Brandy Melville, the shoddily made uniform of Coachellagoers and Soho-loving teens, is shaping up to be one hellish place to work. The brand is the subject of a new Business Insider report from Kate Taylor that makes the retailer sound like a disturbing composite of every toxic, sexist, racist company you’ve ever read about. All things considered, it’s not exactly surprising that a brand that emblazons “One Size Fits Most” on its label has issues that run deeper than size inclusivity. But the details outlined in Taylor’s report are particularly horrifying, especially considering that a large chunk of Brandy Melville’s employees are teenage girls.
The nightmarish hiring process starts, apparently, with a sign from above. According to Taylor’s reporting, at the New York flagship store, the top executives — a group of white men in their 30s led by CEO Stephan Marsan — work in an elevated area from which they can watch the mostly teenage customers take their pick of crop tops and floral mini skirts. If they like what they see (white, blonde, thin), they can set off a light at the cashier downstairs, signaling that someone on the floor should ask for the customer’s picture and contact information.
From there, the hiring process only gets more disturbing: After a round of Facetuning by middle management, company leaders take a look at the candidate’s photo and possibly her Instagram account. If she fits the bill, they’ll reportedly hire her on the spot by text, determining her pay based on those same photos.
Once you actually get the job, a whole host of new hellish requirements awaits, including sending daily photos of your outfit directly to Marsan, who apparently receives upwards of 2,000 such texts each day. There are reports of “storewide diets” ahead of visits from Marsan and his right-hand man, 14-year-old girls being told to change in front of executives, and requests from Marsan to remove Black shoppers from stores. For Black employees, who are few and far between, the experience is much worse — many say they were put on shifts where fewer customers would be in the store and then fired when white women became available to take their place.
Unsurprisingly, staff say that sexual harassment and abuse run rampant. Employees accused a few of Marsan’s cohorts of sexual harassment, recalling one man who hit on employees and came up to them from behind to squeeze their sides or whisper in their ear. One former manager said a man who owned a few of the stores sexually assaulted her in 2015 when she was staying at a brand-owned apartment in Soho.
Unlike in many recent reports of toxic work environments at trendy start-ups, the CEO here seems wholly uninterested in masking his policies with language about team-building, empowerment, or family. Actually, Marsan’s not interested in masking his beliefs at all. Screenshots from a 30-person group text called “Brandy Melville gags” show Marsan and his cronies sending all kinds of abhorrent messages, including Nazi references, Holocaust jokes, photos of naked women, and racist memes or photos.
Meanwhile, Brandy Melville is currently facing two lawsuits from Canadian store owners who say they were fired for refusing to lay off employees based on their looks. In one suit, Marsan’s company Bastiat, which owns all U.S. Brandy Melville stores, denied having “ever fired an employee on account of his or her race.” None of the executives mentioned in the piece or Brandy Melville representatives responded to requests for comment from Insider.