'I watch a lot of documentaries. This one should be compulsory viewing.'

I watch a lot of documentaries, especially any/everything concerned with the fashion industry.

From The True Cost to White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch — I inhale it all.

But a new documentary left my jaw on the floor for reasons I didn't expect.

Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion is currently streaming on Binge, and examines the teen clothing brand Brandy Melville. The brand only has a couple of stores in Australia (in Sydney and Melbourne), but it's huge in the US and Europe, with a growing presence in China.

For the uninitiated, Brandy Melville is best known for its 'beach babe' aesthetic and earthy Instagram presence, which features a grid filled with teenage models wearing baby slogan tees.

But behind the brand's wholesome exterior lies some deeply problematic behaviour allegedly exhibited by its management, according to the documentary.

I thought I knew what I was getting into with this show — it's a notorious fast-fashion brand, after all — but I had no clue what was to come.

Watch the Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion trailer. Post continues after video.

Video via Binge. 

The filmmaker, Eva Orner, charts how the brand seemingly came out of nowhere to become the It Brand for teenage girls in the 2010s. The documentary features interviews with Brandy Melville's young staff, a store owner and even a former vice president who describes what sounds like an oppressive and discriminatory work environment.

Here are the documentary's most shocking revelations.

The origin of the brand's name is... deeply weird.

For a brand marketed to teen girls, you'd think the name Brandy Melville was either the founder's real name, or a cute character created for young customers to admire. 

Umm... no. Not at all. 

The founder is an Italian man named Stephan Marsan. 

The brand's name is based on a fictitious love story. In the documentary, Business Insider journalist Kate Taylor spoke about investigating the brand for an article and discovered the name represents two characters: an American woman named Brandy, and Melville, a man from England, who fell in love in Italy. 

"I was quite confused by this name choice because the backstory doesn't align with the current image of Brandy Melville," Taylor said "Everything about this brand becomes rather perplexing quite swiftly."

This is just the beginning of the weirdness.

Brandy Melville predominantly hired the 'popular' girls. 

In the documentary, former employees claim that managers hired mostly white teens, who were almost exclusively "blonde, sometimes brunette", added former staffer Cali.


"It was like, 'This is what you want to look like. This is your goal,'" ex-staff member Cate added. 

One ex-associate whistleblower alleged that CEO Stephan Marsan sought to hire the teens considered the 'popular girls'.

The interviews with former staff painted a disturbing picture of how white employees were allegedly given preferential treatment. Black employees said they were often relegated to the storage rooms, sorting stock, and not permitted to work on the floor or interact with customers.

Former Black employee Kali spoke about feeling conflicted at the time over the treatment she experienced.

"We were all being pushed to the back, out of sight," Kali says. "But it wasn't something we were necessarily mad about, because I loved being around my people, like, people of colour."

Brandy Melville CEO Stephan Marsan. Image: Binge. 


The founder made his young employees send him photos of themselves.

Despite its young feel, the brand's Instagram account is run solely by founder Marsan, who is allegedly a little too involved in the company's daily grind. According to ex-employees, they were asked to text Marsan photos of themselves wearing Brandy Melville outfits every shift so that he could approve their 'store style' each day.

An ex-staffer claimed that Marsan had kept all the photos of the teen girls in a folder to examine whenever he wanted. In some cases, some girls were allegedly asked to share photos of their chests and feet with Marsan.

One employee questioned why she was required to send such photos and was shut down by an older manager. She ended up quitting, saying that she no longer felt safe working at Brandy Melville.

The company's 'one size fits most' system affected employees' body image.

While Brandy Melville initially sold different sizes, it quickly became known as the brand that sold only one size. Initially labelled as 'one size fits all', this was later altered to the equally problematic 'one size fits most'.


This 'universal size' would be categorised as extra small by most clothing standards, making the brand only accessible to thin teens and women. Even the staff shared concerns that they couldn't fit into the brand's tiny sizes.

Many former Brandy employees spoke about having eating disorders while working there. One ex-staffer describes feeling pressured to maintain her body weight in order to be allowed to keep working for the company.

Another said that working for the company had a long-lasting impact on the way she viewed her body. "Eating disorders are going to stay with you for a while," the former employee said.

The founder allegedly sent offensive memes to staff.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse... A former Brandy Melville store owner also shared in the doco that Marsan held strong political views, which became part of the brand.

As Marsan was a libertarian (a group strongly opposed to taxes), he sold signs in stores featuring the name 'John Galt' — a character from libertarian novel Atlas Shrugged, a book Stephan also distributed to employees.

Brandy Melville employees also participated in a group chat with Marsan called 'Brandy Melville Gags,' which they say was filled with disturbing racist, homophobic, transphobic and antisemitic memes and messages.

Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion is currently streaming on Binge.

Feature image: HBO.