EHS’ take on clothing and fashion
November 12, 2019
cover art by Tiffany Qian
One size does not fit all
Walk into a Brandy Melville store and you’ll see that most of the clothing sizes are labelled “small” or “one size.” Around the store, there are signs displaying the message “One size fits most.” But, if you do indeed look at the clothing itself, it will become apparent that one size does not fit all.
The “one size” advertised by Brandy Melville is actually just a size zero at other stores. For example, skirts are listed with 12” to 14” waists (stretchable up to 25”) while the popular James Tank has a 35” bust or 34A in bra sizes according to The Observer. While one might question how the store can make a profit when they only cater to such a narrow range of body types, the truth is that Brandy Melville is actually quite popular among teens. As such, other retail stores, such as American Eagle and Urban Outfitters, have started to experiment with one size clothing lines.
Look at the Brandy’s Instagram account and you will see tall, skinny, and long-legged models. According to The Observer, the average model for Brandy is “at least 5’7″ with [a] waist no larger than 25″.” In contrast, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2012, the average 16-year-old American girl has a 31” waist and stands at 5’3”. Despite the demographics of the American public, Brandy has stood fast with their sizing and refuses to change.
The reason why Brandy Melville only offers one size is actually quite unclear. According to Popsugar, a lifestyle media outlet, Brandy Melville’s executive Jessi Longo once stated that the reason why they offer only one size is: “We can satisfy almost everybody, but not everybody … The one-size-fits-most clothing might turn off somebody if they don’t walk into the store, but if you walk in you’ll find something even if it’s a bag”, which is a quite a murky and unclear explanation. However, this size discrimination against other body types is quite damaging to the self-esteem of the other customers who cannot fit into the popular clothing offered by the store. “The message that ‘one size fits all’ is sending to girls is that in order to be beautiful, they must be a certain size — and this ‘certain size’ is a size zero,” according to the Odyssey.
Despite the popularity of Brandy Melville, other popular brands are taking a stance in promoting body inclusivity. Aerie, a popular lingerie brand, has recently gained coverage due to their “#AerieReal” campaign to support body positivity through showcasing untouched photos of their models with more relatable body figures and offering a wide range of sizes. It is time for Brandy Melville and other brands who only offer one size to learn from the likes of Aerie.
Student goes “Above” and beyond for their passion for fashion
Zephyrus: Can you give a description of your brand “Above”?
Tommy Bowers: It’s a skateboard/streetwear brand. We do different releases every couple of months and we try to follow the trends in fashion while staying unique and thinking outside of the box. We have limited quantities on each drop, so I do different products on each one, and I try to switch it up and add a new accessory every single time.
Z: Do you work through a different company for the production of the clothes?
T.B: I’ve messed around and experienced a bunch of different manufacturers, and I try to find the best ones for the products. Since my brand hasn’t been going for very long, I’m still experimenting, but right now I’m working with a drop-shipping company called Printful, which is working very well for me because they have a wide arrangement of different products that I can use.
Z: How did you create your brand?
T.B: I started my clothing brand for fun with a friend, and I wanted to just have a way to get my ideas out there. I always wanted to make some clothes for myself because I had so many good ideas in my mind, but I just didn’t know a perfect way to get them out there, so by experimenting it grew to something that it is today. The story behind the name is that I want to put out the message that you need to live above others and think differently than them. I also think that you need to live life to the fullest—live above—and always be happy and just do what you want, push the limits, because life is short and you don’t want to miss things.
Z: How do up come up with designs and ideas for clothes?
T.B: I think that also one of the hardest parts of running the brand is trying to create the ideas. The way that I create a bunch of different designs is I take things that I see online or ideas I have in my head that go along with my life. Since life is crazy and you experience different things each day, I try to always keep my mind thinking, ‘Oh would that be a good design?’ and the weirder the design, the better it is. You just look at something in like the corner of your classroom, think of it as nothing, but you always have to think how it would look on a t-shirt, so I’m creating designs like almost every day. I see how they look on the t-shirt, and then when it comes to the final drop, then I find the ones that I like the best out of them. Another hard part about making the designs is you also have to please all of your followers, which is hard because all of my followers [have] such different [lives]. Everybody has different perspectives that change all of the time, so you always want to try to see what other people think of your designs; so, I always tease them out, see how people respond to them, and then if one gets a really positive response then I use that one for the design.
Z: What have been the biggest challenges while creating and running your brand?
T.B: The biggest challenge is definitely the criticism you get because some people think your designs are dumb, and they just don’t get it when it really goes along with your life; so, not everyone will get the designs. Even if people like your brand they just think that it’s not going to go anywhere and everybody talks it down, and so they realize ‘Wow, my friend that I really like is wearing that brand, maybe I’ll check him out and give him a chance.’ I feel like now people are more accepting of the brand because I’m trying to get it out there more. More and more people are supporting it, and so it’s really just trying to have people accept the brand. I think that’s the hardest part, along with finding the best manufacturer which can get the products out there fast enough and really fulfill your needs.
Z: What brands have influenced your design?
T.B: Worldwide Youth, Half Evil Co., and 1340 Collective because they really have their own strategies and unique styles to their brand. I think one of the main parts of a brand is how you promote it: the right people to choose to model the clothes, the right people to contact to [represent] your brand, and I feel like those companies do it best. Also, I keep up with a lot of the skateboard culture, like the streetwear, because even if you don’t skateboard you’ll always catch somebody at your school who doesn’t skateboard and doesn’t even know how to ride a skateboard and they’re wearing skateboard clothes because they think it’s cool. I think skateboard culture plays a big part in clothing brands nowadays because everybody, even if they’ve never stepped on a skateboard, is influenced by skateboarding culture, rap culture, and they all kind of tie together and make a style that’s kind of old-school and everybody at school is starting to wear thrifted clothes or other skateboard brands even if they’ve never skateboarded before. Also, these brands really inspire me because I think clothing brands are mainly about how you choose to promote it and if you choose the right people that are successful to [represent] your brand, the right people to model, the right people that look like they would fit your style and you get them to wear your clothes and then you really get people, like a different audience, to realize ‘Wow. I should be wearing this clothing brand,’ and then they promote it on their Instagram story or on YouTube videos and stuff, so you really have to focus on the big people and you always have to risk your money and send it out to people if you think that they’re going to be successful, and that doesn’t always happen so it’s really risky to [experiment with] all of the different promotions.
Z: What plans do you have for the future of your company?
T.B: There’s a bunch of kids around Minnesota who are starting their own clothing brands, too. I try to reach out because I’ve had mine for a year, and a bunch of people have just started them in the past month that I’m friends with. I have a few collabs coming up that I’m doing with them. They both are helping me grow my brand and then I’m helping them grow theirs. I feel like it’s a pretty strong community of people who own clothing brands. Also, I’ve been working to get my clothing into stores more. At Help Boardshop on December 14th, I’m getting my clothes in there, and we’re having a release party for that, too, so that will be pretty interesting to see how my clothing does in a local skate shop because I feel like the local skate community is really supportive of other brands. I mainly promote it through Instagram and I have a website for that, too. I do seasonal drops, and the one that just came out was the Halloween one.
Behind the scenes of working in retail from EHS students
Zephyrus: What store do you work at?
Joe Wohlford: I work at Eddie Bauer.
Z: What is it like to work in retail?
JW: Working in retail is a lot of interacting with customers and the actual clothing. Most of my day is either folding clothes or organizing stuff and restocking.
Z: Why did you choose to work in retail?
JW: I really like Eddie Bauer as a brand and outdoor clothing in general. I thought that it would be a good opportunity to get a discount and experiences in working for retail.
Z: What are some employee benefits?
JW: We get 50% off year round Eddie Bauer and 60% in the first month of the season. Winter is coming up, so we’re going to get 60% off then.
Z: How long have you worked at Eddie Bauer?
JW: I’ve only worked there for about a month and a half, but I’ve been in contact with them for four or five months.
Z: What are some trends among customers?
JW: A lot of people head straight towards the clearance section because the gear is very expensive. Flannels are also very popular.
Z: What is the demographic of Eddie Bauer?
JW: Everyone goes there. You have small kids and their parents coming in, and even some teenagers come in as well. Adults, grandparents, literally everyone [shops here].
Zephyrus: What store do you work at?
Avery Barrett: I work at American Eagle at Southdale.
Z: How long have you worked there?
AB: Probably nearing seven months by now.
Z: Why did you start working there?
AB: I wanted to get retail experience, especially with American Eagle since they really teach you how the store runs, and what you need to turn a profit.
Z: Why did you choose American Eagle?
AB: At American Eagle, I work as a sales associate, and how they train you is that you have to be very on top of it and be able to work with people. They also offer so many different kinds of clothes. Recently we just put in for jeans 00 to 24 [in sizing], so there are a lot of different people who come in and being able to interact with customers and being able to make a connection is something that I wanted to learn.
Z: Are there any employee benefits?
AB: I get 40% off the whole store, and every month I get up to 10 items 60% off.
Z: What do you do as a sales associate?
AB: I am mainly putting together outfits, making sure that customers are walking out with what they came in with, and just making sure that they feel really comfortable with what they have because clothes shopping can be very difficult for a lot of people.
Z: What are some trends that you see among customers?
AB: Mom jeans are definitely a trend right now. We’re moving into fall, so flannels, sweaters, long sleeved faux turtlenecks.
Z: Is there anything that you think many kids don’t know about retail?
AB: It’s very cool to be nice to the retail workers because not all experiences are good experiences. But when you have a good interaction with a customer, it just makes the shift ten times better. We’re really here to make sure that what you’re walking in with is what you’re walking out with and are having a good experience.
Z: What is your opinion on clothing?
AB: I believe a lot in reusable retail, things that will last for a long time. I know the impact that walking out with something you like can have on someone. It can change someone’s life.
Fast fashion is slow to disappear
Unknowingly, when shopping, you might group together certain stores such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara. Stores such as these are being labeled as “fast-fashion” brands, which refers to any mass-market retailer that rapidly produces cheap clothing tailored to current trends. While their low prices and abundance of products usually grab a consumer’s attention, these enticing observations don’t come without consequences.
When retailers decide to produce fast-fashion and consumers decide to invest in these companies, the unethical treatment of humans, animals, and the environment alike is being supported. In order for companies to mass produce clothing of any kind, an abundance of labor is needed. Pair that with cheap materials and low prices, and a plethora of workers are being underpaid and overworked. These retailers are able to sell their clothing for low prices because they produce and sell so much, and neglect to give their workers minimum wages. They are able to avoid legal trouble because they aren’t the ones employing these workers, the garment factories they contract out to are. Often, companies will choose to partner with factories in developing nations where fewer laws are in place; however, in 2016 the U.S. Department of Labor reported findings close to home in Los Angeles. After investigating 77 garment factories in the area, they found that the average pay was $7 an hour, with some workers being paid as little as $4. Forever 21 was among the various retailers these factories were producing clothing for.
As for consumers, these cheap materials make for clothing that’s short-lasting and often uncomfortable. In addition, according to the Hormone Health Network, the textiles often used contain EDCs, or Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, which, when worn, can pass through skin and stimulate health problems such as breast cancer and decreased growth development. As for the environment, there are endless production methods and toxic chemicals used that take awhile to decompose and contribute to pollution. In fact, fast fashion is the world’s second largest polluter, according to Sustain Your Style. Although toxic chemicals aren’t exclusive to fast-fashion, the idea of frequently buying and discarding clothing in order to keep up with recent trends is. Since these clothes get worn out and the styles become “outdated” not long after purchase, people continually discard these clothing items at a faster rate than the environment can get rid of them.
Unfortunately, fast-fashion has slowly taken over the shopping scene, making it seem like a challenge for teenagers to find clothing that’s affordable, ethical and yet still desirable. It may take longer to find a brand that offers all three, but they do exist. As the idea of fast-fashion gains publicity, more and more resources have become available to help shoppers figure out what brands they can trust and which they can’t. One website in particular, “Good on You,” gives clothing brands an ‘ethical’ rating and provides an explanation as to why, including how it impacts people, the environment, and animals.
On the flip side, if you are someone that worries about the ethics of brands but don’t have the time to individually research them, a safe bet is to buy your clothing from thrift stores. If you choose not to shop at such stores, consider donating your own clothing there. Whether you pass on your out-grown clothing to a younger sibling, bring it to an organization where it will be sold or reused, or turn it into a quilt, it’s important that you reuse it.
Fortunately, as more organizations strive to uncover the ethics behind these big name retailers, more and more of them are feeling pressured to change their policies. Two of the biggest names in fast-fashion, H&M and Zara, have both made statements. However, despite Zara stating that all of the cotton, linen, and polyester they use will be either recycled, organic, or sustainable by 2025, and H&M claiming they are “committed to becoming climate positive throughout [their] entire value chain by 2040 at the latest,” the basic business model behind these brands are what is really hurting the environment. As long as they continue to overproduce, these companies will be severely affecting the environment. Besides, if consumers react to these companies similar to how they’ve received Forever 21 lately—the business filed for bankruptcy this September—they may not even make it to 2025 or 2040.