‘Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion’: 5 Takeaways

The clothing store Brandy Melville is known for selling diminutive, single-size pieces popular among Gen Z: linen short shorts, heart-print camisoles and sweatshirts printed with the word “Malibu.”

Behind its Cali-girl aesthetic is a business that mistreats teenage employees and cashes in on young women’s insecurities, according to “Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion,” a documentary released on Tuesday on HBO.

The documentary intersperses former employees’ accounts of racism and size discrimination while working in its stores with a broader look at the labor and environmental costs of the fast-fashion industry. The filmmakers said Stephan Marsan, the company’s mysterious chief executive, did not respond to several requests for comment.

Eva Orner, the documentary’s director, said in an interview last week that it was a challenge to get former employees on camera because so many were fearful of the company. Those who were included were identified by only their first names. “I’ve done a lot of stuff in war zones, and with refugees and really life-or-death situations, and people have been more comfortable being on camera,” she said.

Eva Orner, the director of “Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion,” said many former employees feared retaliation from the company if they participated in the documentary.Credit…Lucas Allen/HBO

Ms. Orner, an Australian who won an Academy Award for the documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” had not heard of Brandy Melville before producers mentioned the company to her in 2022 as a potential subject of investigation. The more she learned, the more she was disturbed by the brand’s cultlike following among teenage girls, who see it flaunted by celebrities like Kaia Gerber and Kendall Jenner.

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