The Victoria’s Secret show is dead. In the sense that the last annual show, broadcast on the American ABC on Sunday 2 December, recorded the lowest ratings ever. A fair earthquake for the fashion show that counted on the most monetizable hype of the entire sector, with news that were leaked before the event on the top models that would participate and the excluded illustrious (like Bianca Balti), the great musical guests and in general all the details on the most anticipated fashion show (intimate or not) of the year.
The problem is not only the fashion show, a tool that is proving increasingly obsolete in any sub-sector of the fashion market, but precisely the ability to monetize that imaginary that Victoria’s Secret has accurately built over 40 years of activity: a certain idea of sex appeal that should have resulted in record sales of push-up bras and lace thong. The core business of the brand.
What happened? The brand has been recording constant sales declines for at least two years, which have already reduced the market value of the L Brands Group by 65%, which also owns the young pink lingerie line. This last undertaking has proved to be a useless effort in trying to conquer the millennials, which evidently already have a completely different idea of how feminine underwear should be, and above all of the image with which it should be told. Victoria’s Secret still pursues the idea of woman, and body, which began to make its way at the beginning of the 80s: a lean but sculpted physique, trained but soft, only possible with drastic diets and constant training, but curvy where wants the male look: breast and sit.
From there the luck of the push-up, an object that many women find offensive, as well as the image of the unreachable top models walking on the catwalk with a boudoir underwear, the wings on the back and a dazzling smile impossible for anyone who undergoes that lifestyle. A regime told by the same top models in articles and articles in women’s newspapers all over the world, with details on Olympic champion training sessions and diets that look more like stoic fasts. All to feel “empowered” by the strictest booking in the history of fashion, as the story of the brand wants in the moments before the fashion show, with interviews to the proud protagonists. If even someone like Bella Hadid sometimes happened not to be selected for the show, it means that the standards are really crazy.
What is sexy today?
Victoria’s Secret is not just a question of Angels, models that are only possible with the mix of right genes and life centimeter, it is a question of women and real bodies, those who ultimately should buy that intimate. Within a few years, public ideas have changed about what is sexy, how a woman’s body should be shown and how it should be talked about. Between 2015 of the record and the 2018 of the flop of Victoria’s Secret there was the wave of the #metoo, but also an opening of the discourse on the bodies and the desire to all the diversities, including those of the transgender bodies and bodies not complying with the beauty standards set by the fashion world decades ago.
The bodies have never changed, of course, have always been different or non-compliant, what has changed is the dominant discourse that is made, and consequently the moves of a market that tries to pursue them to dress them. A lace set by Victoria’s Secret has always been impossible for almost anyone, but the discourse that begins to prevail now is no longer that of women’s inadequacy compared to what is considered beautiful and desirable, but that of the inadequacy of a brand that fails to update its canons, and continues with its dated idea of sex appeal.
New bodies, new underwear
Accused of not being sufficiently inclusive on the catwalk, perhaps hiring models plus size or even distantly curvy, Victoria’s Secret has responded through the mouth of its marketing director Ed Razek on Vogue America, on the eve of the flop parade recorded last November in New York: We tried in 2000 to do a show with only models plus size.It did not interest anyone and is not interested even today “. The controversy, however, was unleashed especially for another statement, risky in times like this: “We did not want to include transgender models just to be politically correct”.
Razek had to publicly apologize after the social controversy, but in the following week Victoria’s Secret CEO Jan Singer resigned without specifying why. The reason is certainly in the sales down, and in the announced closure of at least 20 flagship stores in the course of 2018, another sign of an identity crisis rather than simply the market. By now it is almost impossible to separate the market crisis from the damage of image, when the latter arises from outdated ideas on crucial issues such as the body of women.
In past decades Victoria’s Secret had contributed together with Calvin Klein to a sexual revolution that put sexy underwear at the center, the protagonist of an era of glorification of the perfect body, today it is buried by another completely different sexual revolution, that the brand can not absorb and tell its customers, neither on the catwalk, nor in the shops.