Not so long ago, walking for Victoria’s Secret was the dream of numerous models. But body positivity, gender equality and combatting racism were not on VS’s agenda for too long, almost leading to their own defeat. Luckily, the brand is working hard now to come back better. This blog takes you on a short walk down memory lane of the world’s biggest lingerie company.
VS was not always for women. The first VS store was boudoir-ish, referring back to Victorian (!) era dressing rooms for women. Businessman Roy Raymond was ashamed of buying underwear for his wife in public warehouses in San Fransisco. So he started his own private store. When Lex Wexner joined, it became less about what men wanted to see and more about what women wanted to wear. In the ’97 collection, models were called “angels” for the first time: they were the epitome of strong, beautiful women. Heidi and Gisele became Iconics and many others were paid millions. The first of many (expensive) shows was streamed for the first time in ’99. VS became an enormous corporation with stores all over the world.
By 2016 the share price began to fall. Me Too came, oversexualised brands had difficulties. Edward Razek (entered VS in the ’80s) said something incredibly tactless: that transgender models shouldn’t be in the show. The next show didn’t air on tv for the first time since ‘99. In 2019 Ed resigned. More scandals came out, about sexual harassment and racism. Covid hit, market shares for lingerie brands dropped, and 200+ VS stores closed down. Wexner stepped down in 2020. What was once an empire, had burnt to the ground.
The brand has now started to reinvent itself, giving stores a drastic make-over, hiring new design teams and presenting their new ideal:
“creating an inclusive environment to celebrate uplift and champion all women”
Models, Creatives, Consumers: Be vocal when something isn’t right! It may catalyze serious change.
Written by: Anna Roos