Opinion: Brandy Melville and plagiarism

Clothing company Brandy Melville has repeatedly stolen multiple artists’ work without their consent, to be printed on their clothing.  The company, which primarily promotes their “California-inspired apparel” over the social media platform Instagram, sold a graphic tee bearing the phrase “Raise Boys and Girls the Same Way” in all-capital lettering. That phrase first appeared as a part of American artist Jenny Holzer’s series Truisms (1977), where she posted declarations in simple fonts around New York City. In fact, Holzer makes her art widely accessible by issuing her statements on printed merchandise, such as t-shirts, mugs, or hats. There is no attribution anywhere on Brandy Melville’s website to Holzer, and nor indication of any profits going to her. Holzer has not commented on the shirt.

Images from eBay and Jenny Holzer

Multiple other artists, particularly ones based off of Tumblr, have also accused Brandy of stealing their work without attribution. Last year, Isabella Rose Taylor, a teen fashion designer who has had her own line debuted at New York Fashion Week (as seen here), pointed out the similarities between her original tank top design of a cloud with raindrops and one Brady began selling soon after through an Instagram post. Seventeen Magazine picked up on the story, and published an online article about Taylor’s post, yet Brandy did not publicly comment.

Images from Brandy Melville and Isabella Rose Taylor


Tasmanian artist Laura McMahon, who works under the name Brain Foetus, noticed her original design of a girl crying raindrops on a Brandy t-shirt last year as well. McMahon, who has a large following on Tumblr, wrote, according to TheFashionSpot.com, “After contacting Brandy Melville, I was confident that the issue would get resolved. However, after months of chasing them for a resolution, all the while having faith in their professionalism, I must out them as a company that is making profit from someone else’s hard work and creative thinking — while no credit or financial compensation has been provided.”

Images from The Fashion Spot and Tumblr

In 2013, Tumblr-based artist Sara M. Lyons made a post calling out the company on directly lifting the text off of one of her designs and printing on a t-shirt. Lyons had posted her design of two hands in the shape of a W with a banner reading “Whatever Forever” underneath. Brandy soon carried a shirt with an black-and-white photograph of hands in the W shape with the same text banner. Malibu High School junior Violet Finn, who follows Lyons on Tumblr and is a fan of her work, noticed the shirt while shopping and took a photo to message to Lyons.

“The shirt looked so much like Sara’s design but she never said anything about releasing a clothing line. I took the chance of messaging her and it turned out I was right and that the design had been stolen. Sara said that she never ended up going to court because she didn’t have the money, but they agreed to stop selling the shirts,” said Finn.  

Lyons sells her design in her own shop.  

Images from Vinted and Tumblr

Brandy Melville has great influence over teen girls across Los Angeles and America. For a professional, global company to steal from often young, internet-based artists who do not have their own defense, is absolutely ridiculous. Brady’s actions tell its customers that not only do artists’ not deserve to be compensated for their original and talented artwork, but that taking advantage of young, female artists is to be commonplace. Taking artwork without permission is nothing more than exploitation.  As they are a girls’ and women’s clothing line that sells shirts with seemingly “empowering” statements such as “Girl Power” and “Girls Bite Back”, the company’s stealing of multiple female artists’ work is particularly galling. If the company truly wanted to emulate the ideas it promotes on its shirts, it would get permission and then provide the artists compensation, instead of plagiarizing the intellectual property of female artists.  

5 thoughts on “Opinion: Brandy Melville and plagiarism

  1. Great article. I agree—it’d be such an value add to their campaign to feature the work of these artists and even link to them—giving these creatives the gift of expanding their platform. Thank you for bringing this to light! I’ll definitely look at their brand differently from now on…

  2. Thank you for brining this to light. This certainly shifts my view of their brand from now on. I agree, it would be such a value add if they would partner with artists and even link to them in effort to help expand their platform to a wider audience.

  3. tytyf – Los Angeles, California – Editor for the La Yuca newspaper of Verdugo Hills High School, and now contributing writer for HS Insider.
    tytyf says:

    Great job

Leave a Reply