• Satvik Ramakrishna

Victoria's Not-So-Secret Angels

Every year, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show used to be broadcasted to millions of viewers worldwide for a glimpse of a flurry of models in name brand lingerie with famous pop stars belting their best songs. It was a visual representation of what used to be the top selling lingerie brand which comprised of over 60% of the market.

Wings, first introduced in 1998 and consistently featured each year after that was used to depict that the models in an almost divine nature. Adriana Lima was thought to be the most valuable angel with 22 pairs of wings. The shows also featured supermodels like Heidi Klum, Gisele and Tyra Banks. They also seemed to be heading towards a brighter future after introducing a subsidiary bath and body works brand, PINK, with fragrance and cosmetic lines as well.

However, it was not to be as things took a turn for the worse.

From a viewership of 9 million in 2010 and even hitting a record of 12.4 million the following year, viewership reached an all time low of 3.3 million in 2018. Its parent company, L Brands' stock dropped by 55%. This all began in 2019 when angel Shanina Sheikh announced the cancellation of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show that year and it has been ever since, leaving the entire industry shocked. It had received critical reviews in the past for its low video quality, outright commercialism and its indistuinguishability from an infomercial. After being referred to as a 'striptease through a keyhole', the Federal Communications Commission received several complaints but no serious action was taken, even though they were now required to adhere to a TV PG guideline of TV-14. Despite its timeslots and ratings, couple of affiliates like CBS chose not to air it despite previously referring to it as the "superbowl of fashion".

The ADA even organized letters of protests to its sponsors like AT&T, KFC, Netflix and Reebok. By 2019, they had 53 closed stores and it was evident that they had fallen in modern marketing.

Factors resulting in Victoria's downfall included:

1.The CEO of L Brands, Leslie Wexner's ties to Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender.

2.Out of touch, over-the-top marketing.

3.Rise of athleisure by brands like Nike and Under Armour.

4.Online rivals like Rihanna's SAVAGE X Fenty.

5.Decline of shopping malls.

Although Victoria's secret continues to rate poorly on the annual ethical fashion report with accusations of child labour and slavery, the chief cause of their downfall was induldgement of toxic masculinity and their misogynstic mindset. The show often seemed to he centered around the male gaze.

Widespread bullying and harrasment appeared to be commonplace as Leslie Wexner's deputy Ed Razek was accused of inapprpriate conduct as he tried to kiss models and asked them to sit on his lap. When Angel Andi Muise rebuffed his advances, she was not hired for any further shows. Mr.Wexner himself could be seen demeaning women.

There was severe criticism of their anachronistic marketing as Mr. Razek was completely against the hiring of plus size and transgendered models. He can be quoted saying, "Nobody goes to a plastic surgeon and says make me fat." Russel Jones, their prominent fashion photographer, clicked nude pictures of the models with their "consent" but this consent appeared to be coerced by him.

All in all, their lack of inclusion, homogeneous beauty ideals and spurning of trans models meant that their "spotless" reputation would be taking a hit. In 2021 though, they are trying to backtrack and make amends by signing their first trans model, Valentina Sampaio, biracial plus size model Paloma Elsesser, along with icons like Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

They're ditching the idea of 'Angels' to allow inclusivity for all women by paying homage to few of the world's leading female advocates. They're trying to create products not for growth, but just sufficient for survival and are hoping that will help regain their original status.

They are well aware of the secret to Victoria's prior success, but the chief question remains- will they be able to find it again?

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