What prompted VS to go for a makeover? After years of projecting VS as the ultimate male fantasy brand, VS has done a 360 degrees shift in its positioning? Will this makeover work for VS? Lace-n-Lingerie analysis this
Victoria’s Secret has been losing ground rapidly in US and world markets known for its sexy lingerie. Quarter after Quarter the sales have been plummeting and it was reported that Les Wexner was looking for a buyer for this beleaguered brand.
Half a decade of discontent: It was also adjusting to the news that a private equity firm that had agreed to buy a majority stake in the company had pulled out of the deal. This left investors wondering whether Victoria’s Secret would be able to continue its turnaround effort – addressing sliding sales, former sexual harassment allegations, and moving beyond its connection to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
They had a good first quarter in 2019 where the company came back into profits after a long time. Between 2016 and 2018, its market share in the US dropped from 33% to 24%. Some shoppers complained that the quality of its underwear had slipped.
Between 2016 and 2020, the brand became the subject of intense scrutiny among investors and the media. After it achieved explosive success between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s with its racy runway shows, which helped to launch the careers of Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum, it was increasingly accused of being out of date and oversexualized in its brand image, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Back to the drawing board: Now we get the news that the brand has appointed its own brand of Advisors… and the brand is purportedly course-correcting: the pursuit of unattainable body goals and sexist gaze is being swapped for “inclusivity” in a rebranding exercise.
But this VS Collective, comprising big names like Megan Rapinoe and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, appears to be “using the language of empowerment feminism to suggest that they, too, have listened, and will eventually change, maybe.”
American lingerie company Victoria’s Secret has said goodbye to their popular Angels supermodels who walked the ramp in extravagant ensembles featuring feathers and rhinestones for years.
The company, instead, has introduced a campaign featuring seven women acclaimed for their achievements and one of them is Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
Apart from Priyanka Chopra Jonas, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, model and advocate Paloma Essler, freestyle skier Eileen Gu, transgender model Valentina Sampaio, model and South Sudanese refugee Adut Akech and photographer Amanda de Cadenet will headline the campaign.
On social media, Victoria’s Secret shared a post regarding their new campaign and said, “These extraordinary partners, with their unique backgrounds, interests and passions will collaborate with us to create revolutionary product collections, compelling and inspiring content, new internal associate programs and rally support for causes vital to women.”
Why the Brand Shift: Victoria’s Secret was slow to adjust to a shift from padded and push-up bras toward bralettes and sports bras, missing out on a major fashion trend. More body-positive underwear brands such as Aerie, ThirdLove, and Lively cropped up, taking its market share.
One of its biggest assets, the teen-centric brand Pink, also began to struggle. Sales slipped, and it resorted to heavy discounting to woo shoppers.
“We believe Pink is on the precipice of collapse,” Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a note to investors in March 2018, commenting on the level of promotions in store.
Some parents complained that Pink was being brought down by Victoria’s Secret’s oversexualized ads.
Many see Ed Razek as the main villain in this whole episode. A brief on who Razek was and what he meant to the company. Edward G. Razek is an American businessperson known for his former role as the Chief Marketing Officer for L Brands where he developed the Victoria’s Secret Angels and the company’s annual fashion show.
In 1994, Wexner tasked Ed Razek with developing a fashion show for one of the companies brands. The first fashion show took place in 1995 with the chosen brand, Victoria’s Secret. A somewhat modest affair for a risqué product at first, the fashion show, under Razek, transformed into spectacle and became an entertainment event, with peak viewership in 2001.
Razek was instrumental in selecting the brand’s models, known as “Angels” and given angel wings, and in creating the company’s TV ads.
Following a November 2018 interview with Vogue, Razek received strong and sustained criticism for his anachronistic marketing after he expressed an aversion to casting transgender and plus-sized models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In an era of MeToo and body positivity, the backlash was severe, with calls for Razek to step down
It later emerged that Razek was the subject of repeated complaints to the human resources department regarding inappropriate behavior, but he continued to operate with impunity for many years.
Razek made a formal apology online, but some of his critics said that he should have stepped down. Its annual fashion show drew criticism for being outdated, and viewership slipped. In November 2018 Razek sent the internet into a frenzy after he made controversial comments about transgender and plus-size models.
Razek said in an interview with Vogue that he didn’t think the show should feature “transsexuals” because the show is a “fantasy.” “It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” he said in the interview.
Former company executives who didn’t wish to be quoted informed us that there was no question of Razek stepping down from his position, as he is “untouchable” in the eyes of Wexner and has full control over the brand image.
Less than a week after Razek’s comments went viral, CEO Singer resigned. Singer was replaced by John Mehas, who took over the role at the start of 2019. Mehas has his work cut out for him, analysts say. Same-store sales at Victoria’s Secret were down 3% in 2018, and it’s gradually losing market share to new companies.
Plus, he has angry shareholders to deal with. In March, activist shareholder Barrington Capital sent a letter to Wexner, laying out recommendations to improve growth at Victoria’s Secret in order to “unlock substantial value.” In the letter, Barrington’s CEO, James A. Mitarotonda, called out the company’s brand image as being “outdated.”
“Victoria’s Secret’s brand image is starting to appear to many as being outdated and even a bit ‘tone deaf’ by failing to be aligned with women’s evolving attitudes towards beauty, diversity, and inclusion,” he wrote.
Victoria’s Secret held its last show in 2018 before confirming its cancellation the following year as viewing figures fell to 3.3 million.
A spokesperson for Victoria’s Secret said: “As an entertainment brand, with a huge cultural footprint we are reimagining what a fashion show could look like for us in the future.”
The company announced The VS Collective – which it described as “a dramatic shift for our brand” – as it prepares to cut ties with its parent company L Brands in a spin-off later this year.
Martin Waters, Victoria’s Secret chief executive – the fourth appointed in five years – informed that “right now” he did not see the Angels as being “culturally relevant”.
Ms. Rapinoe, an LGBTQIA+ activist, was blunter in her assessment of the company’s past image, describing it as “patriarchal, sexist, viewing not just what it meant to be sexy but what the clothes were trying to accomplish through a male lens and through what men desired”.
She added that it was “very much marketed toward younger women”, a message which she said was “really harmful.”
Commenting on why Victoria’s Secret was launching the new partnership now, Mr. Waters said “I’ve known that we needed to change this brand for a long time, we just haven’t had the control of the company to be able to do it.”
Mr. Waters joined L Brands in 2008, overseeing its international division, before taking over as Victoria’s Secret’s new boss in November last year.
But the moot question is IS IT TOO LITTLE TO LATE IN THE DAY AND ARE THE CHANGES RELEVANT TO THE THEIR CUSTOMER BASE who have seen the brand at its exploitative best, selling imagery of women that didn’t exist.
The women who are in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties in the US and all over the world were exploited in buying lingerie not to please themselves but their menfolk and in the bargain suffered from body shaming to getting a body like the models they projected. They suffered from low self-esteem and a lot of them had taken extreme measures to create a version of themselves that wasn’t appropriate and healthy.
The second premise is in this day and age of social media, brands like VS emerged in a monolithic media culture that was captured and propagated by Pop culture and mass consumerism and the need to be conformist. But today neither the consumer nor the media and especially the social media is conformist. Several brands are born on social media and become a rage in a few years, so VS has little chance to create the mass appeal with the youngsters as it once did in the ’90s.
This may be a last-ditch effort by the brand to make a comeback, it’s almost admitted to its greatest folly that it’s not been inclusive and wants to make up for its past misdeeds by starting from a clean slate. That itself is an admission of guilt and that’s something that its consumers will not fall far, but will be gravely offended… It may take years for VS to repair the damage and gain the confidence of its consumers. In a large transient consumer society VS may be a blimp that occurred to us like Kodak, Nokia, or BlackBerry? Who knows?