Victoria’s Secret has been under fire over the past week since an interview with Vogue was released in which CMO Ed Razek made inflammatory comments about casting plus-size and transgender models for the VS Fashion Show. Among the shocking statements he shared was a direct jab at ThirdLove, a brand that is committed to providing bras and underwear for every body.
“I was completely appalled reading Ed Razek’s comments,” Heidi Zak, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of ThirdLove, exclusively told Teen Vogue. “What kind of leader and what kind of man would say such discriminatory things? It was obvious how out of touch with reality he is — women are rejecting brands that are built on the exclusivity he was touting.”
When asked about the shifting needs and desires of Victoria’s Secret’s customers, Razek told Vogue, “We’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.” It was a pointed jab at ThirdLove, and Heidi believes it's a retaliation to their petition to boycott this year's Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
In October, ThirdLove partnered with plus-size model and advocate Robyn Lawley to create a petition urging viewers to boycott the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. They also launched the #WeAreAllAngels campaign, offering to donate one bra for each picture posted using the hashtag to the non-profit agency I Support The Girls, an org that provides homeless women with bras around the country. That petition and the corresponding campaign clearly caught the attention of Ed Razek and his team, who seemed to fixate on ThirdLove throughout the interview.
“It shows that...we’ve gotten under their skin," Heidi told Teen Vogue. "It says that we’re a growing contender and they’re worried about us. We wanted to impact change; We wanted them to see that other people and women care about the diversity in the fashion show and what that fashion show looks like. We are witnessing first-hand how women have collectively embraced brands that stand for something, that try to make the world a better place and that focus on inclusivity instead of exclusivity.”
The comments made by Ed Razek can simply not be ignored. As a leader at one of the most well-known lingerie brands in the world, it's alarming that he would use his platform and influence to insult marginalized communities. But the bigotry expressed in his words falls right in line with Victoria's Secret's brand ethos: their exclusionary business practices have alienated consumers for decades. VS is invested in sending the message that plus, transgender, and gender nonconforming shoppers aren't worthy enough to be reflected on their runway.
In response to Ed's article, Heidi took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with an open letter addressed to Victoria's Secret. Among many highlights, Heidi included this powerful call-to-action: "It's time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide."
Heidi envisions a future for her daughter where women set the standard for what's beautiful and attractive, not men. "As I read the Vogue article, I couldn't help but think of my 5-year-old daughter: How would she react to this statement five years from now? How disappointed would she be by a Victoria's Secret Fashion Show? Probably even more so than we are now,” Heidi said.
Going forward, Heidi is excited for ThirdLove to grow as a market contender and to continue to offer women of all shapes and sizes options that give them the comfort and support they direly need.
“My hope is this year is the last one — that enough public pressure will be placed on VS to make some real and meaningful changes to their organization and to the messages they are sending to women everywhere. Now it just seems like we’ve gotten to a point where enough is enough. The world has changed, let’s evolve, let’s impact some change, and I think it’s just time to be a little more out there with that message.”
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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: 9 Size-Inclusive Lingerie Brands to Support Instead of Victoria's Secret