Brandy Hellville and the Fast Fashion Cult (2024) Movie Review – A peer into the highs and lows of fashion industry

A peer into the highs and lows of fashion industry

Imagine watching a documentary about the fashion industry and suddenly hearing a quote from Italian leader Mussolini: “Talk bad about me, talk good about me, but talk about me because it’s all publicity. Eva Orner’s recent HBO documentary is entirely built around this quote.

The documentary talks about the highs and lows of the fashion and garment industries in the United States, Canada, Italy, and Ghana. It gives us a peek into the work culture at top garment brands, their hiring processes, their popularity, and how they market themselves. It also shines a light on how first-world countries put pressure on African nations in the industry.

In addition, it also shows the influence of Brandy Melville on society, revealing how customers used to feel like they absolutely had to own something from the brand to fit in. The HBO film tracks the brand’s journey from being a status symbol where owning or wearing it got you treated like a celebrity to a point where people started to dislike it.

Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion kicks off by talking about the obsession surrounding Brandy Melville. A decade ago, it was the ultimate status symbol. If you didn’t have it, you were considered boring. Owning a piece of Brandy Melville made you feel cool and part of the in-crowd. Girls who didn’t wear Brandy Melville were judged like they weren’t as good as those who did.

It became a monument in pop culture because people thought Brandy Melville’s clothes were super soft and had adorable, girly patterns. Brandy Melville used to be everything to some teens, and one big reason for its popularity is its affordability. The brand knew its audience well and marketed itself accordingly.

You’ll also get to see how social media has completely changed advertising and marketing. However, behind the trendy social media posts and nostalgic pictures, there’s a darker side to the fast fashion industry. Eva Orner drills into this by interviewing former Brandy Melville staff, a former VP, and a former store owner. Some interviewees wanted to stay anonymous due to ongoing legal issues. 

Stephen Marsan, the man behind Brandy Melville, is facing allegations of abusing his power and being biased. There are complaints of racial discrimination and physical abuse, and it seems like there are no rules in place to prevent this behaviour. Former employees claim that women are particularly exploited in the company.

If the boss doesn’t like how someone looks, they can be fired on the spot, no questions asked. Moreover, if a girl fits the boss’s idea of beauty, she’s hired immediately, even if she’s not the most qualified. This not only exploits women but also denies opportunities to other qualified candidates. 

A few years back, Brandy Melville’s tagline was ‘one size fits all,’ which doesn’t fly in today’s progressive society. Fashion has been welcoming diversity in sizes lately, but Melville seems to be stuck in the past. They push the idea that skinny and tiny are the perfect sizes, which can be damaging.

The obsession with the one-size-fits-all idea has even caused psychological harm to some of the company’s own employees. The documentary also tackles the bigger picture of fast fashion. It shows how online shopping has changed our buying habits, leading to a lot of unnecessary purchases. This excess creates a mess, with places like Accra in Ghana becoming dumping grounds for unwanted clothes from Europe and America.

Later, the film points out how fabric and clothing waste end up polluting our waterways. This pollution harms marine life, affecting not just fish but also humans who rely on seafood for protein. In layman’s terms, you’re looking at a domino effect that threatens the survival of many marine species. The waste introduces harmful chemicals into the food chain, impacting almost 3 billion people who depend on fish as their main source of protein.

People who suffer from FOMO, or fear of missing out, often don’t even know why they’re so obsessed with something. They just go along with it because everyone else does. This can really meddle with people’s lives, as they don’t stop to think about what they actually want. No matter who you are, you can’t possibly know everything.

It’s just not possible. There’s this story about a famous sports star who admitted in an interview that she doesn’t know who cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar is. This is entirely okay, and the film even makes a little joke about it. We all have to accept that our minds are like limited cloud storage, and we can’t hold onto everything.

At first, the show seems all about Brandy Melville, but it actually goes beyond just Stephen Marsan’s story. In the beginning, if you’re not into fashion, it might seem a bit dull, but as you keep watching, it gets more interesting because it covers a lot of different topics. Overall, this is a solid movie.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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