Taking their place is a new group of seven ambassadors, called the “VS Collective,” who are known for their advocacy work in gender equality and body positivity, and who represent a wider range of body types and sexual and gender identities.
“This is a dramatic shift for our brand, and it’s a shift that we embrace from our core,” said Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters in a statement.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is one of the seven new members of the VS Collective. Credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images
“Especially over the last five years, public criticism of Victoria’s Secret’s narrow and exclusive beauty ideals has been building and its sales started to decline,” said Chantal Fernandez, a senior correspondent at trade publication The Business of Fashion, over email. “The rebrand announced this week is the first real significant indication of how VS is trying to move its marketing forward.”
The rise and fall
The intimate apparel brand, founded in 1977, helped shape what was considered sexy in the late 1990s and early ’00s, with supermodels like Adriana Lima, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bundchen pictured smoldering in its home catalog of bras, bikinis, business casual looks and loungewear.
Younger models like Karlie Kloss and Doutzen Kroes later took up the Angel wings, but as women’s apparel began trending toward more diverse body types and identities, Victoria’s Secret appeared slow to follow.
Models including Karlie Kloss, Adriana Lima, Doutzen Kroes and Candice Swanepoel have defined the “Angel” era of Victoria’s Secret. Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
“For a long time, Victoria’s Secret set a powerful standard for aspiration and beauty in this country and, globally, that drove billions of dollars in sales and generated a lot of buzz for the company,” she said. “But it was blind to how culture changed over the last decade, especially in the post-MeToo era. Today’s shoppers want to see themselves in ads, and they want to know that brands have some kind of value system that aligns with theirs.”
British plus-size model Paloma Elsesser has previously modeled for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show, which rose as a challenger to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
The company now faces a competitive and increasingly inclusive market, with brands like American Eagle’s Aerie and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty positioning themselves as the remedy to Victoria Secret’s narrow demographic — and others, like ThirdLove and CUUP, aiming to redefine bra-sizing entirely.
“(Customers) have more alternatives than women did in the ’90s and early 2000s,” Fernandez said, though she noted that Victoria’s Secret still has the means to stay ahead of the pack.
“Victoria’s Secret still has the largest market share in the US and very high brand recognition, and if they can evolve their product and distribution as well, they may be able to grow quickly again,” she said, adding, “It’s going to require more than just an interesting group of spokeswoman.”
Top image: Soccer star and gender equality advocate Megan Rapinoe