A former employee of fashion retailer Brandy Melville has called the brand out for racism, fat-phobia, and other bad behavior in a series of scathing TikTok videos.
A 24-year-old woman named Callie, who says she worked at one of the brand’s stores for three months in 2013 when she was 17 years old, has posted more than a dozen videos reflecting on her time there and listing ‘reasons you should not shop at Brandy Melville.’
‘They literally judge completely based on looks and weight,’ she said, calling the brand ‘racist’ and a ‘horribly run company.’
Charges: A 24-year-old woman named Callie recalled racist and fat-phobic behavior when she worked at one of the brand’s stores for three month in 2013
Racism: She aid she was hired based on her looks, and alleges that an Asian applicant seemed to be turned away because of her race
While many people have been sharing stories of racism since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, Callie’s video series was launched independently of that, with her first video upload on May 24.
In that first clip, she recalled how she was shopping in the store when an employee asked her if she wanted a job. Callie mentioned that she’d had no work experience, but the employee told her that her eyes were pretty — and that seemed to be enough.
‘My second week on the job, someone comes in and they’re like, “Hi I want to work here,”‘ she went on. ‘And I’m like, “Oh, OK, like give me your resume and let me show my boss.”
‘And she gives me her resume and I go in the back and my boss looks at it for like half a second and she had all this amazing stuff on there and she goes, “What does she look like?”‘
When Callie faltered, the manager asked what race the applicant was. Callie told her she was Asian.
‘And she peeked her head out for a second and was like “No, tell her we’re not hiring,”‘ Callie said.
Shallow: She added that the ‘majority’ of the staff was white and all were ‘skinny’ – and one girl who was ‘bigger’ wasn’t allowed out from behind the register
Sizes: She noted that all the clothes used to say ‘one size fits all’ and they would get lots of complaints from customers. (Now, they mostly say ‘fits size small)
She added that another employee, who was ‘bigger’ than the others, wasn’t ‘allowed’ to come from behind the cash register ‘so no one could see her body.’
Callie shared more than a dozen new videos over the next couple of weeks, all highlighting more bad behavior.
‘Every single girl there was gorgeous,’ she said. It was so intimidating to be working with. And, yes, the majority of them were white. They were really skinny, they were really tall.’
She noted that all the clothes used to say ‘one size fits all’ — but there were ‘so many complaints like every single day’ that they changed it to ‘one size fits most.’ But that seems to have incurred even more backlash, so items were then changed to simply say ‘one size.’
Currently, most items on the brands website say ‘fits size small.’
Rude: She also recalled being hazed early on in her time there, when managers made her dance in front of the store while they laughed
‘If you have to work that hard not to offend somebody, then clearly your mission is wrong,’ she said.
In another video, she confirmed that employees said lots of racist and fat-phobic things.
‘Were fat-phobic and racist comments made? All the time,’ she went on. Callie added that these days, she would speak up — but at the time she was ‘young’ and ‘ignorant’ and didn’t feel like she was in a position to say anything.
‘I would literally throw piles on the floor so that I could avoid conversations with the other workers because they were so catty and mean.’
On a personal note, she recalled a hazing experienced she endured early on, when she was ordered to take a ‘We’re Hiring’ sign outside and dance with it. No one explained to her why this was necessary — until they started laughing and indicated that it was a funny thing they did to all the new girls.
Brandy Melville has not responded publicly to the charges, and the brand seems to have gone mostly quiet on Instagram — with the last post going up on May 28.
Called out: Anthropologie has also been accused of racism this week
Social media: The brand had posted a Maya Angelou quote on social media when they were flooded with accusations
Last week, after Anthropologie shared anti-racism posts on Instagram, both current and former employees commented to reveal that the chain had a nickname used in racial profiling.
Those who worked at stores across several US states and Canada confirmed that they were told to watch people of color closely, and would refer to them as ‘Nicks’ to other employees.
Fashion watchdog Diet Prada screengrabbed comments on the brand’s June 1 post, which included a Maya Angelou quote.
‘Another day, another boho Karen retailer showing their true shades of beige,’ the account wrote.
One of the most damning comments came from @flleurdeblooms, who wrote: ‘How are you going to stop racially profiling your “Nicks”?
‘I worked at Anthropologie and the racial profiling was sickening. So many times the management told us to watch people of color over the headsets and I refused to follow around most black people who were just minding their own damn business and respectfully shopping. Please change.’
The charge wasn’t unique, though: Other commenters quickly chimed in to confirm similar experiences.
‘I worked for Anthro from 2007-2010 (I think) and we got the same “training,”‘ said another. “it was prevalent throughout Southern California from what I’ve heard. Disappointing to hear nothing has changed in over a decade.’
‘I thought Chicago was the only ones who used “Nick” as a form of saying “watch that black woman who just walked in,”‘ said another.
Horrifying: Former employees said the term ‘Nick’ was used to notify of a black customers, who would then be followed arround
Widespread: People who worked in stores across the US and Canada confirmed this happened at their stores
Spotlight: Another commenter said it was just part of a racist culture
‘This is sickening and also my personal experience,’ said another, while former employees of Anthropologie locations in Canada, Seattle, and New York confirmed that they, too, used the nickname ‘Nick.’
One customer, @danielle_latouche, said that the comments confirmed what she had experienced as a shopper for years.
‘I’ve been followed in your stores before,’ she said. ‘The last straw was 4/2/2019 – that was my birthday. I couldn’t reconcile giving my money to an employee who never greeted me yet followed me on my birthday. I haven’t been back since.’
More commenters replied to say that they, too, had similar experiences.
‘I was followed by one of your sales associates in your Harbor East Baltimore store fro no reason,’ said one. ‘The sales associate told me that her managers told her to do so!’
They felt it: Several black commenters said that they stopped shopping at Anthropologie because of their experiences
Yet another commenter, @noelleconrad, said she’d also hear employees say ‘horrible things’ and ‘target ever single Black person who would walk in the store to “keep an eye on them.”‘
In addition, Diet Prada also points out that while Anthropologie is promising to take action, as recently as May 26 they asked a black queer influencer to participate in a campaign for no payment.
Lydia Okello wrote on Instagram that she was approached about taking part in a Pride campaign, but when she told them her fee, she was told they had ‘no budget.’
‘This happens to Black creatives constantly,’ she said. ‘Especially in the fashion industry. We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labor. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?’
Anthropologie responded publicly to the accusations on Wednesday.
Lydia Okello wrote on Instagram that she was approached about taking part in a Pride campaign, but when she told them her fee, she was told they had ‘no budget’
Receipts: She shared screengrabs of the conversation at wrote: ‘This happens to Black creatives constantly… We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labor’
‘We support and stand with the Black community,’ they said. ‘You may have seen that we have been challenged to be more transparent, unbiased, and fair in our stores and with our business practices. We want to clearly lay out our policies regarding these matters and share them with you.
‘Regarding allegations of racial profiling, we have never and will never have a code word based on a customer’s race or ethnicity,’ they wrote, flat-out denying the charges of multiple commenters.
The brand said it had a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ for discrimination.
As for paying influencers, the brand said ‘our methods of compensation include product, financial payment, or a combination of both.’
‘We are committed to doing better — to being better,’ they concluded.
Anthropologie is not the only fashion brand accused of using code names for people of color.
In 2019, a former black employee of Moschino filed suit against the designer in a California state court, alleging discrimination and that a ‘protocol’ would be enacted when a black person who who ‘was not a celebrity and did not have an outward appearance of money via diamonds or name brands’ walked into the store.
Response: Anthropologie denied that any of this was true but said they are committed to doing better
The code word ‘Serena’ would be used, employees would take pictures of the customer’s license plates, and sales associates would refuse to pull items from the back for the customers to try on.
Diet Prada says that at Zara, the code words ‘special order’ would be used, and at Versace, it’s ‘D410’ — the merchandise color code they use for black shirts.
A handful of other fashion brands have fielded charges of racism in the past two weeks, and more and more companies — and people — are being made to face up to past behavior.
Another popular clothing brand, Reformation, was called out by a former employee who says that working there as a woman of color ‘deeply traumatized’ her and that the company’s founder in particular flat-out ignored her.
On May 31, Reformation shared an Instagram post in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement, listing five organizations they planned to donate to.
But a former employee of the brand’s flagship, Leslieann Elle Santiago, commented to accuse them of hypocrisy, detailing her own difficult experience working there for three years — and prompting the company’s founder, Yael Aflalo, to publicly apologize.
Support? On May 31, Reformation shared an Instagram post in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement, listing five organizations they planned to donate to
But former employee Leslieann Elle Santiago, commented to share her difficult experience working there — and prompted the company’s founder, Yael Aflalo, to publicly apologize
‘Working for Reformation deeply traumatized me,’ Santiago commented. ‘Being overlooked and undervalued as a woman of color who worked & managed their flagship store for 3 years was the hardest.
‘I cried many times knowing the color of my skin would get me nowhere in this company.
‘Yael never looked at me,’ she went on, referring to the brand’s founder. ‘She would walk pass me and never spoke to me. But would tell white associates that they were pretty.
‘I once went to visit the shop after a couple years gone and a new black associate asked me if i honestly thought there was a chance for black people to move up in the company,’ she recalled.
‘And I said if you’re asking this 2yrs after I left, than the answer was and will always be no. This story goes deeper and I’ve always been afraid to tell it. But no more fear from me.’
Santiago’s comment quickly earned attention from others — and inspired more former employees to chime in with their own allegations.
‘So many of my friends and I deeply connect through the trauma this job has caused us,’ one commented.
Sharing: She said the experience ‘deeply traumatized’ her and that Aflalo ‘never looked at’ her
More: She later followed up with a more detailed post, beginning with the words: ‘It’s a privilege to educate yourself about racism instead of experiencing it’
‘This was by far one of THE most racist companies I have worked for,’ said another. ‘I was a part of the Back of House team, made up of predominantly Black people.
‘We did not have water, they did not provide us heat during the winter and the pay difference between colored employees and white employees were vast.
‘When we would voice our opinions and tell them how unjust this was, they told us we were EASILY REPLACEABLE and did nothing to fix it. So your performance activism is cute but let’s see you make a real-time change in your organization.’
Santiago also took to her own Instagram page to share more details of her experience, writing in the form of a letter to Reformation president Hali Dix Borenstein.
She said the company was already aware of the issues she complained about, as she discussed them in her 2016 exit interview.
‘I worked at Reformation as an assistant manager to no manager for over a year while you consistently hired white women with the same or less qualifications as me, over me.
‘I was never going to be allowed to have the title of Store Manager even though I was, for a long time, already that.’
Her story: She offered up more thoughts and details in the lengthy post
She said she helped grow the brand from six employees to 28, and ‘no one at HQ had a clue how to run a retail store or care for customer service until I arrived. It was a bunch of friends taking selfies’.
‘And none of you ever talked to me,’ she added. She said that no POC were ever flown to headquarters in LA, while white employees were frequently, and others are working jobs without appropriate titles.
She urged the company to start change with the founder, recalling that she was ‘so excited’ to meet her — but ‘[Aflalo] looked me up and down in disgust and walked away.’ She said she wouldn’t even answer when Santiago called her name.
Sharing one painful memory, she recalled how the Aflalo was shown a potential black model and responded, ‘We’re not ready for that yet.’
A few days after Reformation’s initial post, on June 4, Aflalo took to the Reformation page to apologize.
‘I’ve failed,’ she wrote. ‘Our mission is to bring sustainability to everyone, and part of that sustainability is treating people equally. I realize that I have failed all of you in that regard — especially the Black community.
‘I’m sorry. Unfortunately, the way we have practiced diversity in the past has been through a “White gaze” that falls too close to ignorance.
Sorry: Aflalo soon responded with a lengthy apology and a vow to do better
‘After asking and listening to our team members, especially those who identify as BIPOC — I see that now. I am so angry at myself for not seeing it sooner.
‘As a company, we have not leveraged our platform, our voice, and our content to combat the racism and injustice that pervades our country, and that will change, starting now.’
She went on to say that she was ‘not a very good leader,’ which is why she ‘stepped back’ two years ago. (It is unclear in what capacity she stepped back.
‘I’m sorry. Unfortunately, the way we have practiced diversity in the past has been through a “White gaze” that falls too close to ignorance,’ she said
‘When former team members make accusations that I ignored them in the past, I know that this is true. I am so sad and regretful for it. This is inexcusable in itself, but when I hear Black colleagues who felt that I avoided them because of the color of their skin, I burn inside thinking about the sadness that I inflicted.’
She said that was about her ‘shortcomings as a person.’
Now, she said, they are launching an investigation into workplace concerns and are ‘listening to our team.’
She went on to list specific changes being made, including launching a Diversity and Inclusion board, putting more emphasis on working with Black creators, and striving for diversity in imagery and partners.
She also pledged a personal donation of $500,000 to Black charities.
Called out: Luxury fashion brand Celine was accused of ‘performative Black Lives Matter solidarity’ after critics called out a huge lack of diversity in its shows (pictured) and campaigns
Words: The 75-year-old French brand shared a post with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag this week, writing that it stands against ‘all forms of discrimination, oppression, and racism’
All white: But critics quickly complained about the brand’s lack of diversity, pointing out an Instagram feed devoid of black faces
Meanwhile, Celine, a 75-year-old French brand currently helmed by creative director Hedi Slimane, joined the discourse about racism on June 1 with a post proclaiming that it stands against discrimination and supports equality for all.
But the post was soon flooded with comments by critics pointing out that the brand is known for a lack of diversity, with celebrity stylist Jason Bolden accusing Celine of refusing to ‘dress any black celebs unless they have a white stylist.’
Fashion’s diversity problem has been well documented, with certain brands in particular failing to hire models of color for their runways or campaigns.
So when Celine shared a post with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag this week, critics took notice.
‘Celine stands against all forms of discrimination, oppression, and racism,’ reads a black and white image on the brand’s feed. ‘Tomorrow’s world will not exist without equality for all.’
While a few commenters applauded the brand, many more replied with skepticism.
Put your money where your mouth is! Dozens of commenters implored the brand to hire black models, saying that actions speak louder than words
‘Let us all HOPE SO. As your runway has always been LILLY WHITE. I’ll keep on eye on your progress,’ wrote one commenter.
‘Your brand image speaks louder than words,’ chided another.
‘As a Black person you’re failing us. There’s no representation from your brand,’ said a third, while a fourth commented: ‘Does this mean you’ll start including POC in your campaigns???’
In fact, there only appear to be two black models on Celine’s entire Instagram feed dating back to September 2018: one that month, and another in January 2019 — but none since.
Dozens of similar comments have poured in, with people imploring Celine to be more diverse and slamming the brand for not supporting their words with action.
One of these commenters was celebrity stylist Jason Bolden, whose clients have included Taraji P. Henson, Yara Shahidi, Mindy Kaling, Ava DuVernay, Amandla Steinberg, Zazie Beetz, Sasha Lane, Wiz Khalifa, and Tika Sumpter.
Chiming in: Celebrity stylist Jason Bolden commented on Celine’s post
Called out: He said the brand doesn’t lend clothes to black stars unless they have white stylists
Just one? Messaging with Diet Prada, Bolden agreed that Amandla Steinberg is the only black star he can think of to wear the brand
When stars wear designer clothes on the red carpet or at other press events, they are typically on loan from fashion houses — but according to Bolden, Celine doesn’t lend its clothes to black celebrities unless they work with white stylists.
He wrote: ‘@celine wait really, u guys dnt dress any black celebs unless they have a white stylist … FACTS.’
The pressure has continued to pile on Celine as fashion watchdog Diet Prada shared a screengrab of Bolden’s comment.
Diet Prada also communicated with Bolden over DM, asking if he knew of any celebrities who have worn Celine besides Amandla Steinberg.
‘That’s about it. That’s the fact,’ he wrote back. ‘If u can’t find them that’s the problem.’
Besides campaigns and stars wearing their clothes, the lack of diversity is evident in on its runways.
Diet Prada noted just how few black models have appeared in Celine’s presentations for the past six shows.
Stats: Diet Prada noted just how few black models have appeared in Celine’s presentations for the past six shows
That’s all: There only appear to be two black models on Celine’s entire Instagram feed dating back to September 2018: one that month, and another in January 2019 — but none since
In its most recent show, Fall 2020, just 10 looks out of 111 were worn by black models. Black models wore just six of 64 looks in Spring 2020, three of 53 looks in the Spring 2020 men’s show, six of 59 looks in Fall 2019, and six of 96 looks in Spring 2019.
Shockingly enough, that’s an improvement over several years ago.
Upset: Celine designer Hedi Slimane, who is pictured in 2012, has been accused of demonstrating ‘an apparent aversion to black models’
The brand didn’t cast any black models from the time Phoebe Philo took over as creative director in 2009 through its Fall 2013 show. Over eight runway shows and 259 looks, not a single model was black.
The casting decisions led supermodel Iman to boycott the brand in 2013.
‘There is something terribly wrong. We have a president and a first lady who are black. You would think things have changed, and then you realize that they have not. In fact, things have gone backward,’ she told the New York Times.
Only after that did Celine finally cast a black model — just one, Grace Mahary — in its Spring 2014 show.
While individual fashion brands are still being called out, the Council of Fashion Designers of America — which counts 450 American fashion and accessory designers as members — has announced several new initiatives to combat racism and promote diversity within the fashion industry.
‘Given the deplorable acts of racism and violence that we have seen play out in our country over this past week, our response as an organization was ﬁrst and foremost on our minds and in our hearts,’ Chairman Tom Ford and President & CEO Steven Kolb wrote in a statement.
CFDA chimes in: The Council of Fashion Designers of America announced several new initiatives this week to combat racism and promote diversity within the fashion industry
‘Black people in this country are reeling from years of injustice stemming from institutional constructs such as slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, police brutality and economic and voter suppression. The Black community is experiencing anger and frustration on top of the effects of the global pandemic that has hit communities of color the hardest.
Leading the charge: The initiatives were outlined by CFDA Chairman Tom Ford (pictured) and President & CEO Steven Kolb
‘Having a clear voice and speaking out against racial injustice, bigotry and hatred is the ﬁrst step, but this is not enough. It is not enough to simply say that we stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against. We must do something,’ they said.
Their new initiatives ‘will immediately be undertaken to create systemic change within our industry’.
First, the CFDA will create ‘an in-house employment program speciﬁcally charged with placing Black talent in all sectors of the fashion business to help achieve a racially balanced industry. This program will be tasked with identifying Black creatives and pairing these individuals with companies looking to hire’
Next, it will create mentorship and internship programs ‘focused on placing Black students and recent graduates within established companies in the fashion sector’.
The organization will make immediate contributions and being fundraising activities for organizations like the NAACP and Campaign Zero, and will implement a Diversity and Inclusion training program.
‘We urge each and every member of the CFDA to take stock of their corporate structure to ensure that they have a racially balanced workforce and we challenge the retail sector of the fashion industry to ensure that their roster of brands and their product assortment is representative of the Black talent in our industry,’ the statement concluded.