Victoria’s Secret finally confirmed what seemed inevitable: it’s annual fashion show spectacular is no more. According to WWD, in a conference call with analysts this morning, VS parent company L Brands’ CFO and executive vice president Stuart B. Burgdoerfer acknowledged the brand was moving on for now. “It was a very important part of the brand building of this business and was an important aspect of the brand and a remarkable marketing achievement,” he said. “And with that said, we’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand and best communicate that to customers.”
While dwindling television ratings and sweeping cultural shifts among young consumers made it clear that the VS Fashion Show as the public had known it for decades was in serious need of an update, the fact that the show went from institution to no more in just a year is still astonishing. Though, longtime chief marketing officers Ed Razek accelerated the fall by giving a fiery interview to Vogue in which he defensively claimed that the inclusion of plus-sized and transgender models in the show wasn’t part of the brand’s preferred vision “fantasy.” Razek didn’t resign from the company until August, but the fallout from his remarks were swift. The ratings for the 2018 show hit a record low (a repeat of NCIS: Las Angeles beat the show in total viewers), and business struggles have dogged the brand all year.
Concurrently, rival brands had found success in both buzz and at the bottom line by embracing inclusion. Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show, which streamed on Amazon Prime, proved that diversity was no detriment to fantasy. Her show featured multiple plus-sized models, transgender models, a drag queen, and even a few veterans of the VS show. For her part, Bella Hadid recently revealed that she felt far more confidant walking in her lingerie for Rihanna than she did at any other lingerie show (a comment that was interpreted as a dig at Victoria’s Secret).
If women buy lingerie to celebrate their bodies, it only makes sense that a brand would find success in celebrating all bodies. That doesn’t seem like it’s any big secret. At least in 2019.
Though Victoria’s Secret is done with the fashion show (for now at least), the future of the Victoria’s Secret Angels is still very much a question mark.
When a foursome of VS Angels (Josephine Skriver, Elsa Hosk, Jasmine Tookes and Romee Strijd) appeared together at an event for fast-fashion e-tailer BooHoo, Page Six reported that insiders were buzzing that the end of the VS Angel may be near. “It used to be that you did VS and you became this superstar,” a source identified as “a Victoria’s Secret insider” told Page Six. “The industry has just changed overall. I could see the Angels going away.”
While there was always some overlap and exceptions, many Victoria’s Secret Angels (a select group that didn’t include every girl who ever walked the show) existed in an eco-system separate from the models cultivated by high fashion brands on the runways of Paris and Milan. That didn’t mean the Angels never had major high-fashion moments, it just meant that their career paths and the extent of their popular appeal were often different. In other words, the reverberations of the end of the age of the Angels may extend fay beyond the mall lingerie staple and into the wider fashion and modeling industries.
Then again, Victoria’s Secret has continued to designate new models as “Angels” since Rezak’s controversy (Grace Elizabeth, Barbra Palvin, and Leomie Anderson have all received the tag since), but without the signature event the women no longer have such a public platform.