After years of selling misogynistic fantasies masked as insecurity for women worldwide, Victoria’s Secret (VS), the lingerie and personal care mammoth, has come upon a business-altering decision. Everyone’s aesthetic and sexual fantasy – the VS Angels have fallen.
After multiple accusations of sexual assault, overt body shaming, and transphobia, their refusal to take action against high-profile executives guilty of inappropriate behaviour has led to its downfall. 2018 was possibly the worst year for the company as more body positive and inclusive brands like Aerie, Lively, and Savage X Fenty rose.
The mystical barbie-doll VS Angels, extravagantly clad in wings and bejewelled lingerie, had more or less remained the same in the last three decades since VS started their fashion shows. Models bearing bodies that ‘please’ the male gaze, just-enough-plump and just-enough-toned, were no longer a thing of beauty standards to the common woman. After all, feminists remind us repeatedly that autonomy over lingerie remains with the person who wants to wear it rather than cishet men.
There was a time when lacy push-ups and the thick underwear band labelled PINK was found in the boudoir drawer of every female teenager and adult alike. No one would be caught dead wearing something else. But in a mere decade, the tables have turned as no one would dare step inside the walls of the magnum opus of male sexual fantasy. It’s safe to say that VS brought this tragedy upon itself with its sluggish attitude toward the changing social norms of body positivity and culture inclusivity.
But recently, VS announced a defining move – one which may have come a little too late but alas, it came. Gone were the glamorous, airbrushed, and pushed-up fantasies of the Angels. Instead came in the Victoria’s Secret Collective. This high-profile seven-member board is a chance for VS to redeem its reputation and right its past wrongs. The septet consists of the pink-haired member of the American National Women’s Soccer team, Megan Rapinoe, Actor, entrepreneur, and activist Priyanka Chopra Jonas, inclusivity activist and model Paloma Elsesser, transgender model-actor Valentina Sampaio, Sino-American world champion skier Eileen Gu, model and South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, and English photographer and podcast host Amanda de Cadanet.
This board is a shot at inclusivity and is reflective of real-life women as the members hail from different cultures, are from different age groups, and in some way or another, are more relatable to the common woman. This diverse set of ambassadors will spearhead this new campaign. They will be alternatively seen as an essential part of VS’s revamped brand image, including their advertisements and social media. VS’s new move is indeed a step toward becoming more like their well-off competitors, who are idealistically anti-Victoria’s Secret.
What’s notable is that this decision of VS is not just superficial to woo their consumer base but is one aimed at its very corporate structure. Billionaire Leslie Wexner, the founder of VS’s parent company L Brands, and Ed Razek, a top executive of the said company, will not be a part of the revamped identity of the lingerie giant. Razek and Wexner have been accused multiple times of inappropriate conduct, sexual advances and remarks, and exploitation of models.
VS has made it clear that the two will not be associated with VS anymore. The company will split from L Brands and subsequently from the toiletry giant Bath & Body Works to become an independent entity. VS will now have top-tier decisions taken by more women executives as Martha Pease, the new Chief Marketing Officer, heads the Collective and plans on having an all-women committee.
A complete upheaval of the VS stores will see the signature Angels’ posters stripped off of their walls, TVs, websites, and social media. Mannequins and models will exhibit a diverse range of bodies and products.
In an interview with The New York Times, Martin Waters, a former executive of VS international, said, “When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond. We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”
In a recent attempt to foreshadow the company’s announcement of becoming “what women want”, VS launched a Mothers’ Day campaign. Displaying pregnant women as their models was a first for the company. Apparently, for VS, motherhood was not sexy enough till now.
The VS collective board will promote the upcoming product releases such as maternity wear along with the same old thongs and lacy bras. Other TBA products will see a collaboration between Chopra Jonas and Rapinoe.