How Victoria’s Secret plans to rise again

Someone mentions Victoria’s Secret and what comes to mind? Swathes of lace and clouds of silk? Naomi Campbell or Alessandra Ambrosio looking positively ethereal in the iconic angel wings? Brassieres and nighties in the pinkest of pinks and smoothest of satin? This glamour and romance may soon simply be a distant memory as Victoria’s Secret make a change, leaving the old VS in the past: welcome to ‘VS NOW’.

Victoria’s Secret’s image has been continuously criticised for perpetuating damaging beauty standards and promoting a culture of toxicity, particularly in the broadcast of an event circled in red on calendars throughout the fashion industry: the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. It was brought to an end in 2019, coinciding with the resignation of Edward Razek, the chief marketing officer of L brands credited with the origination of the Victoria’s Secret Angels and the show itself. Razek had worked for the brand since 1983 and introduced the Angels in 1995, allowing the show a 24 year stint before it was called off indefinitely. His resignation was largely a result of public pressure due to his accused instrumentality in creating an environment that was misogynistic, hostile and intimidating, and this was not limited to inappropriate behaviour behind closed doors. In particular, in an interview with Vogue in 2018 Razek expressed an aversion to including plus-sized or transgender models in the notorious show. Hiding behind a reluctance to pander to the demands of the media and the public, Edward Razek defended his stance with an argument for Victoria’s Secret having built a brand that he intended to preserve. Criticism of the brand continues to this day, post-Razek, demonstrated by the song that became a sensation on Tik-Tok, ‘Victoria’s Secret’ by artist Jax, that poured out a lot of the frustrations so many had felt growing up with the brand as it was. 

Looking ahead, the transformation of the brand appears to centre itself on real people and real bodies, Victoria’s Secret emerging from their period of relative hush armed with an apology and a way forward. Rather than promoting a culture many have deemed detrimental to the way beauty standards are perceived, there appears to be a renewed focus on elevating feelings of sensuality and sexiness of consumers in their own bodies, despite not looking like the VS Angels of years gone by. When the brand announced its overhaul on Instagram in July of 2022, they acknowledged that they had “lost touch with many” and claimed they were now proud to be “a different company”, working to “become the Victoria’s Secret our customers and associates deserve”. This now means we are living in the era of what they have dubbed ‘VS Now’, in what seems like an attempt to at least partially dissociate from their past: are we looking at a brand that genuinely has the interests of their following at heart, or is this VS dismissing the detrimental effects for which many hold them responsible?

The public response from the announcement onwards has been varied, some celebrating the change as long-awaited and a step in the right direction, while others either long for a reversion to the mystique and allure of the VS that we once knew, or have labelled the new look as too little too late. The revelation on Instagram was met with a flurry of comments communicating a frustration at the misinterpretation that seems to have occurred between what people wanted and what they got. Many simply wanted the same Victoria’s Secret simply with more inclusivity and diversity in their campaigns and shows. While their page now does showcase added diversity in the models they flaunt, some followers feel there has been a decline in the seductive and the sensual, a loss that was unnecessary and unsolicited. Others’ initial reaction was to consider the idea that the rebrand was simply a reactionist response, a small act of good will that couldn’t undo years of possible damage after decades of being deemed vital in the fashion industry’s tiresome culture of harmful standards. 

Gazing into the future, what do we see? A fresh new Victoria’s Secret that acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of their audience? Or will we simply never be able to shake the Victoria’s Secret that so many have admired and scorned simultaneously? A brand with such a well-established reputation and persona will surely struggle to rewrite their story and scatter the ashes of the troublesome yet fabled guise they spent so long perfecting. ‘VS Now’ has a lot to live up to. Those are some big wings to fill. 


Featured image: Ludovica Dri with license

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