Photos of this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show have already dropped, and people are *seemingly* into it. Stories about the models (the usual super-slim Angels, alongside some new faces) or the outfits (the typical knee-high boots, wings and jewelled bras) are trending on top fashion sites like Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
On the flip side, there has also been a lot of talk this year about the show needing an overhaul amid calls that it reflects dated values that don’t hold up in 2018. Models like Robyn Lawley have condemned the brand for failing to include plus-sized models; VS has also been criticized for portraying female sexuality in a problematic way and for promoting the idea that only women of a certain size have value.
We don’t need to see this year’s full show, which airs on ABC on December 2, to know that brand hasn’t heeded these calls. Instead, a Vogue interview with the masterminds behind the show—Ed Razek, chief marketing officer of L Brands, VS’s parent company, and Monica Mitro, executive vice president of public relations for the lingerie retailer— has told us everything we need to know.
Victoria’s Secret isn’t interested in plus-size consumers
There’s an obvious reason the VS Show doesn’t feature plus-size models: there wouldn’t be much for them to wear. (The current size range is underwear to XL, bras to 40DDD.)
When asked about Rihanna’s lingerie company, Savage x Fenty—which is relatively size inclusive by comparison, with underwear to 3X, bras to 44DD—Razek, who is 70, made it clear that plus-size customers aren’t a priority.
“We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world,” he told Vogue.
The brand is clearly defensive about Savage x Fenty
“Everybody keeps talking about Rihanna’s show,” Razek told Vogue, before noting that VS has previously had three pregnant models walk its shows. “We watch this, we’re amused by it, but we don’t milk it. And all of these things that they’ve “invented,” we have done and continue to do.”
Well, not exactly: Rihanna’s New York Fashion Week show featured models of all shapes and ethnicities in a lush, Garden-of-Eden-like setting. They rolled around on the ground, did yoga, and basically moved around in any which way they pleased.
In comparison, only two out of the 14 official Victoria’s Secret Angels are women of colour. No model who walked this year’s VS Fashion Show is plus-sized, and the show’s format is that of a traditional runway show: models walk down the catwalk, hands on hips or waving to the crowd. They then turn around and walk back. Other than some booty shakes, it’s all pretty basic.
Gender diversity? No thanks
Transgender models have made notable strides this year, with 45 trans models walking the spring 2018 runways, compared to the 12 who walked in 2017. But you won’t see any transgender representation in this year’s VS show.
“It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show?” Razek told Vogue. “No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”
To which we say: our dream world is diverse af, thank you very much.
Ultimately, this lack of inclusivity is bad for business
Aside from being close-minded, Victoria’s Secret’s lack of inclusivity seems like straight-up bad business. Earlier this year, Business Insider reported that lingerie retailer Aerie—whose campaigns have included women in wheelchairs along with celebrities like Olympian Aly Raisman, who has been a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement—reported record-high 38% same-store sales growth in the first quarter of 2018. By comparison, the report noted that Victoria’s Secret had grown by 1% during the same period, after negative growth in the previous quarter.
And things have only gotten worse: in July 2018, CNBC reported that Victoria’s Secret “sent stocks tumbling” after weak sales forced it to extend its semi-annual sale and further slash discounts.
Just one month earlier, Savage x Fenty’s debut collection sold out entirely.
Razek later apologized for his “insensitive comments”
Please read this important message from Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer, L Brands (parent company of Victoria’s Secret). pic.twitter.com/CW8BztmOaM
— Victoria's Secret (@VictoriasSecret) November 10, 2018
On the evening of November 10, Victoria’s Secret issued an apology from Razek for his comments regarding transgender models, noting that Victoria’s Secret *would* cast a transgender model, and that trans models have auditioned for the show in the past. He didn’t apologize for what he said about not making the brand more size inclusive, or any of his dumb comments about Savage x Fenty.
If you find this apology entirely unsatisfactory, you’re not alone. Victoria’s Secret needs to show us that the brand is committed to inclusivity in its size range and its casting. Step one? Removing its out-of-touch marketing director.
This post was updated on November 12 with information regarding Razek’s apology.
Women Are Calling Out Instagram for Censoring Photos of Fat Bodies
Ashley Graham’s New Swimwear Collection May Be The Realest No-Photoshop Campaign Ever
Savage x Fenty Has Multiple Shades of Nude—Plus 7 More Brands With Range