Back in 2018, Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing officer, Edward Razek, made offensive comments regarding the company’s lack of representation in their infamous fashion show. Razek stated that transgender and plus-sized models did not cater to the “fantasy” the brand aimed to create. Since making these comments, many customers rightfully boycotted the brand. Sales plummeted and the annual fashion show was cancelled in 2019 after 23 shows.
However, in recent months, Victoria’s Secret’s Instagram page and website have upped their inclusivity game, using models who are plus-sized, Black and of colour, as well as older women to represent the brand. Additionally, in August 2020, the brand also hired its first trans model, Valentina Sampaio. Since making these improvements, sales have increased. While these changes are significant, they should be taken with a grain of salt.
At surface level, Victoria’s Secret seems to be remodelling (pun intended) to become a more inclusive and diverse brand. These changes, however, are the bare minimum and with a deeper look, reveal to be a tactic to rope customers back in.
We have to ask, why now? The brand had countless opportunities to display more diversity for years but actively chose not to. It wasn’t until the brand was in trouble that these rectifications were made.
While it is no small feat that Sampaio was hired by the brand, we must not overlook the fact that she is thin, white and considered to be a “passing” (appearing to be cis-gendered) trans woman. Why not hire more diverse trans models to give a stronger representation of the trans community? Additionally, the plus-sized models fail to represent the many other plus-size body types that go beyond soft but flat stomachs and curvy figures. That being said, these steps towards inclusivity seem like Victoria’s Secret is trying to keep up the “fantasy” they want their models to evoke while saving face, rather than truly making meaningful change.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, there are other lingerie brands with honourable ethoses that deserve your support far more than Victoria’s Secret.
- White Lily Intimates
This small Toronto business is owned and operated by a woman and has stunning pieces at affordable prices, all with a goal to make lingerie “an everyday addition to your outfit, not just placed on reserve for those special nights.” At White Lily Intimates, they understand that “what you wear underneath has the magic ability to give you confidence all day long.” Check out their Floral Collection and limited Valentine’s Day Collection, which will be sure to make jaws drop (especially your own).
- Stole My Heart
This Canadian brand’s goal is to “help people fall in love with themselves and take their [own] breath away.” They “believe in celebrating bodies rather than trying to change them,” something I think we can all get behind. They have a wide range of Valentine’s Day pieces, “some fun, some flirty, some racy, some casual — all comfy!” Unsure of your sizing or style? Amidst COVID-19 they hold virtual appointments as well as offer curbside pickup or free Canadian shipping on orders over $100.
- Love & Nudes
This Canadian owned business is run by a Black woman who works to cater towards other Black and women of colour. Her goal is to celebrate their skin colour, rather than hide it, the way many other brands do. As if it couldn’t get any better, Love & Nudes also works with women in Colombia who ensure sustainability by providing fair wages and working with factories that employ single mothers. Love & Nudes offers beautiful intimates that are perfect for both everyday wear and special occasions.
All in all, the difference between Victoria’s Secret’s brand in 2018 versus now is significant. A little change is better than none at all, but they must continueto be pushed to represent all bodies, not just the ones they deem worthy. Large corporations often care more about making money than making a difference, so be sure to invest in brands that have earned it. We all deserve to wear pieces made by people who believe that our bodies, no matter how they look, will be beautiful in them too.