Victoria’s Secret Is Changing Its Tone

victoria secret

When Victoria’s Secret began in 1977, founder Ron Raymond wanted to buy lingerie as a gift for his wife but was disappointed by the department store options. He saw racks of terry cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns that he thought were unattractive and stereotypical of women’s clothing. So he decided to open his own store that offered “sensual, evocative lingerie for the sexy woman.”

The company started with five stores and a 40-page catalog. Within a few years, it was a multimillion-dollar operation that Les Wexner bought in 1982. Wexner and his chief marketing officer Ed Razek set out to create a brand that was as much a fantasy of feminine beauty as it was a retailer. Victoria’s Secret became the go-to destination for all of a woman’s needs: lingerie, sleepwear, beauty, athletic apparel, shoes and swimwear, plus its teeny-bopper sister line PINK.

For decades, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was a pop-culture phenomenon, attracting millions of viewers and cementing the brand in America’s mind. But with the rise of the #MeToo movement and increased scrutiny over how companies portray women, the brand was forced to rethink its image. In 2019, the annual fashion show ended, and the company announced a complete rebranding including expanding into sizes that were historically ignored and ditching the Angels in favor of a more inclusive group of real women.

The new campaign, led by Martin Waters, chief executive of parent company L Brands, has been met with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. But some retail analysts are optimistic that the company is making headway in retooling its image. They point to the introduction of new products and lines, such as a mastectomy bra and stretchy sports bras, and the expansion of the store’s collection of size-inclusive lingerie, as signs that the company is changing its tone.

Victoria’s Secret is still facing competition from up-and-coming lingerie start-ups like ThirdLove and Lively, as well as American Eagle’s Aerie division. But the retailer is working to stay relevant by becoming more inclusive, according to Jane Hali & Associates analyst Jessica Ramirez. She says she’s noticed the company’s selection of merchandise in stores and online is more diverse, and that its models appear less retouched in images.

Until recently, a 40%-off sale sign was a common sight at Victoria’s Secret stores, and the company regularly offered flash sales on its famous Angel bras and panties. But after the #MeToo movement emboldened many women to be more vocal about body positivity and demand for more realistic portrayals of women, Victoria’s Secret has been struggling.

In a bid to win back shoppers, the company has introduced new campaigns and collections featuring plus-size models and is expanding its offerings beyond its signature bras, including adding size-inclusive lingerie startup Adore Me to its portfolio last year. It’s also begun highlighting full-figured lingerie models in ads and on its website, as well as refreshing its stores with blush pink walls.