’s not okay for brands to target thin people,” said Ellen Carvalho, a freshman at Wilcox High School. Ellen thinks that people should be able to wear “whatever makes them comfortable,” regardless of race or size.
Even the models were chosen based on their skin color and physique. Most of the models were white, thin teenage girls. As a former manager in New York stated it, “It was ‘She is skinny, white, blond, and pretty — let’s hire her.’”
The fashion brand’s lack of diversity among its models and employees was denounced by many people. A look through Brandy Melville’s website or Instagram page clearly reflects the trend of racist hiring and favored white customer demographic.
Yet, despite its problematic controversies and the multiple lawsuits it faced, many people continue to shop at Brandy Melville. Although the discrimination toward customers isn’t as visible, numerous employees have spoken out about the brand’s racist beauty standards. As word spreads regarding Brandy Melville’s racism, it is possible that more people will boycott the brand. In light of the numerous controversies surrounding the fashion chain, it may be difficult for them to make another breakthrough in the fashion industry.