Victoria’s Secret is replacing its Angels. On Wednesday, the lingerie company announced the “Victoria’s Secret Collective,” a group of new ambassadors, in an article in the New York Times.
The collective's seven members include footballer Megan Rapinoe, model and body positivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, journalist and Girl Gaze founder Amanda de Cadenet, freeskiing World Champion Eileen Gu, actress and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra Jonas, transgender model and activist Valentina Sampaio, and model and mental health advocate Adut Akech. To mark the relaunch, the VS Collective will sit down to share their personal stories on a podcast hosted by de Cadenet. This rebrand follows years of criticism over the lingerie brand’s antiquated beauty standards and lack of body and gender inclusivity and racial diversity.
“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,” the brand’s CEO Martin Waters told the publication.
Victoria’s Secret fall from popularity began in 2018 after former chief marketing officer Ed Razek told Vogue the brand was not interested in hiring transgender or plus-size models for its annual fashion show. Backlash soon followed. Since then, Victoria's Secret has attempted to diversify its pool of models: In summer of 2019, the brand hired Sampaio and, later that year, curve model Ali Tate Cutler. Still, the criticism continued. In 2019, the brand called off its annual fashion show. The following year, a New York Times investigation revealed widespread bullying and harassment of Victoria's Secret employees and models.
Earlier this year, the brand unveiled its 2021 swim collection. While the campaign featured plus-size models Paloma Elsesser and Jill Kortleve, the line fell short in product sizing.
On Wednesday, Elsesser told The New York Times that she chose to join the VS Collective because it would allow her to make “radical change” for body diversity and lobby to increase the brand's sizing to a 5XL. (The brand provided no size range for its expanded sizing plans in the article.) The rebrand also includes working with its new set of ambassadors on new product lines, set to launch in 2022. The pieces, according to Rapinoe, will focus on redefining sexiness. “As a gay woman, I think a lot about what we think is sexy, and we are afforded the ability to do that,” she told The New York Times.
For decades, Victoria’s Secret was known for its supermodel ambassadors, including Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, Tyra Banks, and Alessandra Ambrosio; million-dollar Fantasy Bras; and over-the-top runway shows. But, in the face of inclusive offerings from brands like Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty and Parade, Victoria’s Secret sizing and version of sexy felt outdated for many consumers even prior to 2018. Instead, the market has gravitated toward brands that prioritise the female gaze, diversity, and size inclusivity.
“We need to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want,” Waters told The New York Times of the rebrand.
Only time will tell if women will buy it.