Allegations of abuse and criticism of the propagated ideal of beauty plunge the lingerie label "Victoria's Secret" into an existential crisis. After four years, the in-house fashion show is now set to return. But there will probably be no more supermodels in angel wings.
The lingerie and underwear brand "Victoria's Secret" would like to return to the catwalk in 2023 with its own fashion show. After a four-year break, the label, which has been subject to severe criticism in recent years, wants to pursue a new approach. The brand is relying on "a new version of our fashion show", which will take place later this year, said CFO Tim Johnson, according to US media reports.
In the past, willowy and well-known models like Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen or Alessandra Ambrosio strutted down the catwalk in provocative lingerie, huge angel wings and high heels, but that will probably no longer be the case in the new version. A spokesman told the US magazine "People" in a statement that the company is committed to supporting women.
This is a new guiding principle that was introduced after repeated criticism. They want to open up new spaces and with the fashion show "regain one of our best marketing and entertainment features to date and turn it upside down to reflect who we are today". Exactly how this is supposed to happen is unclear. The brand intends to share more detailed information at a later date.
The "Victoria's Secret" show first took place in 1995. The highlight of the show from 2001 was the "Fantasy Bra", a jewel-studded bra that one of the models, also known as "Angels", wore on the catwalk. Klum had the honor about three times. For years, however, the label has been working on changing its image. The fashion show was canceled in 2019 after repeated allegations that the brand cemented harmful ideals of beauty and was not inclusive enough.
At that time there was talk of a "further development" and that one wanted to refine one's message. According to media reports, the TV ratings were no longer correct either. In the USA, only 3.27 million viewers tuned in - the worst value since the first TV broadcast in 2001.
In 2021, Victoria's Secret had replaced its angels with new figureheads. Instead of letting scantily clad top models stride down the catwalk, the "VS Collective" was intended to signal support for women's concerns. Among others, the US soccer player Megan Rapinoe, the freestyle skier Eileen Gu, the actress Priyanka Chopra as well as the model Paloma Elsesser and Valentina Sampaio, the first transgender model at Victoria's Secret, were engaged.
In 2018, Ed Razek, then Chief Marketing Officer at Victoria's Secret mother L Brands, spoke in an interview with "Vogue" that he had not been on Instagram for months because, among other things, he could not stand it like the people dealt with him and the models. He and the brand are thinking about diversity, Razek said, only to add, "It's like, why doesn't the show do that? Shouldn't you guys have trans people on the show? No. No, I don't think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy."
Razek later apologized that his comment seemed "insensitive". Of course, they are open to trans models, but they didn't survive the casting. He then resigned from his post in 2019. In early 2020, the New York Times wrote about a "culture of misogyny, tyranny and harassment" behind closed doors in an article entitled "Angels in Hell". In more than 30 interviews with models, employees and ex-employees, Razek's name was mentioned, for example, who tried to kiss models or even grabbed them in the crotch.
This was done with the knowledge of company boss Les Wexner, who approved of this behavior. "The abuse was ridiculed and dismissed as something normal. It was like brainwashing," a former PR officer at the company was quoted as saying. All those "who wanted to do something about it weren't just ignored. They were punished." Wexner is also said to have been friends with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.