The Welcomed Demise of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

While the cancellation of the 2019 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show was only rumored earlier this fall, that rumor was just recently confirmed on November 21st by the Chief Financial Officer of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. But do you want to know what I think about the cancellation? IT’S. ABOUT. TIME. This show has done a harmfully effective job at casting a spotlight on one type of “perfect” body, while marketing products and principles that are simply too dated to draw in a demand for a return of this rhinestone-embellished runway. 

Victoria’s Secret as a business is — to put it gently — absolutely tanking, and the cancellation of this show is simply tangible evidence of the downfall of this once push-up powerhouse. While they remain the country’s leading lingerie retailer, their market share plummeted from 31.7% in 2017 to 24% in 2018, according to Coresight Research. This marked a substantial drop in sales and this decline sinks in tandem with the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show viewership. In 1999, the show aired online as 1.5 million viewers flocked to and ultimately crashed the website, marking one of the original “break the internet” occurrences. After that online fiasco, the show decided to move their catwalk to cable in 2001. When their 2001 show was televised, they racked in a whopping 12.4 million viewers, but that 12.4 dwindled to 9.2 in 2014, and that 9.2 sunk to a mere 3.3 in 2018, making it their least viewed and lowest-rated show to date. 

Declining sales and viewership that led to the show’s cancellation were also due to the fact that Victoria’s Secret has remained stylistically stagnant as they’ve continued to push up instead of pushing forward. Women are now opting for underwear that make them feel comfortable and naturally sexy, not relying on the frill and flounce of underwire ridden push-ups. In the meantime, brands such as Aerie, ThirdLove and LIVELY have gained popularity.

Critics have also condemned the company for having obsolete, oversexualized marketing that hasn’t aged well in the #MeToo era. After all, the store wasn’t made for women. Roy Raymond founded Victoria’s Secret in 1977 after feeling uncomfortable while out buying lingerie for his wife. He wanted to make the store a place where men would feel comfortable purchasing lingerie for their significant others and stated that it was a “women’s underwear shop targeted at men.” I mean, just look at their advertisements alone. Yes, I understand that in order to sell underwear you need to display images of people wearing the underwear you’re selling — but Victoria’s Secret has only put their underwear on one type of body for decades, as they have formulated an unattainable definition of “sexy” for women to compare themselves to and for men to desire. How empowering.

Personally, whenever I see a Victoria’s Secret advertisement — whether on TV or in print — I scoff and either change the channel or practice recycling. If they truly were marketing for me, I wouldn’t have this instinct. The image they perpetuate is not for women. If they wanted to advertise for women, they would represent all women both in print and on the catwalk. That is a concept that founder of Savage X Fenty and all-around icon, Rihanna, has honed in on with her Savage X Fenty Show that is now streaming on Amazon Prime. With “inclusivity” and “empowerment” as her pillars of performance, the Savage X Fenty Show is a celebration of women and all of the shapes and sizes. Instead of placing models on a pedestal to be admired, they are part of a spectacle that inspires. All I have to say to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show after viewing the Savage X Fenty Show is take notes.

While Victoria’s Secret states that they’re using this gap year to re-market, could this be the end of an Angel-winged era? Well, if it is, I’ll welcome it with open arms.