Copy Editor Intern ’23
I get it: ethical capitalism is hard. From Chik-Fil-A to IHOP, corporations that are frankly delicious, but also huge donors to the Republican party, cause a moral quandary to my grumbly stomach quite often. Things get even dicier when looking at the fashion industry, with fast fashion and questionable human rights issues at play as broke college students weigh the pros and cons of buying that 75% off sweater from Forever 21. When it comes to Brandy Melville however, fast fashion crosses a line by promoting an incredibly damaging platform and perpetuating a culture of teen manipulation.
I’ll admit it, stuff from Brandy Melville is cute. If you are part of the miniscule percentage of the population that can squeeze into their “one-size-fits-small” clothing, it’s hard to resist colorful little crop tops and tight gingham dresses. Unfortunately, Brandy’s effectiveness as a company comes down to a marketing strategy that manipulates the body-image of tweens and teenagers. Despite general knowledge about Brandy’s questionable decision on model choices and sizing options, the company continues to do well among people our age, with the company bringing $300 million in 2018 and with almost 4 million followers on Instagram.
Rather than starring professional adult models, Brandy uses girls around the ages of 13-20 that work in their store to model their clothing on social media. Brandy ensures that those who model and work for them fit a perfect cookie cutter image: size 0 teen girls with conventionally attractive features. This idealized figure isn’t only showcased on their social media, but evident in the sizing of their clothing. The company only makes one size and anyone who has attempted to try on one of their tank tops know that it’s somehow tinier than a normal Extra-Small.
Scrolling through Brandy’s Instagram, it’s hard to believe these posts are from 2019. Even after years of the body positivity movement encouraging diversity in fashion and advertising, Brandy’s platform has stayed consistent. The photos aren’t particularly professional, seemingly taken by a cell phone camera at some hip aesthetic location. Nearly single girl featured is white, and even though they feature the occasional Asian teen, every single model has the exact same body type and conventionally attractive European features.
While the issue has been brought up by several YouTubers, Brandy’s hiring system has not caused nearly as much alarm as its damaging process calls for. Rather than a normal resume and application system, Brandy hires their staff almost exclusively on whether or not they fit their branding and image. Instead of an interview, the company asks for a social media account and takes a picture of your outfit when you walk in. Some girls have reported walking into a store to ask if they were hiring and being immediately hired or rejected on the spot.
The casual nature of their Instagram and hiring process appeals to the younger generation much more effectively than professional models and photoshoots could. Brandy posts send a message that “Maybe this could be you! You’re our age, have an Instagram, and you could be just as popular and attractive if only you could wear our impossibly small clothing and be cute enough for us to hire!”
Their Instagram ads are the equivalent of what heroin-chic advertising embodied in the 90s: painfully obvious promotion for an unattainable body type. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that their target demographic is incredibly young and impressionable. Brandy’s optimal figure is most achievable for prepubescent girls—and the success of a few young girls at the company further promotes a culture of unrealistic Euro-centric beauty standards that likely persists among their peers at school.
Despite the company’s popularity, the racial and size limitations that their company promotes should no longer be considered acceptable. With companies slowly moving to more plus-sized options and diversity in the beauty industry, we have to force companies like Brandy Melville to stop perpetuating beauty standards that are hurting the youth who frequent social media.
With this awareness, to the style icons and fashion-forward attendees of Scripps College: it’s time to take on our responsibility as ethical consumers to boycott Brandy Melville, turning to someplace else to buy cropped t-shirts and cute colorful dresses.