The fashion industry has reached a point where topics such as diversity and body positivity are the main focus points for brands and companies. In this new era, some brands—particularly those of the independent variety—have soared. Others such as Victoria’s Secret have experienced backlash and criticism for their lack in acting along with these progressive movements, which raises the question: How does a brand like Brandy Melville continue to maintain its popularity?
Despite its popularity in the United States, Brandy Melville first launched in Italy, at the helm of Silvio Marsan in the early 1980s, according to New York Magazine’s The Cut. It wasn’t until 2009 that the company opened its first store stateside in Westwood. Since then, the brand has locations around the world in Canada, the U.K., and Asia.
Gearing its sights on the teen audience, Brandy Melville has become notorious for its ultra-cheap “One Size Fits All” clothing, which has spawned a handful of backlash for its lack of diversity in both its sizing options long with the racial backgrounds of the women featured in the brand’s campaigns as well as who work in each brick-and-mortar store.
The overall brand messaging seen within Brandy Melville locations positions the label as a laid-back fashion brand inspired by the southern California lifestyle. Think crop tops, slouchy sweaters, and cutout shorts. The brand’s current stock also features pieces tapping into the current revival of ‘90s trends such as babe tees, plaid skirts, and more. Of course, when looking at the tags, nearly every piece—with the exception of specific jeans and bottoms—is noted as “One Size.”
Despite this criticism, Brandy Melville has continued to soar as a popular destination for affordable fashion. According to an article on Business Insider from 2014, the fashion brand was one of the most popular teen brands at the time—when analysts estimated Brandy Melville’s annual company sales to be 125 million USD with a growth rate of 20 to 25 percent per year.
Today, Brandy Melville boasts nearly 4 million followers on its Instagram account—which can be credited to the continued success of the brand.
As the social media platform continues to be dominated by millennial and Gen-Z generations, Brandy Melville has honed in on exactly who its customer is. To add to it—based on the brand’s imagery seen on both its Instagram account and website—encourages a sort of exclusivity in who its customer should be: slender, young, and white.
However, the brand has still been able to reach consumers that fall outside of this target demographic—including women older than its typical audience. Many suggest that this is because of the brand’s affordable prices (nearly all of its pieces available for under 50 USD) as well as its large inventory of nondescript basics, allowing it to transcend current trends in the market.
Perhaps the brand’s success—complete with its controversial sizing policy and criticism—can be seen as a phenomenon, but without a doubt, Brandy Melville has mastered how to take advantage of social media and market itself to people who are using it.