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‘Brandy Hellville’ exposes alarming business model, former Westport Employees confirm unethical customs

Audrey Curtis ’25
Brandy Melville, open since 2013 in Westport, has served as a staple store for young women looking to buy inexpensive, yet trendy clothing.

If I were to ask any girl at Staples to name a brand both popular and controversial, Brandy Melville would likely come to mind: a clothing store operating under the infamous slogan “one size fits all.”

As uncovered in a Max documentary (formerly known as HBO Max) “Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion,” behind the heart-painted door lies a deeply flawed company, with problems that persist at Westport’s local location.

Eva Orner produced the documentary on the mysterious brand. Though founder and CEO, Stephan Marsan, along with other high-ranking employees declined interviews for the documentary, former employees from numerous locations reveal their prior unwavering love and loyalty to the company. The documentary showcased high-level issues: racist and antisemitic text messages between CEOs and placing workers of color in stockrooms, as well as required, daily, consensual full body image of the employees to be sent to managers. Westport workers experienced less dire, yet substantial challenges, attesting to its abnormalities, such as a problematic hiring process.

When I got interviewed they took a photo of myself, but it was mainly just my body to see if I fit the Brandy standard to work there.

— former Brandy Melville employee

Brandy Melville opened its doors on April 26, 2013, to Westport shoppers. Displaying fashionable, yet inexpensive items, young girls flocked to the new store. Unlike typical large companies, it had no public CEO, no mission statement and was not publicly traded, so its earnings could not be tracked.

“I was a freshman in high school and I was just walking around in the store when they asked me to apply,” a former Westport employee said in a private interview. “When I got interviewed they took a photo of myself, but it was mainly just my body to see if I fit the Brandy standard to work there.”

According to the Westport employee, once hired, employees not only stock shelves but also need to become the face of the brand by modeling for their website and social media: the company’s sole form of advertising. 

“They would pick the tiniest girls they had working for us [to model],” the Westport employee said. “They weren’t paid any more than the rest of us.”

Their firing process proved as unethical as its hiring. To fire Westport employees, a high-level official from the company texted the employees, informing them that they were being laid off. The corporate worker claimed low business as the reason for the layoff.  Still, as the company is private in its earnings, this claim could not be confirmed or denied for the newly unemployed girls, leaving them uncertain of the real reason.

“They told us they simply didn’t have the funding to maintain all the workers,” another former employee said. “Well, how come you just hired ten new girls?”

According to the documentary, the Westport Brandy Melville experience is not unique, with allegations of Marsan immediately firing an employee based on images.

Other former Westport employees expressed differing sentiments about working for the company.

“It really wasn’t a big deal,” a different employee said. “They were paying us a ton of money to basically do nothing.”

The store draws in young girls to continue working with its high wages ($24 per hour) and with little resistance against its actions, the brand remains a top-selling fashion company. It’s left to consumers to decide if these concerns will convince them to shop elsewhere.

“The dark side of the company is something everyone knew, even before the documentary,” former customer Lola Lamensdorf ’25 said. “Everyone just chose to ignore it.”

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About the Contributor
Audrey Curtis ’25
Audrey Curtis ’25, Web Photostory Editor
Web Photostory Editor Audrey Curtis ’25 is prone to adventures. This summer, she spontaneously went to Italy for the day while on a program in France. “We randomly decided to go to Italy for two hours,” Curtis said. “Now I can say that I’ve been to Italy.” Her passions, like that of adventure, are what led Curtis to join Inklings. She appreciates the ability to express her opinions on compelling topics.  “If there’s anything that I feel passionate about, I have the power to speak about it,” Curtis said. “And because of that, I feel like my voice is heard.”

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