- Brandy Melville incorporates libertarian easter eggs throughout its brand.
- Founder Stephan Marsan put copies of “Atlas Shrugged” in stores and named a brand John Galt.
- Insider recently investigated the teen fashion empire and uncovered allegations of racial discrimination and exploitation.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
At teen fashion empire Brandy Melville, one surprising theme pops up again and again – an interest in libertarian philosophy.
A recent investigation by Insider found that every Brandy Melville store in the US is owned by an independent company. Each is named after a variation on Bastiat, an apparent reference to the libertarian economist Frédéric Bastiat. Brandy Melville’s operations in North America, for example, are controlled by Bastiat USA.
Brandy Melville also owns a sub-brand called John Galt, sometimes stylized as J. Galt, a reference to a character in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” (Oddly enough, back in 2012, Lululemon faced backlash for its own libertarian product – a “Who Is John Galt?” bag.)
The interest in libertarianism appears to stem from Stephan Marsan, founder of Brandy Melville and president of Bastiat USA. Marsan is also director of two other companies with libertarian-influenced names: Thomas Aquinas, Inc. and Laissez Faire, Inc.
Soon after Marsan opened the first Brandy Melville store in the US in 2009, he began using copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as props in stores, a former employee who began working at a California store in 2013 told Insider. Marsan also donated $US500 ($AU680) to Ron Paul’s presidential run in 2012, according to FEC documents.
Brandy Melville and Marsan did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment. (It also appears that the Google profile picture associated with Marsan’s email address, which was provided by a former Brandy Melville employee, is an image of Bastiat.)
Insider also viewed screenshots from a group chat that included Marsan’s friends and coworkers. The private chat, which was active from roughly 2017 to 2020, according to people with knowledge of it, included multiple anti-taxation memes. It also included a photo of a Bastiat quote.
Marsan’s brother Yvan appears to have sent a selfie in a Trump 2020 hat, followed by a photoshopped image of Donald Trump as Rocky, caped in an American flag, sent by chief financial officer Salvatore Rianna.