Skyrocketing commercial rent prices, shifting consumer habits, and the rise of ultra-cheap fast-fashion websites have decimated Toronto’s once bountiful crop of brick-and-mortar clothing stores in recent years, taking out everything from long-standing independent gems to outposts of international brands like Ben Sherman and The Gap.
Being forced to close under government orders amid a (still-raging) global pandemic appeared to be the final nail for many retailers: We’ve seen dozens close over the past five months along Queen Street West alone.
And yet, one store on the strip appears to be absolutely thriving, attracting lineups every single day since reopening with new COVID-19 safety restrictions in place: Brandy freaking Melville.
Brandy Melville update! ##fyp##foryoupage ##toronto ##momlife##backtoschoolshopping##family##momof3##react##shopping##daughters##momsoftiktok ##momsover40 ##moms
♬ original sound – thetaylorkaye
The only remaining Toronto location of the Italian fast-fashion brand, which closed its stores within Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Square One last year, has been consistently slammed since June.
Not a day goes by where teens aren’t gathered en masse outside the store at 326 Queen Street West — a store that, ironically, was up for sublease just last year, before the pandemic hit.
Shoppers have reported waiting in line for up to four hours to enter the Brandy Melville in recent months, and the constant mobs of girls outside are leaving passersby gobsmacked.
@ my toronto ppl – WHAT is going on w the line outside of brandy melville on queen?! all these skinny 13yr old white girls where do they come from!? why are there 60 of them in line for a brand that has such terrible ethics it should’ve been ended ages ago?!
— 🌼adina🌼 (@adinavlasov) September 2, 2020
Flanked by two vacant retail stores that are currently up for lease — the former home of G Star Raw a forthcoming mixed-use development that for a long time was Pam Chorley’s Fashion Crimes — Brandy Melville on Queen West is busier than it’s ever been since opening back in 2012.
Meanwhile, you can walk right into nearby retailers like Aritzia, H&M, Zara, and Lululemon without so much as a five-minute wait.
Less than a block east on Queen, the Toronto-born women’s wear brand Mendocino actually just closed its M Boutique store permanently due “challenges resulting from the pandemic.”
So how is Brandy Melville — a brand that has been accused of everything from promoting unrealistic body standards to outright racism in recent years — crushing it so hard right now?
I’m seeing bare videos of wasteyutes in long ass lines to shop @ brandy Melville in Toronto… Fam why are you even shopping there for that one size fits all shit? It’s also just garage + holister shit just overpriced
— Nicky (@HoeExotic_) August 13, 2020
The long and the short of it appears to be that TikTok is telling the teens to shop there.
“Brandy Melville is known for placing little emphasis on advertising, instead relying heavily on social media and word of mouth,” explains Retail Insider’s Jessica Finch, noting that TikTok, in particular, has recently “catapulted Brandy Melville back into the limelight.”
“Appearing to be worn by all of TikTok’s most followed users, Brandy Melville has regained momentum with a new generation of young teenagers who are all active on the social media platform.”
i can’t believe that my first tiktok is gonna be of my brandy collection… am i trendy now? ##brandymelville ##brandy ##shopping ##ttylxox
♬ original sound – alexwaarren
In addition to teens wanting to wear what their social media idols wear, some are purchasing the clothes to profit from what’s apparently become a booming Brandy Melville resale market.
It seems as though Canadian teens are simply more interested in participating in the culture surrounding this brand than they are put off but all the controversy surrounding its “one-size-fits-all” strategy, which some say promotes body shame.
“Evidently, the power of social media is working in Brandy Melville’s favour,” writes Finch. “Other brands would be envious of such attention, particularly during a pandemic and following temporary store closures over the past several months.”
Maybe Le Chateau can save itself too by targeting VSCO girls.