Victoria’s Secret had spent decades marketing luxury lingerie with runway shows and supermodels. The once-iconic brand has nevertheless been languishing in recent years following a pivot toward diversity and wokeness.
The company earned approval from the media as executives announced the end of the Angels fashion show broadcast four years ago and vowed to “rethink” marketing tactics. The Angels were later replaced with VS Collective, an “unparalleled group of trailblazing partners who share a common goal to drive positive change.” The brand that had built its image on models such as Heidi Klum and Gisele Bündchen would now be represented by figures such as left-wing lesbian soccer player Megan Rapinoe and male-to-female transgender person Valentina Sampaio.
The company’s website and social media pages now feature women of all shapes and sizes, as well as various nods to the purported importance of diversity and inclusion. The brand’s performance has meanwhile been less than angelic: the company permanently closed hundreds of stores and axed several dozen management-level positions over the past three years. Victoria’s Secret CEO Amy Hauk recently exited the company after spending less than one year in her post.
Brittany Martinez, a model and the editor-in-chief of Evie Magazine, a beauty and lifestyle publication that promotes traditional femininity, characterized the decline of Victoria’s Secret as a “masterclass in a corporate brand misdiagnosing the root cause” during an interview with The Daily Wire. She contended that the company’s powerful brand had eclipsed overpriced and low-quality merchandise until the marketing overhaul.
“Instead of lowering their prices or improving their quality, they killed the Angel and the entire fantasy along with it,” Martinez said. “They made a critical mistake many companies have made: they obsessed over their competitors and the media instead of obsessing over their customers.”
Victoria’s Secret is indeed one of several companies in the fashion industry that has compromised branding to make controversial social statements. Balenciaga recently garnered backlash for publishing a photoshoot which depicted young children holding teddy bears in bondage gear, while Ulta Beauty featured transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney discussing “girlhood” alongside a “gender-fluid” hairdresser.
Martinez said that the move away from the “surface-level nature” of the Victoria’s Secret brand drastically changed the customer experience. “Shopping in their stores as a young woman used to be incredible. The supermodels in black and white on the walls. The scent. The displays. You felt like a bombshell. You didn’t shop there to take part in some kind of desperate activism,” she said. “Not only were they shaming the brand’s former celebration of feminine beauty and sensuality, but they replaced beloved female supermodels with activists.”
The new direction was even more palpable for males shopping for their significant others. “Countless men still readily buy products from left-leaning companies like Apple or watch the NFL regardless of their political ideology. But ask any man you know if they’ve been to Victoria’s Secret lately,” Martinez continued. “They’ll likely comment on the overweight mannequins or the fact that they’re looking at a biological man in cheekies and a pushup.”
Many customers of Victoria’s Secret believe the shift toward wokeness was merely performative in nature. Even as the company featured plus-sized models, executives were implementing damage control by signing “thin, white” celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber.
“Everyone could see what they were doing. They were checking the token diversity boxes, whereas other newer brands were built from day one with diversity and inclusion as part of their core values,” Martinez noted. “Victoria’s Secret will never be what it was. It feels like the brand has no clue what it is, what it’s selling, and who it’s selling to.”