As the ethics of fast-fashion and importance of inclusivity become key focuses for the modern consumer, will Brandy Melville struggle to keep up- or is it set to lead the way into the next decade?
In the last couple of years, the importance of inclusivity and transparency in the fashion industry have become key focuses. The rise of plus-size models, like Ashley Graham, who landed in Times’ list of top 10 paid models last year, and organisations like Fashion Revolution surrounded around bringing awareness to the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion, have changed the way we, as consumers, think about our responsibility to the brands we support; as a result, high street fashion brands have begun to take the first steps towards improving these issues. In 2017, H&M, Zara, Gap and other fashion giants pulled out of the Dhaka Apparel Summit as a way to protest the workers’ rights violations prominent in the textile and fashion industries in Bangladesh, while campaigns like Aerie’s ‘#AerieREAL’ and River Islands’ ‘Labels are for Clothes’ featuring models of all shapes and sizes, as well as those with disabilities, have encouraged a new wave of body-positivity within the industry. Brands that adopt these ethics, either by altering the way they produce their clothes, or by publicising their views with advertising campaigns, have benefited from the positive press, and therefore new customers, their choices have brought.
However, one company that doesn’t seem to be embracing this new attitude of inclusivity and transparency in the fashion industry, yet simultaneously has experienced a massive growth in popularity in recent years is Brandy Melville. The company was originally founded in Italy decades ago, though it wouldn’t be thought of with the beachy, California-girl style of its clothes, the design of its stores, and images displayed in its advertising. Its first American outlet opened in 2009 in California, and since then, it has boomed in popularity and spread internationally, advertising primarily through word-of-mouth and on its social media accounts. A scroll through Brandy Melville’s Instagram or Facebook reveals countless perfectly filtered images of trendy, often blonde, and often skinny girls posing effortlessly in full one-size Brandy attire- those featured on the page range from popular teenage celebrities, like Model of the Year nominee Kaia Gerber and ex-Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler to young models who are regular customers at Brandy. The brand’s advertising techniques, along with their trendy and relatively reasonably-priced clothes attract a loyal customer base of young teenage girls, the same demographic many other high-street brands try their hardest to win over.
However, the young demographic Brandy Melville attracts is, though financially beneficial, also one of the biggest sources of the company’s criticism. The main controversy comes with the majority of clothes Brandy Melville sells being one-size- and though many of their pieces are made of stretchy materials, or have an oversized fit- it’s not a case of one-size fits all, with most clothes only fitting a size extra-small to medium. Even the clothes that do come in sizes (ranging from extra-small to large), like their jeans, for example, are not usually reflective of ‘regular’ sizings offered in other high-street stores. Brandy’s ‘large’ jeans feature a 28-inch waist, or a size 10- a small by the standards of most other stores. Teenage girls are Brandy Melville’s primary consumer demographic, but are also the most vulnerable to body-image issues, easily created by the idea that the clothes so popular in both high-schools internationally, and with the social media influencers younger teens look up to.
With the rise of awareness of the ethics and dangers of Fast Fashion, brought onto the public’s radar with documentaries, like 2015’s The True Cost and organisations like the aforementioned Fashion Revolution, the heat has also come onto companies to reveal how and where their clothes were made. On Brandy Melville’s US site, the most information revealed is the country each piece was made in- Italy or China. This, though not much, is still more revealing than a lot of other brands. Still, there’s a long way to go- not only for Brandy Melville, but for almost all international fashion labels.
The way it’s going, Brandy Melville’s popularity isn’t dwindling. However, its future is questionable as ideas on more ethical production and advertising reach the high streets, and as companies adopt inclusivity as a main focus.