There's a lot riding on "Victoria's Secret: The Tour". The company's put a lot of money and marketing power into its reimagined fashion show — and into communicating that it's not at all like its old fashion show. And, following weeks of promotion and a tepidly-received teaser event during New York Fashion Week, it finally premiered on Tuesday on Prime Video.
"Victoria's Secret: The Tour '23" opens with a sort of mission statement. "In 2021, Victoria's Secret began a journey," it reads. "The goal was to give a new generation of creatives from around the world the opportunity to tell their stories and see their creations brought to life on the world stage. The platform? The VS show. This film is theirs."
The first person we see (or hear, rather) is Gigi Hadid, playing the role of runway producer, calling the time to show — before actually appearing on screen and introducing herself as the new "voice" of the show. With her signature charm, the model sets the tone and stage for what we're about the see, which will be very different from what one expects from a typical Victoria's Secret production. (There's self-awareness! And cursing!)
Hadid then outlines the run of show: Victoria's Secret went to four cities, to spotlight five artists based in each one; one is a fashion designer, another is a filmmaker who captures it all. Each of these acts is a sort of documentary, spotlighting the lives and work of these creatives, as well as a taste of the culture of where they're based and its environs (for example, the Lagos portion also takes us to Benin and Kenya). It also follows them as they create a handful of looks for The Tour, which are then revealed in segments that are a bit more conceptual, closer to traditional fashion films or album visuals.
In Lagos, there's Bubu Ogisi, Korty, Ashley Okoli, Eloghosa Osunde and Wavy the Creator; in Bogotá, there's Goyo, Cristina Sánchez Salamanca, Melissa Valdes Duque, Piscis Canizales and Lorena Torres; in London, Phoebe Collings-James, Ebun Sodipo, Margot Bowman, Supriya Lele and Michaela Stark; and in Tokyo, there's Kom_I, Kaito Itsuki, Jen Fang, Aoi Yamada and Umi Ishihara.
The pieces created by these artists for The Tour won't be produced or made available for purchase (at least, not yet). Though the old Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was all about ostentatious themed (occasionally offensive or culturally appropriative) costumes, there would usually be a product tie-in — a "Bombshell" bra worn by the models backstage or underneath their runway looks, or a robe inspired by the ones the Angels would pose in as they got their hair and makeup done. And there's still a commercial element in The Tour: Through the partnership with Amazon, the brand has a shop viewers can access directly from the film with lingerie and apparel inspired by the custom looks created for the event — an Icon Push-Up Corset Top and VS Archives Monogram Bra Top similar to Paloma Elsesser's, a VS Archives Monogram Corset Dress similar to Adriana Lima's, a VS Archives Burnout Satin Corset Set similar to Lily Aldridge's.
The run time is just over an hour and 35 minutes. Individually, these clips are beautiful, artful and captivating — but taken altogether, they feel disjointed, even within the city-specific acts. Hadid's narration from a mansion in Barcelona threads the segments together, in theory, but it still feels less like watching a film with a specific purpose or point-of-view and a bit like watching a series of videos suggested by an algorithm on autoplay (with a performance by Doja Cat in the middle).
In addition to meeting an international set of creatives, The Tour differentiates itself from the old Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in its casting: It's obviously way more diverse (in terms of size, race, gender expression) than its predecessor, but it also expands its reach beyond professional models — so, you see fan-favorite celebrities like Ziwe and Honey Dijon appear alongside Naomi Campbell and Adut Akech. The brand does, however, bring back Victoria's Secret Angels from the show's heyday, like Lima, Aldridge and Candice Swanepoel, plus models that have been central to its rebrand, such as Elsesser and Akech.
The Tour speaks openly about queerness, bodily autonomy, protest, what it means to be a woman and other topics that would normally not even be implied, let alone outright acknowledged, in what's ostensibly a feature-length commercial for a massive retail company. (It's especially notable here, given how Victoria's Secret famously media-trained its models to stick to a handful of sanitized talking points.) And through this endeavor, a group of international artists were able to create something truly stunning on Victoria's Secret's dime. The intention here is noble, without a doubt — however, the sentiment in the back of my head while watching was: Did this have to be a film?
We know it's possible to make a successful, cohesive runway film (see: The Tour '23's Prime Video mate, the Savage x Fenty show). But, as many have pointed out already, Victoria's Secret might have more work to do on articulating what it's point-of-view is in this new era, and how that translates into a big marketing moment like its fashion show. I'm grateful to come out of it knowing a few people I wasn't familiar with prior. (Goyo went straight on my Spotify playlist, for one.)
Ultimately, The Tour '23 does succeed in its goal of making it about other people: It's a huge milestone for these creatives. (There are very few scenarios in which a 23-year-old Colombian fashion designer might find herself showing Lima around her studio. And that's a net-positive!) But does it make people want to shop at Victoria's Secret? We'll have to wait and see about that.
"Victoria's Secret: The Tour '23" is now available to stream on Prime Video.
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