Brandy Melville: The Impact of Having Influence

Chloe Stefani '24, Fashion Editor

If you’ve been on social media these past few years, you’ve most likely heard of the immensely popular clothing brand Brandy Melville. From their trendy affordable clothes to the brand’s social media presence, Brandy Melville has quickly become a staple in the closets of many teenage girls. However “adorable” these clothes may be, you may want to close your Brandy Melville shop tab and log onto another site. Here are a few reasons why Brandy Melville is not worth your money. 

First, let’s address the brand’s voice on body positivity. Just kidding, they don’t have one. Brandy Melville clothes are marketed as “one size fits most,” which is just a fancy way of saying they only offer a size small or extra small. There would be nothing wrong with this if they were marketing their brand as a petite clothing brand (like how some stores are specifically marketed as “plus size”). However, they market their brand as a standard teen clothing brand. And, according to a 2019 statistic, the average clothing size of an American teenage girl is a large, which there is nothing wrong with. But if you’ve ever been inside a Brandy Melville fitting room and nothing fits, you start to feel bad about yourself. You feel as if you’re the problem. I speak from personal experience. The people who wear trendy Brandy Melville outfits start to seem like an exclusive fashionable club that’s almost impossible to get into, and if you fit into their clothes, you seem elite. 

Not fitting into one store would be an easy thing to ignore, if it weren’t for the fact that Brandy has created their own signature style. Their styles are noticeably their own, and not sold in other mainstream stores. So when you see a lot of people wearing them, it’s discouraging to really like the style but know you wouldn’t fit into it.  I’ve heard friends of mine say things like “I’ll just barely eat for a week and then go back for those jeans,” and “I’m trying to lose weight so I can go shopping at Brandy Melville.” This goes to show that when widely popular clothing brands aren’t size inclusive, it can be extremely harmful. Fatalities and hospitalizations from eating disorders are at an all time high in this day and age due to social media, and Brandy Melville is not helping with this. The brand has actually gotten a ton of backlash for not being size inclusive these past few years, but that still doesn’t hurt business. The reason is simple: it’s easy to ignore things such as size exclusivity when you happen to fit the beauty standard yourself, and it’s so easy to overlook the harmfulness because the clothes are just “so, so cute”. 

Another reason I don’t recommend shopping at Brandy Melville is because they have failed to support racial representation among their models. When popular brands only have Caucasian models, they are putting out the false message that only one race is beautiful. The stores themselves even want young girls who resemble the models to work retail to keep up the “Brandy image”. A former worker stated recently that if a girl was applying to work there, she would be required to inform them of her race, and if she wasn’t white, the manager would simply send the girl away. This wasn’t exclusive to that one store location either. Shortly after, many former workers began sharing shocking stories from their experiences with similar situations. With all of this buildup, Brandy Melville began getting overdue backlash this past May because of the Black Lives Matter movement, more specifically on their Instagram account. When the Black Lives Matter movement began, brands everywhere with a social media platform began speaking out and spreading awareness. I guess Brandy Melville thought they were above this, because they kept posting their same content as if nothing had happened. It would be difficult to argue that they just “didn’t know” because almost every single comment on their posts from then on was backlash. The comments got so intense, that the account had turned off all comments for months to avoid addressing the issue. Now, almost nine months later, comments on all of their posts are still limited. Though they have only just recently started having a POC model on their website because of the hate they were getting, their Instagram feed has yet to evolve. It is extremely rare to find diversity on their page (keeping in mind that social media is where most of their fanbase resides). To my understanding, if you were doing something that didn’t deserve backlash, there would be no reason to limit comments. 

If you aren’t convinced to stop shopping at Brandy Melville yet, let’s talk about fast fashion. Fast fashion is the use of sweatshop labor in order to cheaply and quickly produce clothing to sell at a higher price. Popular brands such as H&M, Zara, and Topshop are all fast fashion users, and Brandy Melville is no exception. This is how they always stock the latest fashion trends. Let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the harmful effects of fast fashion and address its impact on the environment. Because of the pressure to reduce costs and speed up production, fast fashion uses cheap, toxic textile dyes in their clothing. This causes the fashion industry to be “the second largest polluter of clean water globally.” Even some of the cheap fabrics used, such as polyester and conventional cotton, contribute to global warming and droughts because of the fossil fuels and water required to produce them. The constant demand also leads to textile waste and increasing stress on biodiversity. Not only is fast fashion harmful to the environment, but it also impacts the garment workers. According to a Borgen Magazine article, “fast fashion companies exploit their overseas workers to maximize profits. Fast fashion is bad for workers, especially young and underage women. These women work long hours with minimal pay and they work in unsafe working conditions.” In addition, “accidents, fires, injuries, and disease are very frequent occurrences on textile production sites. On top of that, clothing workers regularly face verbal and physical abuse. In some cases, when they fail to meet their (unreachable) daily target, they are insulted, denied breaks, or not allowed to drink water.” Supporting fast fashion brands such as Brandy Melville is arguably contributing indirectly to this. Obviously, because fast fashion is so widely used, we all own some clothing made through this process and will probably continue to buy from brands who do, too. You can make your closet more environmentally friendly by researching clothing brands before you buy from them in order to limit your support of fast fashion. 

Brandy Melville Dupes:

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve hopefully convinced you to stop supporting Brandy Melville. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: “ I don’t necessarily agree with what the brand is doing and supporting, but the clothes are just so cute.” Lucky for you, I’ve found some size and race inclusive brands that don’t support fast fashion, with a similar style as Brandy Melville. First, we have Los Angeles Apparel. This brand is slightly more expensive than Brandy Melville, but it is guaranteed that all of the clothing is made in the United States and is recyclable. The brand also checks off the boxes of including sizes XS to 2XL, and is racially inclusive with all of their models. The next brand that is a good dupe for Brandy Melville is This is a small business that handmakes all of their items. They state on their website that “ employees are paid following industry standards as we believe that a happy and safe working environment creates quality products.” The sizes range from XS to XL, the pricing is only a little more expensive than Brandy Melville, and the styles are extremely similar. However, the brand is a small family business, so there is only one model on the site (I believe she’s in their family), so it’s not very diverse. But in comparison, Brandy Melville at least has the money and option to hire any models they want. Last but not least, we have the brand Glassons. Glassons also carries styles extremely similar to Brandy Melville and has amazing prices. Their models are racially diverse and they stock sizes XS to L. As a brand, they are incredibly transparent about their sustainability, even going as far as to offer their sustainability report on their website, as their motto is “People, Planet, Product.” They also state: “We believe it is our responsibility to minimize our environmental impact and ensure quality sustainable products are accessible and affordable for our customers, with the assurance that we’re not shying away from the complex challenges facing our industry.” They also predict to have eliminated 90% of single use plastics from their brand by the end of this year. Glassons also informs us on their website that no child labor is used, all working environments are safe and healthy, no discrimination is practiced, no harsh inhumane treatment is allowed, they prevent forced labor and human trafficking, and that all overtime work is voluntary. 

I encourage all of you to spread awareness of these brands and do more research when buying from a new brand. If you want more information on this topic, there are countless videos on YouTube. I watched the one by croissant (I know, fun account name) titled “I Lost Weight to Fit into Brandy Melville.” A lot of the information I used was also prior knowledge. Here’s to hoping that in 2021, our closets are inclusive and environmentally and labor friendly!

Chloe Stefani ’24, Fashion Editor