Update: 8/6/2019 at 8:15 AM- According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, controversial Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek has resigned. Razek was at the center of hotbed issues for the brand, namely, its decision to exclude plus and trans models from campaigns and the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Earlier this week, there was a reported shift in the brand strategy after it was discovered that VS had hired its first ever trans model, Valentina Sampaio for the Pink catalog.
Outside of an internal memo, at this time, there have been no official announcements about his departure or who will ultimately replace him.
In late May, lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret announced that the brand’s iconic fashion show would be “pulled from network television.” This week, show veteran Shanina Shaik may have all but confirmed the “change” would actually be its ultimate demise. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the 28-year-old model said, “Unfortunately Victoria’s Secret show won’t be happening this year.” She went on, “It’s something I’m not used to because every year around this time I’m training like an angel. But I’m sure in the future something will happen, which I’m pretty sure about. I’m sure they’re trying to work on branding and new ways to do the show because it’s the best show in the world.”
While many may reminisce about a time when supermodels like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum got their big breaks donning giant wings and lingerie on the televised runway, in recent years many things have changed. Sure, there are still dozens of beautiful, tall women hitting the catwalk in astronomically expensive bras, but both viewership and relevance have slowly declined. In 2018 the show had a viewing audience of just 3.27 million. Compare that to 12.4 million at its peak in 2001.
Outside of the changing landscape of television, the brand has run into its fair share of inclusivity issues. Not only have they been criticized over the years for not offering larger sizes, despite the market for it, last year their Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek made alarming comments about why. In an interview with Vogue, when asked about why he won’t include transgender models, Razek said, “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.”
The backlash to Razek’s comments was swift. Everyone from the show’s models like Kendall Jenner, and performers like Halsey, spoke out against them. The social media outrage was only a symptom of a larger decline which saw sales consistently dropping over the years.
Over the course of 20 years and despite all the signs, Victoria’s Secret consistently doubled down on their lack of inclusivity, telling plus size women to go to their former sister brand Lane Bryant, and telling transwomen they just weren’t part of the fantasy. What purpose did it serve? For starters, it added fuel to the fire of their major competitors like ThirdLove and smaller brands like Kala, practically handing them their messaging. It put the models who’s large and lucrative contracts are nothing to scoff at in a strange position where they have to both wear the brand and skirt criticism. And, more importantly, it encouraged customers—ones of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds—to look elsewhere for their undergarments.
While Victoria’s Secret has not confirmed if the show will or will not be airing in some capacity come holiday season, it’s going to mean a major change for the brand and the models who made careers off it. The question is now, will they make the changes that the vast majority of customers have been asking for and step away from their chauvinist view of what’s sexy, or will they continue down the same path, except this time with no flashy wings or fantasy bra in sight?