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Les Wexner was an evil genius in fashion branding

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.

When you think of the average fashion shopper, it’s most likely that you’re thinking about women. Les Wexner, the longtime owner of The Un-Limited, Express and later on Victoria’s Secret and PINK, was able to tailor his brand to market to women even though his intentions were for the male gaze.

If you haven’t already watched “Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons,” on Hulu, it should definitely be added to your watch list. In the documentary, Les Wexner’s retail journey is outlined clearly and expresses how he was able to be so successful for so long. Someone you should educate yourself on before trying to understand Les Wexner’s complicated involvement in the fashion industry is Jeffrey Epstein. The popular NYC financier and later-found sex offender actually took over Les Wexner’s finances completely in 1991, which practically took Wexner’s power away from his own money made from the company.

If you want a full timeline of Les Wexner’s retail journey, click this link. He practically made his living off of branding towards young women, and it worked. Extremely well.

First with The Un-Limited Store, then with Express, Bath & Body Works, Abercrombie & Fitch and later on his sole purpose and most successful endeavor in retail, Victoria’s Secret and PINK. Once Victoria’s Secret’s brand image grew, they were able to hold a fashion show with models who quickly grew attention for the purpose of being a Victoria’s Secret model, known as “angels”.

Once the Victoria’s Secret Angels got their wings, the brand exploded.

There was a reason for girls to shop from that specific brand, because their thoughts are driven to make themselves think they’re one step closer to being a Victoria’s Secret Angel. The unrealistic body image depicted by Victoria’s Secret and their models was harmful, but unfortunately successful.

So many influential men were in on the brand, investing in the fashion shows and secretly being the driving force behind the brand image’s success.

After about five or so years of Victoria’s Secret exponential growth, Les Wexner launched PINK, the brand spinoff directed towards even younger women who wanted lingerie and women-focused products as a teen. With Jeffrey Epstein in charge of Les Wexner’s financials, he was able to allegedly blackmail him for money and hold him against his actions made on his properties. While this is alleged, Les Wexner still to this day has refused to make comments on working with Epstein in his businesses.

After Jeffrey Epstein’s image quickly went viral and downhill based on his court trials in Florida and New York, Les Wexner’s image also went downhill. You know what this means, sales went down, too. Les Wexner stepped down from CEO and Victoria’s Secret is working to a size inclusive environment for women who differentiate from each other. Re-branding to a women supporting women focused company might be successful after years and years, but here in 2022, consumers are becoming a lot more intuitive to when something is a PR move and when something is genuine, or FOR the public. What do you think of VS-NOW?

Maggie is a senior at Hofstra University in New York. She is majoring in public relations and has minors in design and journalism. She loves to write, share her opinions with the world and is eager help build her experience in any way she can.