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MAX Brandy Hellville Documentary Review

MAX+Brandy+Hellville+Documentary+Review

One of the most iconic brands our generation has continued to support has been “exposed” for its problematic history and creators. In Max’s new documentary “Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion” former employees and managers of Brandy Melville stores explain their slightly horrific experiences with the CEO Stephan Marsan. 

Initially when hearing about the documentary I assumed they would cover how Brandy Melville has been a staple in fashion for so long, further discussing the rise of Brandy and jokes people have made about it, like the olive oil they sold only giving details of where it’s made in Italy. However, starting the documentary I realized this is not the lighthearted silly documentary I expected. They took a far more serious tone, almost like a murder documentary, interviewing past employees one by one. As managers of certain Brandy Melville locations and ex-employees come to be interviewed, they start explaining the deep dark history behind Brandy Melville.

One of the first people to speak about his experience with the CEO and owner Stephan Marsan, is a manager of one of the first Brandy Melville stores to open in Canada in 2012. He reveals stories about how Marsan would always brag about how well sales were doing despite controversies and also shares texts between the managers group chat. This group chat consisted of racist and sexist texts, with memes of Adolf Hitler being sent back and forth between managers, and disturbing discussions about the young girls they were employing. They would often share pictures of what the girls wore to work to judge whether they should stay or be fired. But asking for the daily outfit pictures slowly escalated into Marsan asking the young  employees for more intimate photos. Marsan would also constantly fire girls if they didn’t look like a typical “Brandy girl,” which he envisioned as a skinny, white girl. One employee in the documentary, Kali, which is a pseudonym for the employee, shared that she wasn’t allowed at the cashier or in the store and was forced to stay in the back with other girls who were Hispanic and Black. Marsan only ever cared about his money and business rather than making his employees feel safe.

Other than the irresponsibility shown from the CEO of the company, employees that were included in the documentary shared how poor the working conditions were and how working at Brandy Melville affected them both mentally and physically. When girls were hired to work at the store, they were randomly approached if they were in the store and offered a job but they had to be good looking girls that Marsan would find attractive. At the cashier inside the store, the workers mentioned a red light that would go off if Marsan were to see a girl that fit the standard to work at Brandy. If this light went off, the employees were meant to ask them if they wanted to work there immediately.  The application process for Brandy contained more questions about their fashion taste and their interests rather than their strengths and work ethic, and enclosed a concealed agreement with Stephan that the girls working there had to be pretty. One of the job positions available for these women was “product research,” where girls would be sent to factories in China or Italy to look at clothes they thought were cute for Brandy to copy and sell as their own. The girls that were picked were typically the girls that Marsan favored or thought had the best style. 

Brandy Melville’s controversial “one size fits all” mentality also affected the girls who were employed there, with many of the workers interviewed sharing that working at Brandy did contribute to body image issues,with the fear of getting fired if they gained weight or didn’t fit the standard placed by Marsan. This mindset was also spread to the young girls buying their clothes. With the idea of an extra small fitting everyone when in reality it doesn’t, can heavily affect the people buying these clothes giving them the idea that they are unable to wear these clothes unless they are smaller or look different.  

Throughout this documentary I was constantly shocked and taken back by each new fact I learned. The dark history behind Brandy Melville and the actions of Stephan Marsan created a whole new outlook on not only this brand, but other brands similar to Brandy Melville What shocked me most was the inappropriate behavior shown by Marsan towards his adolescent employees.This documentary was an amazing eye opener on what really happens in the world of fast fashion and the true reality of the fashion industry. 

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About the Contributor
Ally Boldrin
Ally Boldrin, Staff Writer
Ally Boldrin is a staff writer for The Daily Howl at Castaic High School. Her intent in journalism is to bring more attention to mental health topics and discuss pop culture as well. She's passionate about shining a light on topics people tend to ignore or discard. She enjoys writing stories that are able to be seen by her peers while also informing them on certain topics while branching out and growing her writing skills. Her main goal is to improve her writing and continue to study English and literature. In her free time she's usually reading, drawing or listening to music. 
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