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In 2019, Victoria's Secret pulled the plug on its annual fashion show, citing that a "decline in performance" forced parent company L Brands to put capital elsewhere. In 2020, the brand did as most brands did and laid low to ride out the pandemic. And now, in 2021, Victoria's Secret is rising from the ashes. It's ditched the iconic crew of Angels and will now pull focus to women who have become famous for their achievements rather than their bodies.
According to The New York Times, Victoria's Secret's new cast includes soccer star and gender equity advocate Megan Rapinoe, Brazilian trans model Valentina Sampaio, Chinese American freestyle skier Eileen Gu, South Sudanese refugee and model Adut Akech, biracial model and inclusivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, #Girlgaze creator and photographer Amanda de Cadenet, and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
The Times reports that this new class of Angels-now called the VS Collective-will help the brand redefine "sexy," with the newly appointed chief executive Martin Waters saying, "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."
Not only will the VS Collective appear in campaigns and promote the brand on social media, but they will also advise the brand on ads, promotions, and retail ventures.
However, the real question is: Is Victoria's Secret doing too little too late? Though "decline in performance" was the reason given for the shuttering of the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, in reality, people were turning away from the brand because of L Brands' chief marketing director Ed Razek, who stated in 2018 that curve and transgender models cannot be part of a brand that promotes a "fantasy." And in 2019, it was revealed that Victoria's Secret's owner, Leslie H. Wexner, had close ties to sex trafficker Jefferey Epstein.
In recent years, famous Victoria's Secret Angels like Karlie Kloss and Kate Upton have peeled off, stating a lack of feminist values and inclusivity as their reason for leaving. And other former Angels have come out about the misogynistic culture and bullying that took place behind the scenes at the brand.
The majority has seemingly decided that the lingerie world does not need Victoria's Secret. Rihanna's Savage X Fenty has successfully mastered the sexy lingerie Victoria's Secret was famous for but has done it better. And smaller brands like Cuup, Parade, ThirdLove, and more offer beautiful, comfortable garments in a wide array of sizes and are loved for using real, diverse bodies to market their products.
The brand could have simply died off, but Waters said now is the time for Victoria's Secret to start fresh, calling the Angels not "culturally relevant." And he's right. They haven't been for a very long time. Razek and Wexner are no longer involved, and several women are now in positions of power, including chief marketing officer Martha Pease, who headed the VS Collective rebrand.
As for their retail spaces, Victoria's Secret will now feature mannequins in several new shapes and sizes (not just a 32B, as was commonplace), and the brand will sell sportswear, maternity and mastectomy bras, and other pieces that aim to redefine what "sexy" looks like.
"As a gay woman, I think a lot about what we think is sexy, and we are afforded the ability to do that, because I don't have to wear the traditional sexy thing to be sexy and I don't think the traditional thing is sexy when it comes to my partner or people I've dated," Rapinoe told The Times. "Sometimes just cool is sexy, too."
Elsesser, who is campaigning for the brand to increase their size range up to 5XL, added, "With platforms like VS, where you enter the living rooms of all people, that's where you make radical change...I didn't start modeling to just do all the cool stuff; I did it to change the world."
Only time will tell if the VS Collective and total rebrand will cause customers to come back to Victoria's Secret. With so many other inclusive, sustainable, and affordable brands out there, Victoria's Secret now has serious competition in a market where they once reigned supreme.
However, we suppose any change a brand can make to promote diversity and inclusivity is a positive one. Better late than never, Victoria's Secret.