Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show attracts billions of viewers across the globe every year. Undoubtedly, this makes the brand one of the world’s leading influencers in women’s fashion, especially lingerie.
This being so, you would assume that Victoria’s Secret would be leading the way in the body diversity revolution. However, this is not the case. Despite consumers showing an increasing demand for brands to represent diversity in race, age and size across their catwalks, Victoria’s Secret models continue to represent the idealized female body, and not the real thing.
Vogue Magazine’s Nicole Phelps sat down with Ed Razek and Monica Mitro, the chief architects of the Victoria’s Secret 2018 fashion show. They discussed the brands evolution and their stance on the brands global message. The interview gave a shocking insight into the willfully blind and irresponsible attitude of two of the company’s most esteemed figures. The article covered topics such as plus-size inclusion in the industry and the backstage atmosphere at shows in relation to the #MeToo campaign. Here are some of our thoughts on the interview.
The article begins with an overwhelmingly negative outlook on the Victoria’s Secret brand, with Phelps stating “as a social media–savvy generation” we expect to see ourselves “reflected in advertising and marketing; and, not least of all, a shift in the lingerie business itself. Maybe you’ve heard of Rihanna’s little project, Savage x Fenty?” This sets the tone for the rest of the article. When Rihanna launched her Savage x Fenty brand, she proved that any woman of any size, race and age can feel body confident in lingerie. The world watched as a truly diverse range of women walked the catwalk, reshaping the idea of what it is to ‘look good.’ However, in response to Rihanna’s show, Razek had this to say: “Everybody keeps talking about Rihanna’s show. If we had done Rihanna’s show, we would be accused of pandering without question… And all of these things that they’ve ‘invented,’ we have done and continue to do.” The blatant difference between the two shows being that Victoria’s Secret models are by no means plus size or diverse. Razek goes on to say: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” On the contrary, the success of Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show proves that the world is interested. We’re very interested.
As the article continues, the way both Razek and Mitro masterfully skirt around issues and avoid answering questions becomes tiresome and reveals a lot about how the company view their customers (in other words, they are happy to deceive them). In response to claims that Adrianna Lima (one of Victoria’s Secret’s longest serving ‘angels’) does not drink fluids up to a week before the show to achieve her athletic physique, Mitro gave the following response.
“This is her 18th year. She is 37 years old. She is so driven. And talk about age diversity. There aren’t a lot of brands that continue to use models past a certain age. But she’s an athlete; she boxes. That’s her routine, so if she’s with some nutritionist who says, “Try this, try that,” we don’t know.”
This calculated response implies Victoria’s Secret are not understanding the bigger picture. Their show has a direct effect on how both men and women view the female body and how ‘normal’ women, who aren’t VS models view their own bodies. There is nothing empowering about a scantily clad, skeletally thin woman blowing kisses as she walks down a runway. Rather, that image is something ‘normal’ women will never achieve.
In addition, in response to Victoria’s Secret 2018 show, Vanessa Freidman for The New York Times had this to say: “to think that presenting women as presents to be unwrapped does not shape social expectations is to fool yourself.” Freidman suggests it is expected that this type of sexualized voyeurism is detrimental to the female image, and the orchestrators of the Victoria’s secret brand know it, yet they refuse to take responsibility. Instead, as Razek declares in his interview with Vogue “the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world.” It is no wonder then, when a global brand is intent on creating a “fantasy” world for its consumers that completely unrealistic expectations of the female body are created.
Vogue’s article proves to us that Victoria’s Secret is a brand completely out of touch with what modern consumers want. When a brand is “really proud” of allowing their models to “wear their natural hair” on the runway, it shows the extent of the modifications that Victoria’s Secret impose upon their own models. It is unsurprising then, given the brand’s unrealistic expectations on the female image, that Victoria’s Secret continue to perpetuate “an idea of sexy rooted in the pinup era, when women and their bodies were defined by the eye and imagination of a male beholder” but, crucially as Freidman claims “that era is on its way to extinction.” It would appear however, that Victoria’s Secret’s indifferent attitude to what their consumers want is coming at a cost. With their market share and sales figures falling over recent years, how long will their age of ignorance continue?
Freidman, V (2018) ‘Victoria’s Secret Is Trying to Change With the Times. Or Is It?’ The New York Times (New York Edition), 9 November. Accessed at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/fashion/victorias-secret-liberation-in-corsets-and-spike-heels.html
Phelps, N (2018) ‘“We’re Nobody’s Third Love, We’re Their First Love”—The Architects of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Are Still Banking on Bombshells,’ Vogue Magazine (Runway Edition), 8 November. Accessed at: https://www.vogue.com/article/victorias-secret-ed-razek-monica-mitro-interview
Text by Natalie Carter
Picture research by Anna Irina, featured image from Pinterest.