Victoria’s Secret Rebrands

The company that made its name selling sexy, pink undergarments is rebranding to make a comeback. In a presentation to investors, new CEO Martin Waters said the company will refocus its marketing strategy to let customers define what’s sexy. The lingerie brand—which once earned $7 billion per year—has struggled since its peak in 2016, and lost market share to body-positive brands like Aerie, ThirdLove, and Skims. The company also struggled to keep up with a shift from padded and push-up bras to bralettes and sports bras, and was forced to cut prices on its signature pieces in an effort to boost sales.

Victoria’s Secret was founded in 1977 by American businessman Roy Raymond, who opened the first store inside malls, a space where shoppers were encouraged to dress up and spend their money. The store was named after Queen Victoria and marketed itself as “a palace of pink dreams.” Raymond’s vision was to create a sensual undergarment line that would appeal to women, while still being appropriate for work and social occasions.

A few years later, when retail titan Leslie H. Wexner bought the company, he created the Fashion Show, an annual event that showcased the company’s sexy lingerie and a sexy cast of models, including then-supermodels Stephanie Seymour and Yasmeen Ghauri. The shows were a hit, and the company became known for its sexiness, glamour, and “fantasy.”

Despite this success, many consumers complained that Victoria’s Secret’s sexiness was shallow, exploitative, and reductive. In the era of #MeToo, where women were calling out sexual objectification of all kinds, and where people of all gender identities were demanding equality, it became clear that the company’s branding needed an overhaul.

The company ditched the “Angels” for a group of diverse supermodels called the VS Collective, which includes Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Paloma Elsesser. The company has also expanded its size range and reworked its products to include nursing bras and mastectomy bras, items the company once neglected because they didn’t fit the brand’s restrictive concept of beauty and desirability.

Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that the company’s new branding will be enough to overcome its legacy as a company that promoted an unattainable ideal of female beauty. It’s not enough to change a culture that’s taught children to train like Olympic athletes, eat like hamsters, and zap their body hair, in the hope of getting into a good college or snagging a handsome man. This is a culture that’s been created to make a few wealthy women very, very rich—but it leaves a lot of other women feeling unworthy and invisible. And that’s not a message the company should be trying to sell.