Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion (2024)


Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion Review

Brandy Melville is a fashion company that was popular with young girls on Tumblr between 2010 and 2010. Such fame was brought about by being active on social media platforms especially Instagram where Brandy Melville employees as well as selected “Brandy girls” featured in the campaigns to give it an unattainable look. The teens who would wear these clothes were considered cool, which made the brandy experience different for them than it could have been otherwise; hence, the tiny “one size fits most” outfits quickly gained popularity that has so far led to almost 100 stores across fifteen countries and eighty cities all over the world. But former insiders of fashion and employees along with other women who served at executive posts have confessed about severe discrimination cases experienced within Brandy Melville. These stories also reflect how this business thrived in a society where it set beauty standards it knew customers and employees alike couldn’t possibly meet, whether through social media or any other means.

Making use of what some saw as discriminatory practices against young people wishing to be part of Brandy Melville aesthetics, this documentary offers a glance into what has been going on behind doors. In addition, the movie broadens its purview by looking at the far reaching impacts of mass production in fast fashion by brands such as Brandy Melville while discussing what happens when consumerism meets cheap production: Ghana’s capital city Accra offers insight into one hub for dumped textiles that are polluting landfills and water bodies.

From limited cultish branding of just one item down to systemic problems with throwaway clothes, BRANDY HELLVILLE & THE CULT OF FAST FASHION reveals exploitation rampant throughout global fashion industry.

In an Australian documentary feature filmed by Eva Orner she rounds off by calling for strikes and boycotts against exploitative sweatshops like those employed at Brandy Melville among others during discussions around fast-fashion culture.

Early 2000s saw Brandy Melville rise due to its flirtatious, airy clothing. After a while, however, the brand’s image transformed into a symbol of two classes- the skinny white girls as haves and all other minority groups or those with unconventional body types as have-nots.

This year HBO is expected to broadcast the latest documentary by Eva Orner called “Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion.” The film unravels its not-so-secret history which includes racism, overconsumption, toxic work environments, and even sexual abuse. Being unable to cover all these flaws within roughly 90 minutes of screen time given that there were so many significant problems with Brandy Melville as a company alone. Instead she prefers interviewing previous employees who can gave more light into some of the bigger societal issues such as social media influence on society today, wasteful clothing purchases and environmental effects.

The film starts with 2010 youtube and Instagram influencers in Brandy Melville shopping and recording hauls. Innocent memories of purple mandala flags, velvet scrunchies and galaxy print get evoked by popular names like Hannah Meloche and Summer Mckeen. This nostalgia was short-lived as soon as I saw the endless bags of clothes they were advertising. The large number of consumption depicted was observed, however Orner’s approach might have been too subtle on the serious dangers of consumer culture for an average audience. Of course, there is no doubt that Brandy Melville has problematic ideals but all this would not be possible without social media which is a larger dangerous beast.

Although it seemed so obvious to me how much social media played a significant role in making Brandy successful, I expected him to include video clips featuring Emma Chamberlain who was the biggest publicist of the brand at that time. Orner’s interviews merely expose more manipulation abilities of social media on young girls: he spoke to employees, who revealed that their most important thing was their online image. In one story from a former employee narrated within the first five minutes of the documentary; she said if girls at her school weren’t wearing Brandy Melville they “weren’t as great as [she] was” or maybe they “weren’t as pretty and maybe there was something wrong with them.” Such case illustrates brand-related statuses’ mercilessness. It may be seen as superficial but it can damage both self- perception and other women.

Orner also uses anecdotal evidence as undeniable proof of Brandy Melville’s racist policies. Stephan Marsan, CEO / founder used to kick out people of color into stockrooms due to his racism in Brandy Melville. More specifically, according to another Black ex-worker shown in the movie called Lee “there was an awareness” that these problems were happening among workers while providing evidence for another former employee in the film.

There is also a dark part of Orner’s film that Brandy Melville’s seemingly innocent shopfronts reveal, which involves the mountains of fabric waste left on the shores of Accra, Ghana due to their production methods. Liz Ricketts from The Or Foundation, an organization fighting corporate colonialism and promoting sustainable fashion development noted that locals called them “Obruni Wawu, which means dead white man’s clothes” because they believed it was clothing from people who are now dead. Among these piles are common fabrics dumped by Brandy Melville.

With TikTok Shop emerging and fast fashion brands like Shein dominating and new trends spreading through social media faster than ever before, Orner leaves the viewers with an overwhelming desire to change their attitudes towards fashion and social media, so as not to further pollute more parts of the globe with tonnes of fashion-related waste.

Brandy Melville is based on customers being unaware and afraid of lagging behind in a world where superficial presentation has become a basis for social status. By exposing the true face of this chain brandy melville continues hiding in a narrative that masks real issues such as racism or body shaming coming from social media into fast fashion environment.

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