Earlier this month, Victoria's Secret announced their latest endeavor, the Victoria's Secret World Tour. The event, and the documentary film that will accompany it, are a reimagined version of the once-beloved VS fashion show. If you are new to the world of Victoria's Secret, you may be wondering why this is significant. But this is the culmination of a tumultuous few years for the brand, and it is important to recognize how they got to this point.
The 2000s and 2010s were ruled by Victoria's Secret and their iconic fashion show. The event began in 1995 and became televised in 2001. The models were dubbed "angels" and included high-profile names such as Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Adriana Lima, and Gigi and Bella Hadid. The spectacle of the show included musical performances by some of the biggest artists, and garnered over 10 million viewers at its peak.
By 2018, the show had fallen to just over 3 million viewers after a rapid decline over the previous years. But it was not just the declining interest that led to the demise of the event.
Savage x Fenty, Source: Enfnts Terribles
In 2018, Rihanna's lingerie brand presented its first show during New York Fashion Week. The extravagant show portrayed a wide range of diverse models, and it was met with a large amount of praise. The success of a lingerie brand that depicts such a diverse group of models could potentially be what brought Victoria's Secret into question.
After the taping of the VS fashion show a couple months later, their Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek was asked why VS does not use plus size models or transgender models. In response, Razek stated that "The show is a fantasy" and he does not feel like plus size and transgender women belong in that fantasy. This rightfully sparked lots of outrage and led to public figures, such as Gigi Gorgeous and Tess Holliday, condemning the brand for their actions. Apologies were issued on social media, but the damage had already been done. If people hadn't already noticed the lack of diversity on VS runways, they certainly noticed after that.
Unfortunately, this was not the only issue with Victoria's Secret. In 2019, The New York Times exposed that in the 90s, VS's Chief Executive, Les Wexner worked closely with sex offender and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Women were reportedly lured in under the guise of potential employment by VS and victimized by Epstein. The long-standing fashion show was cancelled that year, and Wexner stepped down from his role in 2020.
Source: The New York Times
Two years after the cancellation of the fashion show, in 2021, Victoria's Secret announced its plan to rebrand. In place of the angels, they chose to showcase what they called the VS Collective, seven accomplished women. The collective included women Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Paloma Elsesser, and a few others.
Martin Waters, the new Chief Executive, said, "We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want." Instead of highlighting their bodies, this campaign was meant to highlight their accomplishments in attempt to redefine what VS portrays as "sexy." The rebrand also included more diverse models and more of an emphasis on functionality.
Despite the rebrand, VS could not hide from the problematic foundation that the brand was built on. In 2022, a Hulu series titled "Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons" revealed a number of shocking secrets about the company. The series told countless stories of harassment, bullying, and pressuring of the women employed by Victoria's Secret. Models were touched and spoken to inappropriately by executives and pressured into showing their nude bodies. Ed Razek, who was reported to be one of the various perpetrators, was said to have dozens of HR complaints made against him. Employees even said that working for VS was like being part of a cult.
So, now that Victoria's Secret has announced their newest endeavor, the Victoria's Secret World Tour, it is hard to believe this is something worth supporting. Raul Martinez, the Creative Director of VS and the man behind the newest venture, said, "We’ve evolved and we’ve moved on, but it’s not that we’re leaving anything behind. We’re touching both the storytelling, which is about our advocacy and celebrating female voices, but also that full-on, fashion entertainment [experience], because that is something that was quite iconic." They are moving on from their old fashion show format, but is the world ready to move on from Victoria's Secret's not so secret past?