Can Victoria’s Secret shift its brand image from sexy to empowering?
Victoria’s Secret, long criticized for its out-of-date and oversexualized marketing, is retiring the Angels, its line-up of scantily-clad supermodels. In its place, the leading lingerie chain has retained a group of athletes, activists and actors as brand ambassadors to support a rebranding toward empowering women.
The initial seven members of the VS Collective ambassador team are:
- Adut Akech, a model and South Sudanese refugee;
- Amanda de Cadenet, the photographer and founder of #Girlgaze, the digital platform for female photographers;
- Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the Indian actor and tech investor;
- Paloma Elsesser, a biracial model and inclusivity advocate;
- Eileen Gu, the Chinese American freestyle skier and soon-to-be Olympian;
- Megan Rapinoe, soccer star and gender equality advocate;
- Valentina Sampaio, the first transgender model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Victoria’s Secret has struggled in recent years as consumers shifted their purchases to brands that offered a wider range of size options and more inclusive marketing messages. Complaints over the brand’s hyper-sexualized, ultra-glamorous imagery and past refusal to use plus-size models have rung louder amid the #MeToo movement.
The brand’s ambassadors will appear in ads, promote Victoria’s Secret on Instagram, share their stories on podcasts, and advise on product and messaging.
“So often I felt myself on the outside looking in with brands in the beauty and fashion industry, and I’m thrilled to be creating a space that sees the true spectrum of ALL women,” said Ms. Rapinoe in a company press release.
The chain has already embraced plus-sized models and toned down the sexual imagery in ads. Other changes planned include adding more sportswear to join its range of thongs and lacy lingerie, as well as reducing promotions.
The shift in aesthetics and support of issues, such as LGBTQ rights, may alienate existing shoppers. Cynthia Fedus-Fields, the former head of the Victoria’s Secret catalog division, told The New York Times, “If it was a $7 billion business pre-Covid, and much of that $7 billion was built on this blatant sexy approach, be careful with what you’re doing.”
- Victoria’s Secret Continues Transformation With Launch Of New Partnerships To Positively Impact The Lives Of Women – L Brands
- Victoria’s Secret Swaps Angels for ‘What Women Want.’ Will They Buy It? – The New York Times
- ‘The true spectrum’: Victoria’s Secret replaces Angels with Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra – Elise Brisco – USA Today
- Victoria’s Secret Is Rethinking Sexy with Profit Margins in Mind – Bloomberg
- Victoria’s Secret is finally raising its prices after years of extreme deals on inexpensive lingerie – Business Insider
- The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show exits network TV – RetailWire
- Sexy isn’t selling anymore for Victoria’s Secret – RetailWire
- What does private equity ownership hold for Victoria’s Secret? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s the likelihood that Victoria’s Secret will find success rebranding around women’s empowerment with the support of the VS Collective ambassador team? Do you see more benefits than risks in Victoria’s Secret’s strong shift away from glamour and sex appeal?