Once a titan of the lingerie industry, Victoria’s Secret is not the luxury, aspirational brand that it used to be. Now, weathering controversy after controversy, the underwear label is facing a very uncertain future.
Alongside a decreasing market share, a shifting brand image, and the closure of 53 stores this year, Victoria’s Secret seems unable to make it in the 2019 fashion world.
Here are 3 reasons why VS could soon be a thing of the past:
Marketing Boss Ed Razek Just Quit
In 2018, VS Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek faced heavy criticism from fashion industry insiders and the general public over transphobic comments made in an interview with Vogue magazine. Claiming that trans women could not portray the Victoria’s Secret “fantasy”, he also commented on plus-size models, claiming,
“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”
Social media users called for him to resign. The blunder also ignited debate about the place of Victoria’s Secret in the contemporary fashion world.
According to an internal L Brand memo, 71-year-old Razek will step down later this month, citing “backlash from consumers about the unit’s marketing strategy”.
The news arrives just days after the brand announced its first transgender model, Valentina Sampaio. She is already gaining fans online, proving Razek wrong that trans women cannot sell the “fantasy”, as he calls it.
Razek reportedly invented the “Victoria’s Secret Angel” concept, and pushed for the brand’s sexualised aesthetic.
Harper’s Bazaar described Ed Razek as:
“[a] controversial figure, who was largely responsible for the airbrushed, homogenised view of femininity associated with the lingerie label”.
Over 100 Models Have Petitioned VS Against Sexual Misconduct
A letter just released to Victoria’s Secret Chief Executive John Mehas implores the brand to pledge a commitment to protecting models from sexual misconduct.
The petition, organised by the Model Alliance, calls for the lingerie giant to join its RESPECT program. The non-profit program asks fashion companies to commit to acting against abuse in the industry.
The letter reads:
“We are writing today to express our concern for the safety and wellbeing of the models and young women who aspire to model for Victoria’s Secret. In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation.”
The Model Alliance points to the recent indictment of Jeffrey Epstein on sex charges, a close friend of L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner.
The New York Times reported that VS execs knew that Epstein was framing himself as a model recruiter for the brand in order to abuse vulnerable young women.
The brand owned Epstein’s New York Mansion and was his former financial client. It’s hard to image a worse association for the brand to have in 2019.
Sales Plummeted After #MeToo
Victoria’s Secret revenues had been consistently climbing since 2000. However, in 2017, sales fell to $7.4 billion from $8 billion the previous year. This is when the #MeToo movement was spreading, rocking the foundations of every industry.
Victoria’s Secret was originally created to appeal to men. In the years since, little has changed for the lingerie label. The brand’s hypersexualised aesthetic has long been denounced as backwards by critics. It has also been criticised for its lack of diversity. The brand famously relies on models who all share the same tall, thin, body type.
Post-#MeToo, VS branding is old-fashioned, conjuring up images of Donald Trump, a frequent guest at the shows, leering at scantily-clad models.
Supermodel Karlie Kloss famously left the brand last year, telling Vogue,
“I didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful.”
The 2018 Victoria’s Secret show drew its lowest TV ratings in the brand’s history. Just 3.3 million viewers tuned in across America, down from 4.98 million in 2017.
In another blow, for the first time since its 1995 launch, the runway event has reportedly been cancelled. With VS store closures happening worldwide, the prognosis is not good.
Last year, retail analyst Randal Konik stated that the brand has seen:
“Massive traffic declines, zero pricing power and market share losses mounting. It’s game over.”
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