Victoria Secret is Rebranding in the Wake of #MeToo and #MeToo Calls

Victoria Secret is in the midst of an attempt to completely rebrand. The lingerie company is shedding its reputation as a personification of female sexiness and embracing a more inclusive vision of beauty. In doing so, it’s hoping to appeal to a generation of women who were raised with #MeToo activism and calls for greater representational inclusivity in terms of body size, race and ethnicity, and gender.

The first store opened in 1977 in San Francisco, but the Victoria’s Secret catalog was what really took off. Roy Raymond, the founder of the chain, aimed to create a fantasy world populated by dreamy, seductive models—what one writer called “the perfect woman.” The company’s internal branding videos portrayed the perfect “Victoria” as a genteel Englishwoman with a saucy continental side.

Over the years, the brand became more and more raunchy, showcasing supermodels in push-up bras and miniskirts with glistening wings and heels. In the 2000s, it branched out into the teen market, a strategy that led to racy ad campaigns that critics accused of sexualizing younger girls. In the aughts, VS became the most popular undergarment brand in the world and its annual fashion show was an iconic event. The show’s cast of era-defining bombshells, including Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bundchen, became household names.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and subsequent calls for more racial and ethnic diversity in advertising, newer lingerie companies with more inclusive practices began chipping away at Victoria’s Secret’s share of the market. Then, in 2016, same-store sales began to decline. The brand has since taken steps to address those concerns, bringing on more diverse models and announcing plans for a revamped fashion show that will include a movie.

A more recent ad campaign stars plus-size model Paloma Elsesser and American soccer player Megan Rapinoe. Those campaigns and the company’s hiring of more body-inclusive models like Barbara Palvin have been greeted with applause on social media. But it’s still unclear how the company will successfully transition from its raunchy, hedonistic image to the inclusive utopia that some of its competitors have already achieved.

The rebranding effort has also included the launch of a line of sleepwear and loungewear designed for everyday wear, as well as its new VS Collective, a group of women who will both advise and promote the company. The hope is that the refocus on diversity, and the reimagined fashion show—which will feature both a live event and a televised broadcast—will help Victoria’s Secret retain its status as the queen of lingerie. Whether the brand will be able to keep its sales up remains to be seen.