Brandy Hellville Documentary
The Brandy Hellville documentary reveals some ugly truths about fast fashion Courtesy of HBO

"Finally, someone's talking about it" are the last words you hear in the trailer for the upcoming documentary Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion which exposes some very ugly truths about the budget-friendly Gen Z favorite fast fashion brand Brandy Melville. While the human and environmental impacts of fast fashion, are a much talked about subject of concern, the veil has well and truly been lifted thanks to this new HBO exposé. Add to that, the brand's founders pushed a toxic culture of racism and discrimination, which brand alumni and insiders are now bringing to light, leaving the image of the Brandy Melville brand in tatters. The fast fashion industry is also reeling, and we're seriously reconsidering our fashion choices.

The Italian retailer burst onto the US market almost two decades ago, boasting trendy and coquette-themed clothing with the famous phrase "one size fits all," which in reality translated to one size fits petite women. Think Kaia Gerber or Kendall Jenner. Helmed by Silvio Marsan and son Stephan, the brand also soared to success thanks to its super-affordable price range, which championed fast fashion pieces under $40. But, as the world now discovers that came at a huge cost.

The beginning of the end for Brandy Melville came in recent years, as multiple stores in pivotal locations started closing down. While many assumed the cause was finance-related, the demise of Brandy Melville came when news broke about CEO Stephan Marsan. In 2021, current and former employees claimed that there was a toxic culture and that Marsan heavily pushed a racist agenda. "If she was black if she was fat, he didn't want them in the store," former senior vice president Luca Rotondo told Business Insider. Other workers revealed there was a group chat where racist and sexist memes including Hitler were often shared.

Additionally, champions within the sustainability space helped to bring awareness to the downside of the fast-fashion world. Alyssa Hardy, contributing editor at Teen Vogue and author of Worn Out states in the documentary that the United States and Europe collectively consume 36 billion units of clothing per year. Even worse? 85% of these pieces end up being discarded in countries like Ghana when they're supposed to be donated to those in need. "The way Brandy Melville markets themselves as California-style basics makes people forget how unsustainable they are. Basics does not equal sustainability which can't exist without ethics," Li-Shan Jordan, owner of The Back Row tells Fashion Times. "Beyond the products, are the people who work at every level of the supply chain who need to be treated fairly. People and planet over profit."

The undoing of Brandy Melville is sadly just one story, there are many fast fashion companies whose budget-conscious on-trend pieces hide many sins. Yet, with changemakers like Hardy and Jordan making a case for cleaner ways to satisfy your shopping cravings, fast fashion could be facing its day of reckoning. If you want to do your bit, do your research into brands' supply chains and sustainable policies, boycott unethical brands, and shop smarter — buy vintage, upcycle and invest in timeless classics.

Be sure to catch the premiere of Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion on HBO Max now.

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