Founded in 1977, Victoria Secret is an American lingerie, clothing, and beauty retailer known for high-visibility marketing and branding. The company’s products are sold in over 1,600 physical stores worldwide and online. It is the largest lingerie retailer in the United States, and its annual fashion show features a selection of supermodels referred to as Angels. The brand is owned by L Brands, and its products are manufactured in numerous countries across the globe.
The three-part documentary series “Victoria Secret: Angels and Demons,” which debuted on Hulu this week, opens with a backstage scene from the lingerie giant’s annual fashion show. As a slew of photographers flash their cameras, the brand’s so-called Angels—who range in age from 22 to 29 and hail from all over the world—grin and pose. Their limbs stretch out in barely-there lingerie, and they’re covered in heavy makeup and six-inch heels.
Over the years, Victoria’s Secret has struggled to adapt to changing consumer tastes. Its hypersexual image and erotic fashion shows have been criticized for promoting unrealistic body images, and the company’s stock has suffered as a result. In 2018, chief marketing officer Ed Razek made a controversial statement saying that the company doesn’t cast transgender or plus-size models for its annual fashion show because it’s a fantasy, leading to a 40 percent stock drop in a single day. Razek resigned soon after.
Since then, the company has started to rework its image in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. It has added more diverse sizing to its bra line, which now includes sizes 30A to 44DDD, and is featuring more women of color in its campaigns. It has also begun remodeling its retail stores with fresher fixtures and lighter paint, as well as mannequins of all shapes and sizes.
Experts say the changes have been successful, and that the company’s new marketing has fewer sexual overtones than in the past. They also credit its efforts to be more inclusive with an uptick in sales. Still, it remains to be seen whether Victoria’s Secret can maintain its progress as it faces competition from up-and-coming lingerie brands like ThirdLove and Lively, as well as American Eagle’s Aerie division, which sells a variety of comfort-focused bras in a wide range of sizes.
While the brand’s image may have shifted, it remains one of the most prominent players in the lingerie industry. It’s not clear how much longer it can rely on its hypersexual image to draw in customers—particularly as rivals introduce new, more diverse models and compete for the attention of millennial shoppers. For now, the company is trying to balance its image with a focus on quality and affordability. Its newest collection, for example, is made in Italy with sustainable materials. The brand has also introduced a bra size calculator that helps consumers find the right fit. This is a big step in the right direction, and will hopefully help boost the brand’s popularity among younger consumers.