Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It seems as though the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has been expelled from the lingerie heavens. On Thursday, November 21st, an announcement was made that the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has officially been cancelled.
After months of whispers and speculation that the show would go on, merely forgoing the televised aspect, the altogether retirement of the once highly anticipated event has now been cemented.
Headlines have ranged from “No Angels This Christmas” to “Oh, Thank God, It’s Over Now.”
In the past handful of years, the lingerie juggernaut has been engrossed in quite a bit of controversy. And for the most part, they seem to be digging their own grave. From ties to accusations in the prime of the #MeToo movement, to egregious and offensive comments made by company higher-ups, executive musical chairs, and brick-and-mortars shutting down, it’s safe to say that V.S. has been having a rough go of it. We haven’t even touched upon the highly suspicious relationship between that of Leslie Wexner (CEO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L brands) and sexual predator, Jeffery Epstein.
While each of these circumstances certainly represent a nail in the coffin, therein lies a much more deep-seated issue at the heart of the brand itself. The complete disregard to the pleads of the public for more inclusive representation is causing consumers to look elsewhere. Their dated, “dress for your man” sexpot ideology has slowly but surely been scrapped as an accepted societal ideal. Consumers wish to see faces that they may associate with their own and they are willing to illustrate that through their spending dollars.
Based on the timing, it seems that the recent, consecutive departures of V.S. superstars Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio have aided in forming a crack in the dreamy, glittery, pink illusion that is the Victoria’s Secret “Angel.”
Last year’s runway show brought in the lowest ratings the brand has ever seen. The event only raked in half of the viewers received for their 2016 program. Since 2011, viewership has dwindled from a whopping 10.3 million to 2018’s dismal 3.3 million viewers.
In large part, the rapid decomposition of the fashion show has been accredited to L-brand’s then-CMO, Ed Razek, whose body-shaming and transphobic rhetoric went viral just days before the 2018 show. Due to his exclusionary commentary, he has since apologized and resigned from the organization.
Razek and the brand’s Executive V.P. of public relations, Monica Mitro sat down with Vogue’s Nicole Phelps to discuss the evolution of the intimates industry and their upcoming runway show. Razek reads as incredibly defensive and hostile throughout the entirety of the conversation.
“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”
Based on the amount of intimates companies profiting off of their plus-sized products and marketing, Razek is clearly not tapped into the present. I wonder if he is aware that 68% of American women are considered to be plus-sized.
In the viral interview on Vogue, Razek stated on behalf of Victoria’s Secret, “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.”
This bluntly facilitates the sentiment that trans and plus women could never be of that fantasy, or fantasized about. The concept of Victoria’s Secret in its most basic form is built on the notion of untouchable, unattainable perceptions of beauty vehemently rooted in the cis-straight-male gaze. Not only that, but Victoria’s Secret has been a leading perpetrator in implementing anglomanic and eurocentric beauty confines. The overcirculation of the same, thin white faces has left many a consumer base wanting representation.The brand’s reputation for unrealistic beauty ideals that were once touted as aspirational are now considered detrimental.
And so it seems the Victoria’s Secret throne is up for grabs. As far as interrupting these historically narrow beauty ideals, Rihanna is playing a significant role in this narrative. Savage X Fenty seems prepared to give us everything V.S. couldn’t. It’s beginning to look like anything they can do, she can do better.
Rihanna made Savage X Fenty’s splashy debut in 2018, three months prior to Victoria’s Secret’s lowest rated runway show. The collection was donned by women of all shapes and sizes, exuding confidence in their own skin. She has since upped the ante with her recent Amazon Prime mega-production, completely eclipsing the V.S. runway show of yesterday. The event was filled with star-studded musical performances, detailed choreography, a wide variety of confident women.
Even Victoria’s Secret runway veteran Bella Hadid isn’t immune to the empowering allure that is Rihanna and Savage X Fenty. At the Vogue Fashion Festival in Paris this fall, in conversation with Loic Prigent, Hadid divulged, “Rihanna’s amazing. For me, that was the first time on a runway that I felt really sexy. Because when I first did Fenty, I was doing other lingerie shows and I never felt powerful on a runway, like, in my underwear.” Let’s be real, it’s Rihanna’s world and we’re all just living in it.
A great many game changing companies have recently been building their brand ethos around being the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret has maintained such a stronghold as a staple of the lingerie sector, that when brands defy V.S.’s traditional blueprint, it’s synonymous with fighting against the wider status quo. Chromat, Savage X Fenty, ThirdLove, Parade, and TomboyX are only a few of the inclusive and body-positive labels thriving today.
Although they’ve been embasked in many hard-hitting blows, the day has not yet come where Victoria’s Secret is no longer. They still hold a 24% market share and remain the largest lingerie label in America.
They are currently focusing on rebranding and revamping their image. Victoria’s Secret has asked us to forgive them for many a social taboo. If they discover their path to redemption, they will find a way to become culturally relevant. Perhaps they will consider marketing to the women they are selling to rather than their male counterparts.
It is long past due that we, as a society, begin to see our differences as advantages rather than impediments. Slowly but surely, the faces of fashion are changing. Variety is the future and if Victoria’s Secret can’t learn to get on board, then they’ll be left behind along with their antiquated views of what a woman should be.