With trends coming and going quicker than Kylie Jenner’s online lip kit sellouts, modern brands need to be consistently on the ball in order to remain relevant. One slip of the lip from a company’s CEO can result in plummeting sales, and in the age of smartphones and Wi-Fi, consumers have more power than ever over brands’ images.
A perfect example of a company’s reputation that was seemingly tarnished overnight is Victoria’s Secret. Except their “secret” isn’t really a secret anymore — their previous marketing executive officer, Ed Razek, has already spilled it all. Razek responded to recent comments regarding the lack of diversity in the VS fashion show by saying that transgender and plus-size models don’t fit the “fantasy” that Victoria’s Secret sells.
In response to that statement, socially conscious lingerie company and Victoria’s Secret competitor Third Love published an open letter directed to the company in the New York Times explaining that, unlike Victoria’s Secret, they “live in the real world.” Third Love creates undergarments for more inclusive shapes and sizes. After all, the real world is not made up exclusively of five-foot-10-inch tall, size 2 women.
Victoria’s Secret has had underperforming sales for a while now. The #MeToo movement and social media platforms like Instagram give women a voice to share their feelings towards the often hyper-sexualized and hegemonic advertisements released by companies like Victoria’s Secret. These feminist movements have pushed women to dress for themselves rather than the male gaze, meaning that “[Victoria’s Secret’s] push-up bras and racy runway shows no longer resonate with the modern customer,” according to Business Insider. In 2019, more consumers than ever before are drawing their attention to companies that emphasize comfort, inclusivity and body-positive images and messages.
Some positive changes companies have been implementing to keep up with forward-thinking consumers include reducing the use of Photoshop in advertising campaigns, which was a highly appraised move made by lingerie company Aerie. Sports Illustrated, along with other publications, have begun to use plus-size models on their covers, and fortunately no “fantasies” were ruined. Companies like RodeoH, Rebirth Garments and Bluestockings Boutique design their clothing for a wide range of gender conformities, and some even donate portions of their proceeds towards organizations like Planned Parenthood.
What Razek didn’t realize when he made those insensitive comments towards the transgender and plus-size communities was that he was alienating a huge segment of customers with buying power that Victoria’s Secret could not afford to lose. It could be argued that Victoria’s Secret showcases diversity through using models of colour; they even featured Winnie Harlow, a black model with vitiligo, in their last runway show. But real diversity doesn’t mean using models of different skin colours who have virtually the same industry standard facial features and body proportions as every other model — Victoria’s Secret needs to offer diversity in more ways than just ethnicity.
What may have been groundbreaking in the early 2000s is just a given now, and quite frankly, Victoria’s Secret is still famous for using tokenism in their advertisements.
After the public outcry that followed the controversial statements made by Razek, Victoria’s Secret CEO Jan Singer resigned from the company and was replaced by John Mehas, the former president of fashion company Tory Burch. Victoria’s Secret did not officially comment on why Singer left, but it seems fairly obvious.
However, anytime an angel falls a phoenix rises, and as part of the clap-back regarding Razek’s comments, transgender model and fashion designer Munroe Bergdorf launched her own lingerie line with U.K.-based company Bluebella. Victoria who?
Alas, the fateful day has come where Victoria’s Secret’s values, fashions, marketing, and company etiquette may be too old-school for modern, socially-woke customers. As a result, in 2019, the torch will begin to be handed down to a new class of bright, young, promising lingerie retailers, offering eager starry-eyed consumers the modern, size-inclusive products that they’ve been yearning for. As North American women bid farewell to the old guard of Victoria’s Secret’s monarchy, they take a moment of silence for their old hot-pink-push-up-bra-wearing days and call upon the words of Ariana Grande in their farwell to say “thank you, next.”