By Molly Bello
When I saw the new Brandy Melville store on Newbury Street, I was excited. I love being exposed to new brands, and their aesthetic seemed right up my alley. They are beachy, cool, fun, and youthful.
However, after reading several articles recently about the company, I’m not as enthusiastic.
The marketing tactics and general sales approach is somewhat controversial. Social media is their only real form of advertising.
Their cult Instagram features photos of the clothes worn by fun loving girls that just look like they are enjoying life. These girls, however, are all tall, skinny, caucasian, and usually blonde.
This image is reinforced in the actual store as well. The employees generally fit this description, and the clothes run in sizes small, or a one size fits most (also very small). The jeans are the equivalent of about a 0 or 2, with a 25 inch waist.
I can count the number of teenage girls (or college-aged) on one hand that would fit into a size 0 jeans with a 25 inch waist. It’s unrealistic. The one size fits most policy seems effortless and would facilitate the shopping process… if you fit the mold.
It’s easy to see why Brandy has been so successful. As a 21-year-old, I understand the allure of California-style clothes on skinny models. It’s what’s been conditioned in our brains as cool and attractive.
Of course I was excited when I saw Brandy Melville on Newbury, I was brainwashed to think so.
As someone who loves fashion, I have to admit I gravitate towards brands with skinny models (most of them) and have struggled with body image issues every since I was conscious of what my body looked like.
These clothes are so easy to love, because Brandy’s market research team is made up of slender, tan teenagers. The people that other teens idolize set the trends and consequently feed the brand the money of the largest consumer market out there.
In addition to being monetarily successful, the brand has over 2 million Instagram followers. According to a racked.com article, the girls doing research for the company also take part in taking the Instagram photos. These girls themselves have thousands of followers, gaining a significant following for being real-life “Brandy girls.”
The brand reminds me of Abercrombie & Fitch, notorious for fat-shaming. As a 14-year-old walking into an A&F store, the elitist attitude was almost as strong as the smell of their cologne. I remember buying a few things, not because I fell in love with the quality (not even close) or the aesthetics really, but the fact that everyone shopped there.
The idea of cool is such an obsession with teenagers, and if these brands mold their look to represent an unhealthily slim, sexualized 17-year-old, that’s what will become the norm.
Even at my age, almost 22, I find it difficult not to want to look like the Brandy girls or the Abercrombie girls. The style of clothing they sell is likeable enough, no matter who is selling it. By creating a character for the brand, the clothes become even more covetable.
While this method of selling isn’t healthy, is it completely Brandy Melville’s fault? They hire girls in their target market to help choose the types of clothes and accessories, in addition to executing the photoshoots published on the brand’s Instagram account.
This saves them from paying marketing and advertising professionals, and creating expensive advertising campaigns. It also provides a direct link to what their target will buy.
They are playing into what has already been established and reinforced among junior fashion: skinny is in.
If the company simply created clothing in a wider size range, they would be making a huge step forward. Besides, the clothes are cute (although not super original) and reasonably priced.
Fashion is a means of self expression. It is a way to have a voice. What are we saying as a society if we don’t allow certain people to have that voice?
Some girls are naturally a size 0 or a size 2, or a size 10 or a size 12. They should all be able to wear a cool airy white minidress, or a pair of funky cotton printed shorts.
While the clothes are fun, it’s hard to support a brand with this kind of exclusivity. If you like the clothes, regardless of your size, and feel that you can’t shop at Brandy Melville, you can find comparable clothes at Forever 21, that also come in medium and large.
Molly Bello is a Comment Columnist. Follow her on Twitter at @mollybello.