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The unstoppable decline of Victoria's Secret

The lingerie brand has announced that its annual show will not take place this year

The unstoppable decline of Victoria's Secret The lingerie brand has announced that its annual show will not take place this year

UPDATE 22.11.19: yesterday the VS executives officially announced that this year the annual Victoria's Secret show will not take place. Last May, due to the economic crisis and to the shift of image and perception of the brand, news broke that the show would have not to be broadcasted on TV. Now, yesterday's decision appears as the end of an era. It seems that there's no longer space for that beautiful, statuary but nonetheless unreal and stereotyped woman, an unreachable dream for both men and women, the result of endless training sessions and strict diets. Real women feel more represented in a diverse and eclectic show like the one put together by Rihanna's Fenty, and VS has never been more disconnected and distant from today's women.



The iconic annual Victoria's Secret fashion show will no longer be broadcasted on any television channel. The news has just been announced by Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands, to which the American underwear brand belongs:

Fashion is a business of change. We must evolve and change to grow. We have decided to re-think the traditional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Going forward we don’t believe network television is the right fit.

The decision makes perfect sense if we consider that the show held November 8, 2018, was broadcast on the Abc network only on December 2, when the social networks photos and videos from the event were circulating for weeks, obtaining an audience of 3.2 million viewers, half the audience of two years before. This result is a very distant figure from the 6.5 million viewers reached in 2016. This fall in the number of audiences is just an aspect of a wider and deeper crisis the company is going through. The brand has, in fact, announced the closure of 53 stores by 2019, with sales in 2018 amounting to 7.37 billion dollars, slightly down from the previous 7.38 billion, while the net profit of the parent company L Brands has decreased from almost 983 to 643.8 million dollars.

Victoria's Secret fashion show used to be one of the most anticipated events of the 2000s and for a model to become an angel like Gisele Bündchen or Tyra Banks was a dream come true, the goal of an entire career. And it's exactly in the characteristic aesthetic of the brand that lies its biggest problem: the lack of inclusiveness.

The wave of the #metoo movement expanded the idea of beauty and sexiness, opening a conversation on how the female body should be portrayed and shown. There is no longer a unique definition of beauty in line with the image of women with a thin but toned body established since the 80s. But not only: more and more women begin to feel not only excluded but also not interested in this stereotype conveyed by the lingerie brand and obtained by the same professional models with hard training and strict diets. And this new attitude has had a significant impact on the crisis of VS, especially if we consider that 70% of those who follow its show on TV are women. 

A few months ago the newest angels were announced, presented by the brand as an absolute innovation, symbol of that inclusiveness the brand would like to boast. The angels are Barbara Palvin, considered "curvier" compared to her colleagues (calling her "plus size", or not thin would be ridiculous), and Alexina Graham whose particularity is the red hair. This is further proof of how VS truly doesn't get it, the brand really can't understand this generation of women. 

Ed Razek, marketing director of the company, questioned about the lack of inclusiveness of the brand by Vogue America answered: 

We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t…We didn't want to include transgender models just to be politically correct.

He also added that this type of model is not suitable for a show that should embody a fantasy. Razek had to apologize after the backlash received for his statements, and during the following week Victoria's Secret CEO Jan Singer had to quit. 

What VS doesn't seem to understand is that the young generation is much less inclined than previous generations to conform and passively accept the predominant aesthetic models, often standardized and unrealistic. The brands that are really successful have understood this. It's the case of the Aerie line by American Eagle Outfitters, open to curvy sizes, while the most important example was definitely Rihanna and her inclusive Savage x Fenty show held last September with a cast that included both Bella Hadid, the face and body of Victoria's Secret as well, along with transgender, black, disabled, pregnant, queer, and size 56 women.

The only way for Victoria's Secret to go back to the old success is to completely revolutionize its whole concept of femininity, a quite complicated mission.