Victoria's Secret is the house that white men built and frankly, it's just about crumbled to the ground. Model Maria Farmer recently alleged that billionaire investor Jeffrey Epstein sexually assaulted her while posing as a recruiter for the Victoria's Secret catalog (Epstein was arrested earlier this month and charged with sex trafficking minors). After Maria came forward, The Model Alliance published an open letter on Tuesday asking Victoria's Secret do more to protect models from abuse.
The organization wrote: “We are writing today to express our concern for the safety and wellbeing of the models and young women who aspire to model for Victoria’s Secret. In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria's Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation. From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”
The letter is another nail in the coffin that is Victoria's Secret's demise.
We could have predicted the lingerie brand's slow end when chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek explained to Vogue at length why the Victoria's Secret fashion show would not feature transgender, plus size, or curve models.
"Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should," Razek said last November. "Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader." About curve and plus size models, he said: "We attempted to do a television special for plus sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it. Still don’t." Ten months later, Ed Razek is reportedly resigning.
"Unfortunately the Victoria's Secret show won't be happening this year," she said. "It's something I'm not used to because every year around this time I'm training like an angel. But I'm sure in the future something will happen, which I'm pretty sure about. I'm sure they're trying to work on branding and new ways to do the show because it's the best show in the world."
Though the brand recently hired transgender model Valentina Sampaio, the move may do little to restore their relationship with consumers who feel VS caters to the cisgendered male gaze. In fact, at its core, the brand is nothing more than a fantasy for men. As Jezebel pointed out, "the conception of Victoria’s Secret came after its founder Roy Raymond wandered into a department store in the late 1970s, looking for lingerie for his wife. But the selection was reportedly underwhelming and deeply unsexy. “I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns,” Raymond told Newsweek in 1981. “I always had the feeling the department-store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder.”"
Indeed Raymond was an unwelcome intruder in the women's lingerie market — and Victoria's Secret's many missteps are proof.