Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and Its Ladies of Shanghai

Wings, confetti, glamour, and shimmering spectacle: the countdown to Victoria Secret’s fashion show has officially begun! Our burning questions about who and where have been answered… now it’s time to sit back and wait for the lingerie and legs, and maybe take some time to consider why we’re so excited.

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With this year’s Victoria’s Secret spectacular taking place in Shanghai, exotic images of smoky Zen dens and peaceful paradise gardens spring to mind. Indeed there seems to be some wonderful gravitational orbit working towards that region of the globe, pulling the fashion industry further into its sphere and spinning it around. The growing globalization and multiculturalism within the industry is definitely something to be celebrated. But one can’t help but wonder if, at the root of it all, this fascination with – and overt attention to – diversity is really just a sensationalised exploration of the ‘Exotic Other’?

Looking at my own wardrobe, I’m not a fashionista but even I can recognise that there is some strong element working within the industry that inspires such decisions as who just gets to walk and who gets wings. Right now, the world is screaming for equality, diversity, and flavour, and what better way to deliver this than with a shining, sexy, sensational –and televised- fashion show?

The world of fashion –as the Carrie Bradshaws of the world may see it- is a fantasy realm where beautiful princes and princesses reign supreme. It’s a faraway place where gowns glitter, people walk confidently, and everything is as different to your own reality as it’s possible to be. This voyeuristic perspective is only heightened when you consider that every major fashion event is made accessible to you through television. It stands to reason then that this ‘fashion world’ is the perfect backdrop against which to showcase the things that would make reality a utopia: multiculturalism, diversity, and celebration of difference.

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Today equality and fair representation are the outfits that everyone’s clamoring for, and it makes complete sense for the show to be held somewhere that is glamorous, exotic, and represents a large minority in the field of ethnic diversity. In September all New York Fashion Week attention was devoted to the Asian-heritage designers like Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, and Alexander Wang, as well as the influx of multicultural models on the runway. Journal on Friday reporter Ray A. Smith reported,

“while it has been rare for designers to feature more than two Asian models in a show, several this year, including Michael Kors and Jason Wu, used three or more. Overall, at 10 major brand’s shows, there were 26 Asian models, eight more than those brands used in the previous New York Fashion Week in February.”

It makes sense for a show like Victoria’s Secret to continue on with the globalisation theme, and why not?  Glamour, fairness, and diversity: it’s everything that a fantasy world should have!

This year’s line-up of angels and models is exhibiting beauty in a cultural melting pot with a mixture of returning pros and fresh faces including Candice Swanepoel, Xiao Wen Ju, Herieth Paul, Maria Borges, Alanna Arrington, Mayowa Nicholas, Aiden Curtis, Estelle Chen, Alecia Morais, Amilna Estevao, Xin Xie, Shu Pei, and Ming Xi. A diverse parade of princesses if ever there was one!

Image credit: Vogue India

And having the show in Shanghai is doing more than just promoting diversity. On one hand it’s playing on peoples’ primal need for voyeurism: our love of being able to look behind the forbidden wall into a world that’s not our own. On the other it’s playing on our primal fascination of the ‘Other’. Let’s be honest, nothing about this is “bad”, but it is fascinating that such archaic tricks are still a cause for conversation.

Depicting what’s different as sensual or exotic is a trick that’s been around as early as the 1800s. Gothic writers in particular used it to describe cultures that weren’t English –thus uncivilized- to entertain, entice as well as caution readers. Thankfully cultural attitudes and understandings have progressed beyond those old literary agendas and now a lingerie parade held in Shanghai can be read as simply that and nothing more. However, just hearing ‘Shanghai’ does bring exotic images of Oriental-styled dens to mind and I can’t help but wonder if some of the excitement about this years’ show is due -in part- to this. If it is, then it’s fair to assume that a large chunk of fashion’s progression into diversity stems from some outdated, orientalist way of thinking. If not, then I’m clearly reading too much into this!

With spectacular portions of glitter, confetti and the colour pink, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show 2017 promises to be a shimmering, diverse, fairytale event that will no doubt have fans around the world squealing and swooning.