Victoria Secret Is Out of Touch With Today’s Culture

If you think about victoria secret, your mind may immediately conjure images of a slim supermodel like Tyra Banks or Gisele Bundchen clad in G-strings and stilettos, strutting down a runway wearing 60-pound angel wings. That’s the sexy image that Victoria’s Secret, which was founded in 1977, has pushed since 1982, when retail billionaire Leslie Wexner purchased it and turned it into a global brand and cultural phenomenon. It was a force that helped shape society’s view of female sexuality and beauty ideals. Its annual fashion show, which aired on network TV for two decades, was a spectacle that was a cross between a pole dance and a runway show. It was a spectacle that was wildly popular with men and that helped a brand that was already a mainstay in malls become a global force.

But over the years, it became increasingly clear that Victoria’s Secret was out of touch with a changing culture. The company’s macho ads were criticized as racist and offensive, its models were accused of objectifying women, and the raunchy show was criticized for a fetishized aesthetic. As the #MeToo movement gained traction, viewership of the fashion show and its sexy promotional campaigns declined. And in 2018, the company’s then-CEO Ed Razek sent the internet into a frenzy with comments about transgender and plus-size models.

Those setbacks prompted the company to overhaul its marketing strategy and embrace more inclusive imagery. It revamped its catalog to include lingerie for women of all shapes and sizes. Its stores started featuring more lingerie for older women and maternity bras, too. The company even launched a line of bras designed specifically for mastectomy patients.

But despite those efforts, the company’s sales have been declining for several years. Last year, it reported a 1 percent drop in revenue for the full year and its stock price has fallen nearly 50 percent over the past five years.

The company’s chief competitor is Frederick’s of Hollywood, a specialty lingerie and intimate apparel retailer, but there are many others that sell similar products. Any company that sells lingerie and other women’s apparel online or through a catalog is a potential competitor.

Intimate Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, has seen its shares rise and fall over the years, but its latest quarterly earnings report showed that it is regaining momentum. Shares were up about 2 percent in early trading on Wednesday. The company is continuing to work on its image, too. It has introduced more plus-size models to its roster, and it recently featured a Hungarian model named Barbara Palvin in one of its Instagram posts, which was widely celebrated for being body-positive. The company also tapped the rapper and activist Lila Moss as a new VS ambassador, a move that reflects its desire to reach a broader range of women. And it has replaced its Angels with a group of diverse women who will alternately advise the company, appear in advertisements and promote it on social media.