By Olivia Merrick
It’s a mystery to me why Brandy Melville still has such a tight hold on teenage girls all across the world. They’ve received their deserved share of bad press through the years, from being demonized for only carrying one size (a size 2-4), when the average clothing size of a teenage girl in America is a twelve, to having the majority of their models and employees be white, or at least have traditionally white features. For many years, Brandy Melville has managed to simultaneously excuse their problematic history, and promote their debauched idea of beauty, as teenage girls continue to eat out of the palms of the company’s hands. But for the first time in a very long time, Brandy Melville found itself in an unwinnable situation: responding to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The majority of clothing companies released statements as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum nationwide, commenting on how they do not agree with the treatment of black people in America and how they will strive to make their employee base as ethnically diverse as possible. And for many companies, this statement is a believable one. But not for Brandy Melville.
In all of the times I have been into their store in Santana Row, not once have I seen a person of color working. That particular location, considering it lies at a middle point in San Jose, attracts a diverse group of teenage girls, drawing both people of color and a broad spectrum of body types. Yet, even with diversity hanging in front of their noses, Brandy Melville chooses to hire the same, copy-pasted type of employee: white, and skinny.
This problem is not exclusive to our local Brandy Melville. On the company’s website, for every fifty white girls modeling their trendy clothes, fourteen black girls are pictured. Furthermore, no Latina or Indigenous girls were represented.
Considering their history of white-washing, it’s no surprise that Brandy Melville found themselves in a Catch 22 when it came to the Black Lives Matter movement. Speak out in support of the movement, and they would face backlash for their lack of black representation. Don’t speak out in support of the movement, and they would face backlash for standing by aimlessly as a movement that might very well change the future of our country panned out.
Naturally, Brandy Melville made the choice to stay silent—a choice they knew wouldn’t drive away customers. Why? Because the people who shop at their store don’t care about the message the brand promotes, that you can only join our elite club of beauty if you’re white, tall, and skinny.
Continuing to shop at Brandy Melville means you stand in solidarity with that distorted concept of beauty. Time and time again, Brandy Melville has proved they don’t care about the backlash they face for their lack of ethnic and body type representation. By purchasing their clothes, you fund that message. While I understand wanting to wear the coolest clothes from a brand that is adored, I can no longer give my money to a company that tells people of color they are not beautiful and people who are bigger than a size four that they are too big to be gorgeous. Because to me, and hopefully to you too, it is more important for everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin than it is to buy another cute plaid skirt that everyone else already owns.