This past week, Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article made headlines across the editorial board. So, what made it different? It was their real and honest opinion. No sugar coating anything. For example they explained why they use the models they have. In Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article, they even explained about why they don’t use transgenders, which received massive backlash. VS has issued an apology since.Vogue sat down with the chief architects of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show: chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek, and executive vice president of public relations at VS, Monica Mitro, to see what this year’s show was about. But some answers from Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article shocked us – or maybe they did the opposite – they didn’t shock us?
The article had tons of good interview questions. When the question about diversity was brought up. Here is what they had to say on Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article.
Razek: Because the brand has a specific image, has a point of view. It has a history. It’s hard to build a brand. It’s hard to build Vogue, Ralph Lauren, Apple, Starbucks. You have a brand position and you have a brand point of view. The girls who have earned their way into the show have worked for it. By the way, we’ve had three pregnant models walk the show. Everybody had the conversation about Savage [x Fenty] having the pregnant model in the show. We watch this, we’re amused by it, but we don’t milk it. And all of these things that they’ve “invented,” we have done and continue to do.
I don’t want to be defensive about it, but we don’t tell the story of the Victoria’s Secret brand or the good it does, but if you’d like to hear it, I’ll tell you. In 1987, I was working for one of our businesses, The Limited, when Verna Gibson was promoted to president of The Limited stores. And Time magazine came to Columbus to ask me what it would be like to work for a female boss. That was a legitimate question from a female reporter 30 years ago. Virtually all of the bosses here have been women, and have been for 30 years. Les Wexner has given more opportunities to women in business than any other fashion mogul I can think of, made more women millionaires and multimillionaires. He doesn’t see sex in job opportunity.
We’ve been instrumental in building a cancer hospital, a breast cancer hospital, a cancer research center, a children’s hospital, a center for science and industry, a national veterans’ hospital. We’ve donated more than 1 million hours of associates’ time, hundreds of millions of dollars to women’s causes. And we’ve never said if you buy a bra, we’ll give a dollar to a cause. We’ve never promoted it. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. Nonsense gets written about us; God bless, we understand, we’re a big target, a very big target. We get it, we’re enormously successful and have been for a very long time.
When it comes to marketing the brand, here is what they said.
Razek: I think we address the way the market is shifting on a constant basis. If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have. We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.
We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it. Still don’t. Our show is the only branded special in the world, seen in 190 countries, by 1 billion 6 million people; 45 percent more people saw it last year than the year before. Our direct business is growing substantially—double digits on a monthly basis. And we made some merchandising mistakes, no question.
But the number one selling bra in the brand at the moment is a bra that will sell more as a single item than a small competitor that’s been trying to make a lot of noise lately [sells from its complete range]. The dominant characteristic of that bra is that it says Victoria’s Secret multiple times. Now tell me how it’s possible that that bra would be the number one most popular bra in the marketplace if people didn’t like the brand? Particularly if young people didn’t like the brand?
While the article is much longer and goes into more points, these were some of the answers us and clearly, Vogue had questions about. Our editors got together to speak about the article and their POV. Here’s what each had to say on Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article.
Editor number 1:
Problematic or not, I do believe Victoria’s Secret is just one of those brands that are ingrained in our culture. They found a way to maintain a strong presence. Reading their POV, I can applaud them for staying true to the brand’s DNA and holding their own beliefs about the models they represent and the causes they care about.
Being a girl who was also super skinny all of my life, I can say that skinny shaming definitely is something I’ve always experienced, just like what their models go through every year. I’m happy Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article touched on that. I know, that might be eye-roll worthy to some, but body-shaming could make anyone feel insecure whether plus-size or skinny.
If these models are happy to train, prepare and do this show, I don’t think they should have to feel bad for that. I think its a catch-22. VS fashion shows may breed insecurity, but so can all the insta-models with their snatched waists and curvy hips. Having a big butt is the thing again now. Who’s to say these models don’t feel intimidated by that?
I feel VS has always had a sprinkle of racial diversity in their marketing, but not enough to reflect our society, especially today. I’m glad they are opening up the door for more women in that space. However, we live in ‘cancel culture’ and people have zero tolerance for exclusion for ethnicity, ages, body type, and gender. By all means, be a brand with an open mind but I don’t think all brands should go out of their way to be everything to everyone and check every box–it would come across as unauthentic at that point. There will always be something someone doesn’t like, but there is something out there for everyone that makes them feel beautiful and confident.
I have a hard time with Victoria’s Secret. Always have, always will. I think their brand positioning is one of the best; you see a girl wearing wings, you immediately associate that with VS. As far as their models, the infamous fashion show, the over-the-top lingerie, it all sort of bothers me. Why? Well, I think they pride themselves on having these super fit, skinny women strut down the runway half naked. I think it sends the wrong message to other girls out there who are glued to the TV and Instagram seeing these VS angels and comparing themselves to that.
I think it would be great for VS to include plus-size models in their campaigns, especially the fashion show. It’s more realistic and inclusive. I do applaud them for being more globally diverse this year but it shouldn’t stop there. We are women. We are beautiful at any age, size, color, but why do I feel like Victoria’s Secret doesn’t agree with that?
I’ll be the first to admit I love the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and always have. This show began when supermodels became the thing, and TBH, I kind of love that they still carry some of that with their angels. When it comes to lingerie, I love the looks down the runway. Lingerie to me isn’t something skimpy that shows off our assets, it’s something that empowers us. If I have a bad day, I go home and put some lingerie on and chill and drink wine. Don’t ask me why, it just makes me feel better.
However, I was shocked by the interview in Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article, when they mentioned they stick with one market. Yes, it makes sense. But I don’t think anyone is going to stop wearing Victoria’s Secret because they see a different size or color model than they typically use. IMO, more girls who see themselves would start wearing it if the hadn’t! This simply has to do with setting an example. As far as people who bash the models, I never have understood that. Saying she is too skinny, is the same as saying she is too fat. I think instead of saying, “she’s so thin, it’s not attractive,” we should be asking, “Where are the girls that look like me?” Vogue’s Victoria’s Secret article answered a lot of questions I had. But, it also caused me to create some more.