Embattled lingerie company Victoria’s Secret is attempting to rebrand its image, replacing its model ‘angels’ with seven high-profile women including US soccer star Megan Rapinoe and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
The move is being dubbed the biggest rebrand in the company’s history, overhauling its hypersexualised ‘angel’ image in favour of partnering with women who are known for their advocacy in gender equality, LGBTQ+ issues and body positivity.
Rapinoe and Chopra Jonas are joined by 17-year-old Chinese American skier Eileen Gu, inclusivity advocate and model Paloma Elsesser, transgender model Valentina Sampaio, photographer and founder of #Girlgaze Amanda De Cadenet and south Sudanese model and refugee Adut Akech.
The seven women chosen as figureheads for the brand will be known as the VS Collective, and will work with the company on “collaborations, business partnerships and cause-related initiatives”.
The rebrand come less than two years after Victoria’s Secret pulled the plug on its iconic fashion show, after criticisms it objectified women for the male gaze, had a misogynistic corporate culture and other revelations about its owner’s connection to sex offender Jeffery Epstein.
In 2018, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show drew 3.3 million viewers, a significant downturn compared to 9.7 million viewers in 2013. That was after Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer for L Brands – Victoria’s Secret’s parent company – said he didn’t think the annual fashion show should feature “transsexuals”, an offensive and outdated term.
In an interview with The New York Times, Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters said, “When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond. We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”
I am excited and ready to partner with @VictoriasSecret as part of #TheVSCollective – women who I admire and are icons of our time. I’m looking forward to working with them to show ALL women their individual and collective beauty and power. #VSAmbassador pic.twitter.com/f79Cawp9IT— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) June 17, 2021
In the era of #MeToo, and amid the rise of more inclusive and body-positive brands lingerie like Rhianna’s Savage X Fenty, Victoria’s Secret seemingly has been unwilling to adapt until now. Savage X Fenty is now valued at $US1 billion, according to an estimate by Forbes magazine, while Victoria’s Secret sales have been on decline for years.
In 2015, high-profile model Karlie Kloss ditched her contract as an angel, telling Vogue she “didn’t feel like it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women.” In 2018, Australian model Robyn Lawley started a petition calling for a boycott of the fashion show until the brand encouraged diversity.