Why Does Victoria’s Secret Refuse to Change?
The opening statement in a Business of Fashion article this week was, “It seems no one wants to know Victoria’s Secret anymore.”
For almost two years, the famously “sexy” lingerie brand has endured plummeting sales, market share losses and declining store traffic – and yet from where I’m standing they’ve done almost nothing to appease this. That same BoF article concluded that it was “game over” for Victoria’s Secret. And so you have to wonder why the brand has flatly refused to expand their narrow representation of beauty ideals?
I don’t think it’s overstating to say that VS has remained stagnant over the years, while their customers have charged forward into a future of greater diversity. Just last year, BoF reported that millennials were less focused on the price of a garment and more focused on whether a company’s practices and mission align with their values. We are a generation that have a higher expectation of what a company should deliver. Period.
So then why are we presented with the same line-up of women at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show year after year? It’s not that I take issue with the company’s decision to exclusively employ size 6 supermodels, I just see it as a major fuck up from a business perspective. Inclusive lingerie brands like Lonely have enjoyed huge success by rejecting the usually sexualised nature of lingerie advertisements – which usually appeal more to men anyway – and instead focusing on real customers for their Lonely Girls Project and hiring models of varying sizes for their global campaigns. Likewise for Glossier’s Body Hero campaign in 2017 and athleisure brand Outdoor Voices who used it’s swimwear campaign to remind customers that every body is a swimsuit body. No matter shape, size, skin tone or disability.
I’m not saying Victoria’s Secret should sacrifice their love of health-orientated, hard-working, drama-free, undeniably beautiful women. I’m just suggesting that there are women bigger than a size 6 who meet the same criteria. Why doesn’t Ashley Graham make the cut? Or Paloma Elsesser? If they’re good enough for the cover of Vogue, why aren’t they good enough for you?
Maybe it’s because they’re brave.
Do you remember Amy Schumer’s Netflix special last year where she recounted her absolute horror in being called “brave” for posing nude for Annie Liebovitz? Schumer pointed out that being called “brave” for baring your body is literally a woman’s worst nightmare. You wouldn’t call Stella Maxwell or Romee Strijd brave, would you. It’s condescending to consider it a heroic act for someone with a fuller figure to position themselves in a way usually reserved for lingerie models.
But that’s the message that Victoria’s Secret is still peddling. And it feels increasingly out of sync with what I want from my underwear. Victoria is making the average woman feel brave.