Dinenson Cortez-Cruz
Staff Writer

Trigger Warning: This article mentions racism, sexual assault, body-shaming, abuse, and antisemitism. Please read with caution.

Trendy retailer Brandy Melville never prioritized inclusion. It has built a reputation for exclusivity. Now, it is under turmoil for embracing a toxic work environment, racism, antisemitism, and more: Brandy Melville will no longer be the one-stop-shop it once was.

According to a new report from Business Insider, Italian CEO Stephan Marsan fostered a work environment that was beyond reproach. Brandy, as it is also known, did not welcome larger bodies, whether it was employees or customers. Most of their clothes only fit U.S. size zero despite being one size, and that was just the beginning.

A former store owner in Canada hired based on merit, but was quickly shut down. The owner talked about how Marsan did not want Black people buying Brandy clothes, and he had to close stores in non-majority White areas. Marsan would also fire Black people if a shop hired “too many.” Race determined whom they hired, whom they fired, and whom they let shop in-store.

Former Senior Vice President Luca Rotondo said that Marsan preferred to hire young, white, thin, and pretty women. Marsan would also fire those he found too heavy or unattractive. Rotondo is now suing for being forced out for not following orders in making discriminatory firings. “If she was Black, if she was fat [ . . . ] he didn’t want them in the store,” Rotondo told Insider.

Rotondo’s lawsuit publicly exposed group chat messages between executives as well. One was a photo of them doing the Nazi salute. One was a photo of Marsan’s face edited on Hitler’s body. One was a photo of the Natural Geographic cover of a neanderthal next to a Black man’s face, and multiple texts sent with the n-word.

Claims of sexual exploitation and sexual harassment have also been rumored through the executives. Employees as young as 14 were required to share daily outfit pics with the board, and outfit changes in front of them — fully topless — were rumored to net them a raise. A former manager reported waking up in the bed of an Italian store owner after blacking out after drinks and dinner. She sought treatment for sexual assault afterward.

This type of behavior, in a society where times are supposed to have changed for the better and where more people have been advocating for inclusiveness than ever, is disconcerting. Seeing how small one has to be to fit into Brandy clothes can trigger eating disorders, body image issues, and self-harm. There are countless tweets on Twitter saying it is an achievement and goal to fit into Brandy clothes: “will forever wish i could fit into brandy melville clothes”; “if the clothes i got from brandy melville don’t fit i’ll kill myself that’ll be my last straw”; and “my spirit halloween only sells xxs and smalls? brandy melville who??”; and more. Seeing these sorts of messages reinforces small sizes, and toxic attitudes toward larger people, globally, not just within their niche.

Many local boutiques, like the ones in Uptown Whittier, have earned notoriety for staying exclusive to smaller waist sizes. Some boutiques do not carry past extra-large; some do not even carry large. Since they are a part of the Whittier community, which is supposed to be a safe harbor for being inclusive and supportive, they offend and shame those who wear larger sizes. The boutiques should be held accountable for the lack of representation of bigger bodies and sizes in their stores. Large corporations, too, should promote a change in trajectory to eradicate the harm they are causing or should shut down. As far as Brandy Melville goes, representatives, attorneys, and Marsan have not yet responded to comments.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Bhupesh Kumar / Kind PNG

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In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.
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