Victoria’s Secret, the iconic lingerie brand, has been known for over two decades for its seductively tantalizing annual fashion show extravaganza, riding high on a concept of allure molded by a male perspective. The annual spectacle was prominently marked by supermodels like Naomi Campbell strutting down the runway, donning sparkling Swarovski-crystal wings, risqué thongs, and million-dollar fantasy bras.
However, following a four-year break, the famed brand made a striking comeback on Wednesday evening, implementing a sweeping transformation of its traditional fashion event. The revamp constituted a dual feature: a fashion show and a sneak-peek into a documentary-style film spotlighting 20 internationally renowned creatives, which paid homage to a diverse range of body shapes.
Prominent models like Winnie Harlow, who lives with a skin condition known as vitiligo, graced the event, presenting the fresh designs. The renewed show also utilized headless mannequins, representing various body types, to display the creators’ ensemble.
The much-awaited Victoria’s Secret World Tour, scheduled for a global broadcast on Amazon Prime Video on September 26th, signifies the company’s most significant marketing venture in the past half-decade. The move is aimed at modernizing the brand’s previously hypersexualized image, which rendered it inconsequential for many women, consequently leading to multiple years of sales slump.
As part of its rejuvenation efforts, the marketing approach of Victoria’s Secret has undergone massive alteration, now prominently featuring fuller-figure women in advertisements and store mannequins. The product range has expanded to incorporate mastectomy bras and comfortable sports bras. The stores have undergone a refreshing makeover, featuring vibrant lights and soft pink walls. The brand has bid farewell to its famed supermodel “Angels”, replacing them with an eclectic group of ten women from diverse backgrounds, who have been providing valuable inputs to the brand and promoting it across social media platforms.
For Brazil-born supermodel Adriana Lima, a long-standing Victoria’s Secret Angel, her motivation to be a part of this transformation comes from a personal space. With her daughters nurturing aspirations of modeling, she appreciates the evolving representation and celebration of women in unique stages by Victoria’s Secret and other brands.
The lingerie giant, however, still has significant challenges to overcome. Despite holding the position of the largest lingerie brand by sales in the U.S, its market share has decreased considerably from 31.2% in 2017 to 18.7% in 2020. This decline was furthered by emerging competitors like American Eagle’s Aerie and various online startups that advocated inclusivity from their inception, offering more comfort.
Last year, in an attempt to boost its market presence, the Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based company acquired online competitor, Adore Me, for $400 million in cash. Disappointingly, Victoria’s Secret continued to experience a drop in sales for the quarter ended July 29, with the forecast suggesting a continued plunge for the rest of the year.
The brand’s CEO, Martin Waters, expressed to analysts that the company’s revival was a progressive journey which would require time. He acknowledged that the ongoing brand revolution and implemented strategies would not yield immediate results, nevertheless, he expressed confidence in navigating through current uncertainties and envisages clear opportunities for growth in the future.
Long before its infamous downfall, Victoria’s Secret enjoyed an unprecedented run of success. It was conceived in the late 70s by Roy Larson Raymond, who was uncomfortable purchasing lingerie for his wife. The brand was later taken over by Lex Wexner, founder of Limited Stores Inc., renamed as L Brands in 2013. From the mid-90s, Victoria’s Secret spectacularly dominated runways and digital spaces with its supermodel squad.
Its fortunes began to change for the worse in 2017, with the advent of the #MeToo movement, as women started seeking brands which positively celebrated their bodies. This inevitably resulted in a decline in the long-standing popularity of Victoria’s Secret’s hypersexualized image, leading to a plummet in its sales figures. The brand’s marketing chief, Edward Razek, resigned the subsequent year, followed by the company announcing a reevaluation of its fashion show.
In 2021, Victoria’s Secret formally split from L Brands, becoming an independent public company. While the company continues its uphill battle to reclaim its former glory, it now faces the challenge of simultaneously upholding newer values of inclusive body positivity, without losing its uniqueness in the saturated lingerie market.
The fashion event offered a teaser of the Victoria’s Secret new film, featuring both the creators’ looks and a couture collection designed by the company’s team. The platform provided Victoria’s Secret with the chance to re-establish its cultural relevance, not only in fashion but also in art, music, and popular culture. The event culminated with the brand’s core mission: a commitment to uplift and celebrate women on a global scale.