For decades, Victoria’s Secret has been synonymous with two things – intricate lingerie designs and the stunning women who parade them down the catwalk. But after dwindling sales and a challenging few years, the latter has finally been cut. In an interview with the New York Times, brand CEO Martin Waters confirmed that the iconic Victoria’s Secret Angels will be no more.
“In the old days, the Victoria brand had a single lens, which was called ‘sexy'”, Waters told the New York Times. “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. Right now, I don’t see it (the Angels) as being culturally relevant.”
Over the last few years, Victoria’s Secret has come under increasing scrutiny, with the brand facing accusations of sexism and a lack of diversity. In 2017, as the #metoo movement gained traction, the company was rocked by a number of complaints from former employees of racism, profiling and discrimination, leading to a public announcement of a change in company policies. From there, the challenges stacked up. The iconic runway show was cancelled in 2019, after 19 years of successful events, and the ensuing global pandemic did little to cement profits, prompting many industry analysts to predict the end was nigh. But it appears Waters is trying something different.
The ageing giant is rebranding, aiming to tackle a new breed of woman. No longer ‘culturally relevant’, the Angels have been dumped, replaced by a new group of women that champion individuality, diversity and inclusion. Dubbed the Victoria’s Secret Collective, or VS Collection, the new initiative sees models like Miranda Kerr, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alessandra Ambrosio replaced by a lineup of inspiring female artists, activists, athletes and models.
Among the faces leading Victoria’s Secret’s new iteration are Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio, Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, freestyle skier Eileen Gu, actress, singer and producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas, American professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, plus-size model Paloma Elsesser, and journalist Amanda de Cadenet. They join the company’s entirely new executive team and soon-to-be-formed board of directors in which all but one seat will be occupied by women.
According to Waters, the new lineup of ambassadors and faces will spearhead a transformation visually and ethically within Victoria’s Secret. “When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” he told the New York Times. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”
For a brand as iconic as Victoria’s Secret, the removal of its most memorable figurehead is a bold decision, the results of which are yet to be seen. The initial response from social media users has been positive, but while some are applauding the decision, others are speculating if the move is all too little, all too late.