After a 23-year run, one of the fashion world’s biggest shows has been canceled. The Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show used to debut the next big styles in lingerie. The show had a star-dazzling cast with big names such as Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner walking the runway. However, that wasn’t enough to keep the show around.
L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, announced that the 2019 fashion show would be canceled so that the company can focus more on its digital marketing. While this news might come as a surprise, the company’s scandalous history and failure to keep up with societal values played a major role in the cancellation of the show and the downfall of the brand.
Victoria’s Secret took the lingerie market by storm and paved the way for a lot of other brands that came after it. However, the company is stuck portraying a fantasy that doesn’t appeal to many women anymore. First, it is important to look at the models in ads and campaigns for Victoria’s Secret. For the most part, they are all the same size and lack diversity. This isn’t what sells anymore nor is it accepted without question.
Women today want representation and want to know that companies are thinking about everyone when making products. Savage x Fenty, a lingerie brand created by Rihanna, is one of Victoria’s Secret’s biggest competitors despite the brand only being around for two years. What makes Savage x Fenty so popular is how inclusive their brand is. Just by scrolling through their Instagram, it is clear that the brand is targeting everyone regardless of race or size. Even other retailers, such as Arie, have adapted this new inclusive campaign, but Victoria’s Secret is falling behind.
In an interview with Vogue, the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret, Ed Razek, told the magazine that the show sells a fantasy and that people aren’t interested in seeing plus sizes models in the TV special. However, this is exactly what people want. Lingerie is for women to feel confident in themselves, not to sell a fantasy.
This is the approach that Fenty, and many other lingerie brands, have taken up and it has been massively successful. The reality is that women are fed up with being told that they have to abide by a certain standard in order to feel confident, which is what Victoria’s Secret’s approach does. While it may have worked for the brand in the past, in today’s day and age discriminating against body sizes is not acceptable. Similarly, the brand has failed to include models from different races in their ads.
Inclusivity, within the industry, mainly refers to including models of different sizes and races. These two factors, both of which Victoria’s Secret lacks, can make or break a lingerie brand today. While in past years these factors have fallen by the wayside for consumers, the lingerie industry — and the world — has significantly changed.
What started off as an industry catering to a fantasy has now evolved to putting women’s needs and wants first. It went from degrading women and trying to cram everyone into a singular mold to empowering and building their confidence. Victoria’s Secret is still caught up in the fantasy while every other brand has made progressive strides away from it.
The company is no stranger to scandals as well. One scandal that everyone knows all too well is when the brand stated they would not feature transgender women in their products. They claimed they wouldn’t do this because transgender women didn’t “sell the fantasy.” The brand received a lot of backlash once this information was released. It led to the boycott of the company’s products for a while. While this situation was bad, the brand’s most recent scandal was 10 times worse.
Earlier this year, Jeffrey Epstein, a close friend to the CEO of L Brands, Leslie Wexner, was caught pretending to be a talent scout for the brand so that he could take advantage of the models there. This scandal started to occur in the mid-1990s, and Wexner was made aware of it but did nothing to stop it. It wasn’t until July 2019 that Epstein was arrested.
It was also revealed that the brand had hired girls from the MC2 modeling agency, which is owned by Jean-Luc Brunel, who is in the middle of a civil lawsuit. Allegedly, Brunel brought underage girls into the U.S. and allowed Epstein, a close friend, to take advantage of them. Models from this agency walked in the fashion show in 2015 and auditioned in 2017 and 2018. They were also featured in ads for Victoria’s Secret.
Prior to this, Brunel’s business partner expressed concerns that were brought up by other big-name brands such as Nordstrom and Macy’s about Brunel’s friendship with Epstein. However, Victoria’s Secret failed, yet again, to take any action. This situation was the nail in the coffin for Victoria’s Secret. The brand’s dark and grim history came to the light, and after higher-ups failed to take action against the unjust acts occurring within the brand, the public has had enough.
Failure to adapt to what women want today and the brand’s unflattering history are two of the main reasons the brand is starting to decline now. The annual fashion show being canceled is yet another sign that the company is struggling. It is clear what the company needs to do in order to stay relevant; however, they keep failing to do so.
Victoria’s Secret was created with a certain fantasy in mind rather than the needs of women. This approach to the lingerie industry is not what works anymore, and the brand needs to make serious changes if they want to stick around. It’s clear that the giant wings and star-studded line up isn’t enough to keep the show afloat. The fantasy is over — now it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to face reality.