Brandy Melville Is a Fast Fashion Clothing Company Steeped in Controversy — Here's Why

"I don't think people know the extent of how bad it is. They would be doing everyone a favor to shut this business down."

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Apr. 10 2024, Published 6:06 p.m. ET

Two girls flip their hair while standing in a field
Source: HBO

Brandy Melville models

People of a certain generation can still recall what it smelled like to walk by an Abercrombie & Fitch at their local mall. The stench of cologne was overwhelming and nearly overpowered the eardrum-blasting music that tumbled out and onto every passerby. If a person could ignore all of that and actually walk into the store, they would be greeted by a sea of preppy/sporty clothing and a young blond employee.

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Anyone could shop at Abercrombie & Fitch but it always felt distinctly male. Nowadays Gen-Z has their own version of this fast fashion retail chain, but this one caters to women. Brandy Melville has taken the beige affordable fashion world by storm and, like its odious predecessor, is not without its issues. Let's take a look at the controversies surrounding Brandy Melville.

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There are quite a few controversies associated with Brandy Melville.

In April 2024, a documentary about the inner workings of Brandy Melville was released on Max. Titled Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion, it invited viewers into the stockroom, if you will, where former employees blew the whistle on their old boss. Director Eva Orner (Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator) spoke with People about the process of getting these individuals to open up. It wasn't easy.

"They are scared of the company, they're scared of retribution, and they're also scared because they're starting their careers and they don't necessarily want to be seen as a troublemaker by future employers," she told the outlet. Because of this, Orner considers these women to be heroes and applauds the strength it took to come forward.

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The employees discussed numerous alleged instances of bigotry and misogyny. Brandy Melville was founded by Italian entrepreneur Silvio Marsan. His son Stephan was made CEO, and he and his father apparently required workers to send them daily photos of their outfits. They claimed it was for modeling opportunities but they soon reportedly devolved into requests for feet and chest pictures. If they didn't like what they saw, employees were often fired.

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Employees also apparently had to have a certain look which was thin, white, and usually blond. "If she was Black, if she was fat … he didn't want them in the store," said Luca Rotondo, a former senior vice president, during an interview with Business Insider. If Black people were hired, employees in the documentary claim they were given work to do in the stockroom. Also, how much one made depended upon how attractive Stephan thought you were.

Higher level executives, including Stephan, were supposedly part of a group chat that texted racist and antisemitic messages. In 2021, Business Insider took a look at over 150 screenshots from the texts in the chat and noted that "Hitler was mentioned 24 times." They often ridiculed Black people via bigoted images and deeply unfunny "jokes." Franco Sorgi, who once owned 11 stores in Canada, told the outlet people went along with these joke to appease Stephan.

For more on the atrocious allegations surrounding Brandy Melville, we recommend watching the documentary. The Business Insider piece goes even deeper, with stories of alleged sexual assault and upper management encouraging underage drinking and drug use. A former manager of a New York location, who claimed she was raped by an executive, said, "I don't think people know the extent of how bad it is. They would be doing everyone a favor to shut this business down."

If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit to chat online one-on-one with a support specialist at any time.

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