Photo by Clara Harter

The former operators of Brandy Melville Canada are suing executives from Brandy Melville USA, over unfair business practices that were allegedly in retaliation for the plaintiffs’ refusal to comply with racist policies.

The plaintiffs claim that in or around April 2017, Yvan Marsan representing Bastiat USA Inc., a Santa Monica-based manufacturer of fashion brand Brandy Melville, ordered the Canadian operators to shut down their Square One store because of the “ghetto” clientele.

“The statement that was made to my client was ‘we want you to shut down this store, we don’t like the clientele they are too ghetto and they don’t fit our brand’, and when they were referring to ghetto they were meaning African American,” said Scott Gizer, the plaintiffs’ lawyer. “When my clients refused to do that, that is when the retaliation against them occurred and ultimately their licenses were terminated.”

The suit claims that Marsan also complained “that they needed to hire ‘attractive white girls’ that would fit in the aforementioned ‘image’ of Brandy Melville brand, that they shouldn’t have hired the manager of the Newmarket store because she was ‘short and fat’ and they should close that store as well because of the clientele in the store.” The filing states that “these requests were later echoed and reaffirmed by Stephan Marsan, president of Bastiat.”

The plaintiffs argue that following their refusal to engage in discriminatory business practices they suffered a series of unfair business practices from the companies running Brandy Melville USA. These complaints include the supplying of bottom-end merchandise, the forced closure of several stores resulting in expensive lease liabilities, and misinformation about the manufacturing of clothing components that caused the plaintiffs to be in violation of NAFTA requirements. The plaintiffs’ licenses with Brandy Melville were terminated on Dec 31, 2018, according to Gizer.

The defendants are Konkay Burriku, Inc., a California corporation that manufactures Brandy merchandise; Bastiat USA, Inc., a Nevada corporation that manufactures Brandy merchandise; and ten individuals involved in the alleged acts. YYGM is not a defendant in this case, but is the licensor of the Brandy Melville trademark.

The plaintiffs include nine Canadian Brandy Melville stores; Brandy Canada, Inc.; and Paolo Simeone and Franco Sorgi, who operated Brandy Melville Canada from 2012 until Dec 2018. The plaintiffs claim that they knew of the Marsans, Bastiat and YYGM’s prejudices as Sorgi had access to their internal postings, which contained racist and anti-Semitic pictures and jokes.

Brandy Melville has previously been called out for being racist and fat-phobic because of its one-size-fits-all sizing policy and its brand image of mainly young skinny white girls.

In June a video of TikTok user CallieJeanxo accusing Brandy Melville of racism went viral and resulted in calls to boycott the brand. Callie, who worked at a US Brandy Melville store for three months in 2013 when she was seventeen, states she was recruited to work there based on her looks and was once told by her manager to turn away a qualified Asian job applicant. According to Callie, most of the employees were white and skinny and the one larger employee was instructed to remain behind the register.

While claims of the brand’s discriminatory culture have circulated for years, the plaintiffs will be formally bringing complaints of racist behavior to court.

According to Gizer, the plaintiffs have suffered around $3 million dollars in damages from the forced closing of three stores and around $4.5 million dollars in damages from lease liabilities and NAFTA violations. They will also be seeking between $6 and $12 million dollars in punitive damages.

The defendants’ representation did not respond to requests to comment on the allegations against their client.