VS, We Bid You Farewell: A Messy Runway Exit by the Biggest Lingerie Mogul

Victoria’s Secret’s annual tradition of hosting the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has been officially put to rest. This once-popular broadcast had been welcomed to center-stage for over two decades and has been successful - until now. Despite controversial opinions from both audiences and media outlets, Victoria’s Secret has always used their fashion show as a platform to rise above other competing brands, and it’s always worked. So, what changed?

There’s absolutely no chance you’re unfamiliar with Victoria’s Secret. Operating more than 1,1000 chains in the U.S. and over 50 locations in Canada, this specialty lingerie franchise certainly cannot go unnoticed to the eye. Their signature candy-pink robes cover garment racks all throughout the modern store interior. The fruity-floral smell lingers into the fuchsia dressing rooms, and amid it all, gorgeous girls line the walls in picture frames and in the store front windows, sporting lacey ordeals and the signature pouty face.  

With all the glitz and glamour Victoria’s Secret has to offer, many are speculating as to why a mega successful business would cancel the one fashion show that envelops the month of November every year. 

The truth is, Victoria’s Secret isn’t actually doing as well as you might think. The once-hot brand’s fashion show has fallen out of step over the years. In December 2018, although the glamourous show had special guest performances by Shawn Mendes and Bebe Rexha, the show still only brought in 3.3 million viewers, down from previous years of 6.7 million (2016) and 9.7 million (2013.) Considering the first show in 2001 had an audience of 12 million, this is dismal and almost pathetic. 

L Brands, the parent company of both Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, has decided that amid the beautiful garments worn by their dauntless models, they’d rather take the time to “evolve the marketing” of their brand. Their reason for it, they found that the fashion show never had a large impact on their sales. People would watch without shopping afterwards, which became a large problem because more money was going into the show than was being made from it. 

Although a juggernaut of the early 2000s, the brand typically carried out the belief of catering to girls with one very specific body type. The hyper sexualized brand only created glossy ads with their ideas of “it” girls; a girl wearing a size 0-2 and about the height of 5 '7 or taller, fit the cliché idea of a “Victoria’s Secret Model” while no one else did. Even though this image was not necessarily the right approach for the brand, upon digesting ideas on their modeled stereotypes, it seems obvious that Victoria’s Secret’s failure to represent women of all colours, ages, and sizes would negatively impact their ratings and harshen criticisms. Still, there are more problems surrounding the company than just their exclusivity of model selection. 

What does this mean for other competitors? Due to the fashion show’s low viewership, other businesses are using Victoria’s Secret’s decline to their advantage. Major competitors of the lingerie industry have begun to change the game. American Eagle’s Aerie division has bravely risen to the top by strategically including models of all shapes and sizes in their advertising campaign, which will increase their sales and keep customers happy. 

While Victoria’s Secret takes its time to carefully reconstruct its marketing strategies, it also needs time to survive the rumours and controversies that surround the brand. Their biggest mishap occurred last year when Ed Razek, the brands’ chief marketing officer and executive vice-president of public relations, told Vogue “transsexuals” shouldn’t be allowed to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show because “the show is a fantasy.” This insensitive comment by Razek caused an uproar, as he remained firm on sticking to the notion of selling physically “fit” women, ending with a controversial statement, “We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.” 

As public opinion is often controlled by the media, obviously people were offended by Razek’s comment. Fast forward one year and Razek’s dreams had been shattered, along with the chances of another Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Upon the cancellation of the fashion show however, women with confidence issues are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. The complaints surrounding the lack of diversity and inclusion of the brand are growing louder by the second, which should be the real motivation for the brand’s sudden “reshaping.” 

In an article by CNBC, L-Brands CEO Les Wexner said the company agreed the fashion show was no longer “the right fit” for television, and is considering replacing it with “a new kind of event.” Wexner includes no more details in his statement. 

So who knows, this could possibly be the brand’s smartest move, given that the fashion industry is constantly evolving and changing. The cancellation of the fashion show could in turn bring a positive light to the company’s murky history, saving Victoria’s Secret from a complete fashion disaster.