SHANGHAI — It took less than a year for an obscure Italian fashion brand to win over China’s Generation Z.
In March, while cities across China remained under lockdown, searches for the term “BM style” exploded on the Chinese internet. The phrase referred to Brandy Melville — the controversial clothing label that has gained cult status among young shoppers across the Western world.
Targeting teenage girls, Brandy Melville markets itself as an accessible high-street label. Its Instagram feed is filled with street-style photos, rather than posed shots of supermodels. Almost everything in its store, meanwhile, comes in just one size.
But there’s a catch. Many of the so-called “one-size-fits-most” items are so small, they’d be classified as size 0 in most stores. And the natural-looking #brandygirls populating the firm’s Insta page are overwhelmingly tall, skinny, and white.
For some, it’s all part of Brandy Melville’s “country club approach” to branding that deliberately creates a sense of exclusivity among the teens able to fit into its clothes.
Now, the rise of “BM style” is sparking similar concerns in China. The country’s women have long faced intense pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards. Speaking with Sixth Tone at a Brandy Melville store in Shanghai, an employee of the company said the brand’s popularity among young Chinese didn’t surprise her.
“In the U.S., they want you to believe that everyone is beautiful, but that’s not true here,” she said. “Being skinny is definitely the preferred ideal.”
In this video, Sixth Tone investigates the Brandy Melville trend and what it means for the feminist movement in China.