Brandy Melville is a popular clothing brand- with the target audience catered toward young teenage girls specifically. However, there remains an aspect of mystery surrounding the brand, and the problems with the ‘one-size policy’ have caused lasting effects to the young population concerning body image and eating disorders. 

Originally a small Italian brand, Brandy Melville started to grow in popularity in the West coast of the USA as the beachy, Californian style began to trend. The first USA store opened in 2009, just off the campus of UCLA, making it a hotspot for the Malibu teen aesthetic. In particular, teenage girls in the area were drawn to the store, as it featured rustic, unique decor and seemed to cater directly to them- with slogan tees of nearby cites and girls similar in age working the shop floor. The appeal came from the simplicity of the clothing- basic crewnecks and tees in muted colours- combined with the ‘All-American’ reflected in prints of national parks, university campuses and beaches in varsity fonts. 

As more and more stores opened in the southern and eastern states, major cities in Europe, and the launch of an online website, the brand started to capture the attention of more girls who wanted to embody the envied ‘tumblr’ culture in their own wardrobes. Soon, the image of Brandy Melville became a symbol of unity for young tweens, and many girls started sporting the typical ‘Melville style’ of T-shirts and jean shorts as a way to connect to their friends. Their shared obsession with the brand evolved into a sense of relatability and embodied a shared ‘laid-back’ attitude. Teen girls even created new shortened versions of the shop name as part of their sociolect- using the shorted nickname ‘brandy’ between them as an adjective, as in ‘that’s so brandy’. It was no doubt that Brandy Melville was influencing the culture of independent tweens, who begged parents to buy them the same cropped t-shirts, ripped denims, and sew-on patches. 

In this new era of iPhones and social media platforms, many girls started to ‘blog’ about their experiences on platforms such as Tumblr. The gateway to shared shopping was opened, and teens online started to spread the news of new stores and collections, evolving the standard form of advertising. Unusually, in light of different eras of clothes and changing trends, Brandy Melville’s consumer base has remained consistent. They have never advertised their business in any form of online marketing, sales or rebranding, creating only a simple online website to supply overseas buyers. However, the brands subtlety has created an image of exclusivity surrounding it. Although the pricing is affordable, under 100 stores exist around the world, setting it apart from other fast-fashion brands such as Zara or H&M, making it more appealing to those who cannot access it.

A craze in second-hand buying has also developed, centred around girls selling their ‘rare’ pieces for ridiculous amounts on online platforms such as Depop or Vinted. Cami tops for £12 retail price were sold for over £50, and resold again to other bidders, creating a sort of ‘black market’ of Brandy Melville online. This craze around rare pieces amongst teens has also shaped the brand identity, as it sells only a limited quantity of each design. This creates a sort of nonsensical desperation around the uniqueness of each garment as not everything can bought online or comes back in stock. 

However, Brandy Melville’s cultural significance was not only to the fashion sphere, but, at a time with a rise of social media and celebrities such as the Kardashians and Victoria Secret angels, Brandy Melville’s ‘one size policy’ and skinny-girl aesthetic served as a catalyst for girls suffering severe body image issues, dysmorphia, and even eating disorders. Not only were all clothes modelled by majority strictly size 4, Caucasian young girls, but the stores workers also mirrored the same image, with girls as young as 15/16 dressed entirely in Brandy Melville to rep the brand’s audience.

Still in the modern fashion world, where diversity and representation in brands is recognised and promoted, Brandy Melville’s image remains made up of thin, white women, isolating others from being represented. This has led to consequences of girls facing overbearing insecurity, feeling they are not good enough to wear the clothes themselves, and in worst cases have developing eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia due to a desperation to be accepted in society.

The danger of this brand not being inclusive is that its target audience remains the same as it has always been: tweens and teens growing up and exploring their style as they begin to develop. The brands ability to bend to fit trends such as animal prints, dainty patterns, and affordable jewellery means that it caters toward the young consumers, with their infamous slogan ‘one size fits all’ leaving those who do not fit into the clothes neglected. 

As fashion has developed over the years, promoting inclusivity and wider size ranges, as well as diversity in models, Brandy Melville has largely stayed the same. The new HBO documentary ‘Brandy Hellville’ was released on April 9th, 2024, and further explores the toxic work culture hidden in the brand, the strange hiring practices and its damaging impact of body-image issues on young people today. 



By Mia Honigstein