Victoria Secret, a specialty retailer of intimate apparel and accessories, is one of the most successful brands in the world. Founded in 1977 by entrepreneur Roy Raymond, the company has grown to over 1,350 stores worldwide and net sales of over $2 billion in 2018. With a staff of more than 30,000 employees, the brand is committed to inspiring women around the world. The company’s mission is to create lifelong relationships.
Victoria’s Secret has been a target for criticism for years. For example, the company has been linked to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The company was also accused of using racist and oversexualized imagery in its advertising. Its advertising hasn’t kept up with changing norms in the fashion industry.
The brand’s Angels are supermodels who pose for its annual runway show. They have appeared in high-budget commercials directed by Michael Bay. They have been dressed in ever-tinier satin and lace. But critics criticized the show for being dated and outdated.
The company’s founder, Roy Raymond, was frustrated with the undergarments offered by department stores. He wanted to provide a place where women could buy lingerie that was both stylish and comfortable. He opened the first Victoria’s Secret store in San Francisco in 1977. Until the early 1990s, its stores were located in shopping malls. After the initial success, the company expanded into swimwear, shoes, body care and other fashion items.
But when Roy Raymond’s marriage became strained, he felt embarrassed about buying his wife lingerie in public. Then, in 1983, Les Wexner decided to revamp the company’s business model. He wanted to take the European upscale brand La Perla and sell it to the U.S. audience, creating a sexier, more glamorous style. But he was accused of demeaning women in interviews. The company’s chief marketing officer, meanwhile, was seen as a proxy for Wexner.
In the early 1990s, the company enlisted a few supermodels to appear in its ads. The models were told to pose naked in unpaid shots, and their photos were later compiled into a limited-edition book. The book sold for thousands of dollars.
Several current executives have said that they tried to steer the company away from its “porny” image. But the company continues to attract attention for its overly sexualized advertisements. Some parents have criticized the brand’s use of sequins, while shoppers have complained about the quality of its underwear.
The company has also been accused of sexualizing its younger demographic. Its teen market was the source of some of the most intense scrutiny. Its PINK line, which was targeted at tween girls, was also struggling. A Jefferies analyst wrote that the brand was on the verge of collapse.
Victoria’s Secret has also been subject to accusations of sexual harassment. Several models have been fired or forced to quit. The company has hired a transgender model, but critics have argued that the sex-based campaign doesn’t reflect contemporary society. And its annual lingerie fashion show, once known as a showcase for the brand’s edgy aesthetic, has been criticized for being dated and outdated.