- Despite being the most well-known lingerie showcase in the world, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is losing its grasp on its viewers.
- On Friday, May 10, L Brands CEO Les Wexner told employees in a memo obtained by Business Insider that the brand is rethinking its televised event.
- In 2018, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show saw its worst ratings to date, while multiple reports have shown that consumer interest in Victoria’s Secret has decreased, with low sales and tough competition from the likes of Aerie.
- Consumers have criticized Victoria’s Secret for what they feel is a lack of diversity among its cast of models, poor-quality lingerie, and limited sizing.
- Overhauling or even ditching the show and instead focusing on its brand could help the company.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show as we know it may be ending. On Friday, L Brands CEO Les Wexner told employees in a memo obtained by Business Insider that the brand is rethinking its televised event. CNBC was the first to report on the news.
While the report may be surprising to some, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show simply no longer holds the same weight in the lingerie industry as it did when it began in 1995, despite being an annual tradition.
In recent years, concerns over the beauty standards promoted by Victoria’s Secret models have drastically increased. While some have stated that they feel there’s a lack of diversity among the cast, others have called out the brand for its failure to cast models with a variety of body types. Even supermodels have begun to boycott the show.
The brand isn’t doing much better as a retailer. As teens have begun abandoning the lingerie chain to shop at stores like Aerie, which has risen to the top of the industry, Victoria’s Secret has lost touch with its customers, yet it has continued to host its annual fashion show.
Victoria’s Secret’s plummeting sales correspond with waning interest in the brand’s fashion show
In 2018, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show saw its worst ratings to date – a report from USA Today said the show was watched by approximately 3.27 million viewers last year.
And the show didn’t do much better in previous years. Five million people tuned in to watch in 2017, which was 32% less people than in 2016, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Analyst Randal Konik from the Jefferies Financial Group previously linked Victoria’s Secret’s decreasing sales to a lack of interest in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
“VS’ fashion show illustrates how out of touch the brand still is,” Konik said in a statement to clients of Jefferies. “With TV ratings that have been in free fall for years and a consumer that no longer resonates with ‘supermodels,’ we question why the company continues to hold the show.”
- Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
The show is not the only apparent factor in the brand’s decline.
In June 2018, Konik said that Victoria’s Secret would need to increase sales and promotions in order to get rid of excessive inventory that the company had accumulated. He also called Victoria’s Secret a “broken brand.”
Two months later in August 2018, it was revealed that while Pink had become better for promotion than its sister store Victoria’s Secret, the younger brand aimed at teens was also showing signs of decline. The report cited decreasing product prices and low sales as measures for the companies’ troubles.
That same month, it was announced that Victoria’s Secret would close 20 stores across the nation.
Much like the brand, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show doesn’t seem to have changed much since the ’90s
When the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show first began in the ’90s, it was common for fashion brands to strictly cast thin, and often white, models.
The cast for the 1998 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was comprised mostly of white, slim models.
A photo from the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is almost hard to differentiate from a photo taken in 1998. Victoria’s Secret has cast more models of color in recent years, but the brand’s entire cast still represents just one body type.
Some people are concerned that Victoria’s Secret models are too thin.
In November 2018, multiple people said Bella Hadid looked “unhealthy” and “too skinny” in photos from a Victoria’s Secret fitting leading up to the fashion show. After receiving the comments, the model reportedly edited the caption of her Instagram post to say that “all body types are different and react differently to a great workout routine and a healthy diet.”
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@victoriassecret fittings today????i can’t wait for you to see all of the beautiful outfits …i’m so grateful to be a part of the show again, feeling happier and healthier than ever???? (all body types are different and react differently to a great workout routine and a healthy diet❤️????????????)
While the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has been criticized for showing one body type, it has also faced multiple accusations of cultural appropriation
In 2010, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show featured a section called “Wild Things” during which models wore animal print lingerie and neck rings. As Revelist pointed out, Victoria’s Secret seemingly exoticized its models of color by having them walk almost exclusively during this portion of the show.
Model Emanuela De Paulo walked the runway wearing animal print as barefoot men in sarongs danced in the background.
- Theo Wargo/Getty Images
In the years since, it doesn’t appear that the brand has learned from its mistakes.
In 2012, Karlie Kloss walked the runway wearing a headdress in attempts to represent indigenous people, which both Kloss and Victoria’s Secret apologized for before it was removed from the broadcast.
- Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
2016’s “Road Ahead” portion also led to criticism. Garments worn during the segment appeared to have been inspired by Asian and Chinese cultures, including one that looked like a dragon. Many felt that the outfits mocked cultures that weren’t represented by models who walked in the show.
More recently, in 2017, the brand came under fire for its “Nomadic Adventures” segment. Models who walked during this portion wore tribal prints and Navajo-style beading. Viewers quickly criticized the brand for taking part in what they felt was cultural appropriation of indigenous people.
- Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret’s competitors are taking steps to become more diverse and inclusive
While Victoria’s Secret does not appear to have changed its image much in over two decades, other brands have filled the gaps that the store has left behind.
In particular, Aerie has made efforts to make the lingerie market more inclusive.
Not only did the brand promise to stop airbrushing models, but Aerie also vowed to cast more people living with disabilities and illnesses in its advertisements. Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign, which introduced three body-positive programs to stores in August 2018, was another driving force for its success.
- Amanda Krause/INSIDER
And while the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show appears to prefer models with one body type, Rihanna’s 2018 Fenty X Savage fashion show in September included people of all different shapes, sizes, and skin colors, as well as pregnant women.
As well as a growing concern with Victoria’s Secret’s image, teens and adults say the store’s bras are expensive and don’t always fit properly
Another reason why people are losing interest in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and in shopping at Victoria’s Secret, could have to do with the price of the brand’s products.
When Business Insider reported that Victoria’s Secret fell off a list of teens’ favorite stores, a Facebook user wrote in a comment on Business Insider’s Facebook page: “I’m a teen and the reason it’s going down is because we cannot afford a bra that costs $60+.”
Customers have also complained about what they have called “shoddily made” lingerie that fell apart after only a few washes. Others, including former employees, have argued that the brand’s employees are not properly trained to measure customers for bras.
When INSIDER’s Chloe Pantazi had bra fittings at four separate Victoria’s Secret stores, she found the store’s sizing and its fitting methods to be inconsistent. But for some people, the problem is less to do with fittings than the bra sizes themselves; when Cosmopolitan sent nine women to three different lingerie stores to get fitted for bras, eight women said they did not fit in their bra size at Victoria’s Secret.
Similarly, HelloGiggles spoke to a former Victoria’s Secret employee and a Certified Bra Fit Specialist (who has not worked for the brand), both of whom said that Victoria’s Secret doesn’t stock a large enough range of sizes.
When I visited a Victoria’s Secret store in New York City in July 2018, I could see why customers might feel frustrated by the brand.
Not only did most of the flagship location store have a dark and seductive atmosphere, but racy photos of Victoria’s Secret models were visible every few feet. While I wasn’t bothered by the nature of the photos, I did take issue with how the store’s advertisements only represented a very small and specific group of women.
It also seemed to me like there was a sizing issue among the brand’s products. While it offered the same sizes as competitors like Aerie, with bras ranging from a size 30 A to 40 DDD, Victoria’s Secret lingerie appeared to run much smaller than the size listed on the label.
Overall, Victoria’s Secret seems to have lost its touch, but it might regain popularity if it overhauled or even ditched its fashion show
Rather than focusing on a fashion show, Victoria’s Secret should devote its full attention to progressing its brand. Consumers no longer accept the unattainable beauty standards that Victoria’s Secret appears to promote, and customers seem to be as equally intolerant of products that they feel are not worth the price.
Starting with a line of updated lingerie sizes, the brand could make a serious step forward in the right direction.
The same would need to be reflected in the store’s advertisements. It’s no longer good enough to sell a wide array of sizes but only cast models who wear a size XS.
Instead of keeping with tradition, it’s time for the lingerie retailer to step up to the expectations set by its competitors and cast women of all shapes, sizes, and races as models. By doing so, the brand might be able to save itself from declining altogether.
Representatives for Victoria’s Secret did not reply to INSIDER’s request for comment when this post was first published on November 8, 2018.
- Read more:
- 33 wild looks models have worn on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway
- How the average US woman compares to a Victoria’s Secret Angel
- I tried the workout Victoria’s Secret models use to get show-ready and it wasn’t as intense as I expected
- 5 things models do before they walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show