Brandy Melville, the 'female Supreme,' accused of racism and exploitation
Brandy Melville, a store beloved by Gen Z for its cotton basics, boasts a cult following; one teen even labeled the brand as a “female Supreme.” Despite criticism for its “one size fits most” sizing (equivalent to a small) and notoriously white, thin, and blonde cast of models and workers, young consumers have remained loyal to the label since its launch in 1970.
A new report from Business Insider, however, now claims Brandy Melville’s problematic behavior goes much deeper: The fashion chain has been accused of hosting an exploitative culture, with former workers claiming the company as a whole is rife with racism, sexism, and antisemitism.
Looks are everything, according to Brandy —
Discriminatory practices — like hiring people based on their appearance and weight — range from the executive division of the brand to its retail stores, allege former employees, who told Insider that Brandy Melville’s CEO Stephan Marsan demands the sales associates be young, thin, pretty, and white. “If she was Black, if she was fat ... he didn’t want them in the store,” Luca Rotondo, a former senior vice president, told Insider.
According to Rotondo, the girls who work at each of the 94 Brandy Melville stores are required to send a full-body photo to executives, a practice known as “staff style.” If Marsan decided a girl was too unattractive or heavy, he demanded that she be fired — and if he thought there were too many Black employees, he replaced them with white women, said Rotondo. He and former Canadian store owners claimed in two separate lawsuits that they were fired from their positions after refusing to terminate employees based on their race and appearance.
In the New York City flagship store, Marsan and fellow executives work from an elevated area where they watch shoppers, another former employee shared. When they see someone that fits the “Brandy Melville look,” they push a button which sets off a light prompting the cashier to ask for the girl’s photo — which is then sent to executives deciding whether or not to hire her.
According to multiple current and former staff, a new floor employee’s pay is often determined solely by her appearance. “There was no sugarcoating it,” a former New York regional manager who left in 2017 said. “It was, ‘She is skinny, white, blond, and pretty — let’s hire her.’” Black employees were often relegated to the storeroom or night shifts.
Stalking shoppers —
Consumers, too, are subject to Brandy Melville’s racism and discrimination. Franco Sorgi, the owner of Brandy Melville stores in Canada and one of the plaintiffs in the second lawsuit, said Marsen told him directly that he didn’t want to see Black or overweight women wear his clothes because it would damage the brand’s image.
The Insider report also details antisemitism from Marsen and other executives, including an incident where Marsan photoshopped his face onto Hitler’s body in a group chat with senior leadership. Chat members also frequently exchanged pornography, mocked Black people, and shared memes related to Hitler and the Holocaust, claims the report. One edited image of a severely emaciated woman wearing underwear and a sash read “Miss Auschwitz 1943.”
Deeper allegations —
Such predatory behavior from executives extended to their interactions with staff: Multiple sources told Insider that teenage employees as young as 14 would be asked to undress in front of male higher-ups to try on new clothing for them. Executives allegedly also took underage employees out for drinks, while Marsan’s right-hand man, Jessy Longo, was accused by several employees of inappropriately touching them.
“People don’t realize how corrupt this company is,” a current employee at a Massachusetts store told Insider. “It’s a disgusting company, and the company needs to be shut down.”