It looks like this year we won’t be graced with models strutting down the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (VSFS) runway clad in some of the most impractical and ridiculous “lingerie” pieces. On Nov. 21, the retailer’s parent company L Brands announced that the 2019 VSFS would be canceled. This marks the first year without an hour-long special since 1995. L Brands’ decision was influenced by the desire to “evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret” in light of a “decline in performance,” as stated in L Brands’ earnings report.
Once one of the most famous pop-culture events, the VSFS is now reduced to falling into failure and disgrace after the network’s rating in 2018 were the lowest they had ever been. Taking time to focus on remarketing the Victoria’s Secret brand is a necessary course of action to ensure the company’s future success.
Victoria’s Secret is still the largest lingerie retailer in the market with over $13.1 billion in value and a 24 percent market share. However, the company saw a seven percent drop in sales last quarter compared to a two percent drop only a year before.
Victoria’s Secret’s shortcoming is its unwillingness to adapt to change. In an era of modernization where natural beauty is lauded, the company’s stubborn stance on racial and body diversity, or rather a lack of it, has become blatantly obvious.
Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek went under fire when he openly stated that he was opposed to including trans models “because the show is a fantasy.”
Though the company attempted to remedy its mistakes by hiring models who check off the diversity box, it was too little too late.
It wasn’t until this year that Barbara Palvin was named an Angel. In addition to being one of the few models to wear wings on the runway, becoming an Angel means that Palvin has additional contractual obligations such as attending photo shoots and making appearances for the brand. Palvin only weighs 120 pounds, yet she’s the farthest that Victoria’s Secret has strayed from its usual cast of slender, long-limbed models for the show. This was also the year that the first openly transgender woman was hired. Valentina Sampaio began to work for Victoria’s Secret’s athletic line VS Pink in August.
These are certainly strides that should be celebrated, but it’s concerning that attempts to become inclusive have only been made recently in response to public outcry and a decrease in sales.
Rather than change the company’s message and display a genuine intent to become more inclusive, every effort simply feels like another marketing ploy to prevent itself from falling into ruins.
Other retailers have also caught onto this and began capitalizing on Victoria’s Secret’s weaknesses. Lines such as Savage x Fenty and Aerie have created campaigns that solely focus on empowering women.
Rihanna’s lingerie line is relatively new in the market but is comparable to the VSFS in performance and material. Where Victoria’s Secret failed, Savage x Fenty has overwhelmingly succeeded. The show cast models who represented all types of races, gender identities and sizes, which addresses an issue in the beauty and fashion industry that has been long overdue. Additionally, while Victoria’s Secret mainly focuses on aesthetics, Savage x Fenty prioritizes comfort.
Aerie is another brand that addresses the complex nature of all body types. Its hashtag, #AerieREAL, promotes body positivity by leaving photos of its models virtually unmodified. Additionally, the brand features women of different races and backgrounds, body types, disabilities and other medical issues.
Another notable aspect that sets Victoria’s Secret apart from newer lingerie brands is that the majority of its overseers are men. ThirdLove and Savage X Fenty are companies started by women for women to provide better representation for all body types and backgrounds.
There’s no denying that Victoria’s Secret was initially ahead of its time. When it was founded in 1977, it filled a gap in the market that seldom few lingerie stores provided by bridging luxury and basic brands to create a middle ground. Its first fashion show was considered to be “the lingerie event of the century,” as Razek recalled. Yet decades later, the company is still desperately trying to hold onto its glory days.
It’s unfortunate to hear about the cancellation of the 2019 VSFS, as the event is undoubtedly a career-changing opportunity for many models and stylists, but there’s no denying that Victoria’s Secret needs to take time away to change its marketing strategies and company morals in some shape or form.
Until then, Victoria’s Secret is en route to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Forever 21 and Payless—once great powerhouses, but now reduced to nothing.