Four Chinese models —Liu Wen, Xi Mengyao, Sui He, and Ju Xiaowen — are set to walk in the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Wednesday. Considering the first Victoria’s Secret model of Asian descent did not walk in the retailer’s annual show until 2009, this is a huge step toward inclusivity and racial diversity for Victoria’s Secret.
The four models in this year’s lineup maintain a massive presence on social media and have worked with top designers worldwide. Victoria’s Secret recently posted an image on its Instagram channel of three of the women in Paris with the caption, “Ni hao! @liuwenlw,@mingxi11 & @hesui923 repping China at the #VSFashionShow.”
The shift to a more racially diverse roster of models for the popular show could be reflective of the company’s growing market in China.
Since expanding into the region in 2015, the retailer has gradually increased its presence and seen great success in doing so. Starting out with just 20 concept stores — shops that sold only beauty products and accessories — the company now plans to open its first flagship retail store in Shanghai this year, which will sell lingerie, along with a number of standalone stores. The move is ideal considering the lingerie market in China is extremely profitable and has more than doubled in five years, to $18 billion, according to Mintel Group.
Martin Waters, president of L Brands International, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, recently revealed just how strong the retailer’s presence is in China at an investors-day event. He shared that an estimated 350 million people in China will watch the upcoming Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, according to Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch.
“Maybe someday we’ll have the fashion show in Shanghai — maybe — because we’re a global brand,” Leslie H. Wexner, the L Brands founder, also shared. “We have demonstrated that we have the best brand-building ability in the world. People who can’t read English, when they see the Victoria’s Secret name, they smile.”
In past years, the lingerie company has received considerable flak for the lack of diversity on the runway in its highly anticipated show. Of the 44 women on the runway in last year’s show, only 13 were women of color, around 30 percent.
This year’s lineup is expected to be its most diverse show yet, with more than 50 women expected to walk. Only two of the 12 models who hold the highly acclaimed “Angel” status are women of color, but with the retailer’s trend toward diversity, it’s only a matter of time before an Asian model is also appointed.
Earlier this month, three of the company’s models, Alessandra Ambrosio, Josephine Skriver, and Sui He, headed to China for Alibaba Group’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in Shenzhen. Sending a veteran like Ambrosio to the event further exemplifies how the brand is aiming to grow in the country.
It’s estimated that China’s lingerie market will have retail value of $25 billion by next year and will grow to $33 billion by 2020, according to Euromonitor, so it’s likely that Victoria’s Secret’s investment will only help its business.