The Victoria Secret Rebrand

A sexy, sultry and unapologetic look at the history of a brand that’s a cultural touchstone but that recently lost its way

When Victoria’s Secret first gained notoriety in the early 1990s, it was as a mall-based lingerie store with a fashion show that featured beautiful women dressed in tits and glitz. As the series explains, that model was meant to signal a sexually desirable lifestyle, from the sultry music to the luxurious bath and body products. The idea was to sell more lingerie, but also more than that. The company expanded into women’s sleep wear, beauty and sportswear; a line of perfume with names like “Victoria,” “Rapture” and “Encounter” sold well; and PINK was introduced for younger women.

As the decade wore on, Victoria’s Secret became a household name with more than 600 stores and a booming online presence, but the infamous lingerie-only model was still arguably the face of the brand. The VS shows were still held in malls, and the models were sexy and on the younger side – which helped to attract men to the brand.

But in a climate where sexiness could be defined in infinite ways, the VS brand started to look a bit dated and vanilla. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a rebrand began to take shape. The original Fashion Show would be jettisoned in favor of a more inclusive, gender-neutral model; the Angels were replaced with a new group called the VS Collective that includes actresses and entrepreneurs like Hailey Baldwin Bieber, Amelia Gray Hamlin, and Lila Moss; and the company expanded into fuller-size sizes as well as mastectomy and nursing bras, which it had previously shunned as straying too far from its male-driven definition of sexy.

In 2020, Wexner stepped down as CEO of parent company L Brands and sold his majority stake in the company. The rebrand is still underway, with the company’s current CEO and other executive women taking on a more prominent role in the business.

But even with all the efforts to make VS more inclusive, the brand is still struggling for relevance. Sierra Mariela, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, says she hasn’t stepped foot in a VS store in years because “the messaging doesn’t resonate with me.” She instead shops at Target and Depop, an online marketplace that specializes in reselling secondhand lingerie. And it seems she’s not alone: A new three-part Hulu documentary by Matt Tyrnauer titled “Angels and Demons” has shook up the world of Victoria’s Secret, and the brand may have to start all over again if it wants to keep its crown as an American retail icon.