Back in May, it was announced that the Victoria’s Secret fashion show would no longer be airing on network TV and there was some talk that it would move to a streaming service. According to model Shanina Shaik, the whole thing is cancelled, for this year at least. At the time of writing, there has been no official statement from VS. (One person who won’t mind skipping a year is Leonardo DiCaprio. He has a bonafide and she isn’t due to age out for another couple of years. The rest of the Wolf Pack must be crushed.)
Right now, Victoria’s Secret is picking up a lot of negative headlines because L Brands CEO Les Wexner’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein are disturbing – and a lot of investigative reporters are on this story. (L Brands is the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.) Beyond that huge, glaring problem, Bloomberg Business has a deep dive into the brand’s specific issues in the marketplace. Journalists Kim Bhasin, Jordyn Holman, Sophie Alexander, and Anders Melin examined the many ways VS has lost touch with customers. As the piece points out, VS seems to be going the way of American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch; both brands were once mall staples with a sex-infused edge, and both brands tumbled spectacularly and are now a shell of what they once were. Bricks and mortar retail is lagging, and online undergarment companies are disrupting the space, much like VS disrupted it for lingerie sections in department stores. VS doesn’t offer extended sizing, which is just bad business. Fashion is always said to be cyclical, but sometimes things don’t come back. They just go extinct.
Victoria’s Secret has always focused on what its team of executives consider “fantasy” – but whose fantasy is it? The aesthetic is the male gaze on steroids, but what happens when a generation of consumers starts to question, or outright reject, being told what desire looks like? And on a more superficial level, what happens when the fantasy just becomes tired and outdated and gauche? That’s where the Swarovski crystal bra is right now. Some women may find it offensive, while others might just find it passé.
The Victoria’s Secret fashion show has always been a bright light for the brand, a beacon of fun and kitschy glamour. Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Selena Gomez, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, and Lady Gaga have all performed at the show. (Rihanna once cancelled because she was working on Anti). Some of these artists have played the Super Bowl halftime show, that is the level they were working with. Every year around the TV airing, magazines and websites would run stories on the Angels’ workout and skin care routine, and social media would be filled with photos of Angels on the jet, Angels backstage, Angels being fitted for their wings. Even the casting announcements were breathless. But as the hype was maintained, thanks in large part to insta-supermodels like the Hadids, the ratings fell. It seems like people might passively “like” the brand on social media, but would rather watch The Office reruns than a two hour fashion show on CBS.
If Shanina Shaik is correct and the show is cancelled, it is absolutely the right move. It’s kind of like #Taymerica – the spectacle of it doesn’t fit with the current mood and the whole aesthetic requires a revamp. Putting on the same old VS show right now would be tone-deaf. Sitting it out for a year, or five years, could work. But if Victoria’s Secret doesn’t evolve and adapt to the marketplace, in five years, holding a fashion show might be a non-issue.