By Ruby Belt ’24
If you’re like me, you know at least three people who have clothes from Brandy Melville. Now, ask these people their opinions on climate change and body positivity. At least where I live, most of these girls are body-positive and are doing things to fight climate change. The people that shop there truly believe that they are good people helping the world. And they are. But what they don’t know is how their shopping habits immediately contradict what they stand for.
If you don’t know already, Brandy Melville has “one size fits all” sizing. Now, it’s obvious that one size does not fit all. Unlike most “one size fits all” stores, their clothes are not designed to fit most body types. We are all different and have different shapes and sizes. That’s a good thing. But their one size doesn’t fit most—their clothes fit sizes XS-S.
Now, imagine that you are in your early teens and walk into a Brandy Melville store. You pick out a few things that you like, and you bring them to the dressing room. As you’re trying things on, you notice that the pants are too tight, and the shirt is too loose. You move on to the other clothes you had picked out. The next two things you try on are a skirt and a tank top. This time, the skirt is too loose, and the tank is too tight. At this point, you’re confused and feeling self-conscious.
According to an article titled “Social Development in Pre-Teens: What You Need to Know” by Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., “Around puberty, adolescent egocentrism emerges, deeply affecting how 11-13 years feel about themselves….As a result, children this age are highly self-conscious.” A situation like the one I just presented, where you do not fit the “all,” can severely affect body image and self-esteem. So, shopping at a store that is inherently sizeist, is not body positive.
Not only is Brandy Melville reinforcing fat-phobic and sizeist culture, but it is also a fast fashion brand. For the purpose of this article, I will be using Merriam Webster’s definition of fast fashion, which states, “An approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” You may be thinking, “What’s wrong with low prices and fast trends?” The environmental cost of the clothing outweighs the actual price.
A large number of Brandy Melville’s clothes are made in Italy, which is good because Italy has relatively safe labor laws. However, not all of the pieces are made in Italy. A good amount of them are made in China, which has labor laws that do not protect the workers. Of all their dresses on their website, 18 of them are made in Italy, while 21 of them are made in China (as of September 3, 2020). Also, most of their clothing is made of polyester and/or cotton. The effects of polyester and cotton on the environment are disastrous. Although cotton is biodegradable, it is one of the most environmentally demanding crops. Polyester is artificial, and it can cause significant environmental damage. It can also not be dyed with low impact or natural dyes, so they have to use harsh, toxic, dyes on polyester.
While researching for this article, it was very difficult to find information on Brandy Melville. The brand needs to be more transparent with its customers about the environmental and social impacts of its products. If you want to continue shopping at Brandy Melville, you need to demand that it change for the better. These days, it can be hard to find alternatives to fast fashion, because it’s everywhere. Changing your shopping habits can be overwhelming at first, but it just gets easier. Some things I do to lessen my impact are buying second hand, sewing some of my own clothes, and doing the research before buying directly from ethical stores. I encourage you to find local thrift stores and shop from those, and if there aren’t any near you, ThredUp is an incredible online thrift store that has lots of cute options. Sewing has incredible benefits for your brain, and you can make clothes that suit your own style. Doing research on brands can be hard because a lot of brands are not transparent, but GoodOnYou is a free app that provides information on lots of brands. As citizens of planet Earth, we must change our habits, for the sake of the planet.