The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, a sparkle-strewn mega event heralding the gift-giving season, will not be taking place in 2019, the company just announced. That comes months after an internal memo that called the show’s future into question. As reported by Fortune, CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer said during an earnings call, “We will be communicating to customers, but nothing similar in magnitude to the fashion show.”
According to The New York Times, company CEO Leslie Wexner said in May 2019 that the show won’t air on network television. On November 20, 2019, the bad news for Victoria’s Secret continued, with the company reporting “another quarter of declining sales,” CNN reported.
It’s all amounted to a bad stretch for the brand, which has run into a wall of changing consumer attitudes, declining sales, the #metoo movement, its CEO’s links to Jeffrey Epstein, comments decried as inappropriate by a marketing official, and inclusive, body-positive message trends.
The annual fashion presentation was a sought-after celebrity-filled spectacle. It was where the glitterati mingled with the glitter-wearing models. It wasn’t just a fashion show. It was a larger-than-life event with entertainers and performers. Specialty items like the $1 million (at least) dollar bejeweled fantasy bra added to the excitement.
Only the Angels could wear the wings. According to Vogue Australia, the first official angel was Karen Mulder in 1997. Tyra Banks was the first Angel to wear the wings the following year. Tyra, along with Stephanie Seymour, Daniela Pestova, and Helena Christensen, became officially contracted as Angels that year. The wings kept getting bigger, and more spectacular. In 2003, Heidi Klum was graced with the largest pair of wings. Some of the wings were elaborate with crystals or special designs.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was a sought-after event for the models for whom it was one of the pinnacles of success in the fashion world. Being a Victoria’s Secret Model and being a Victoria’s Secret Angel are two very different categories. While just being a model in the show was a dream job for a model, being a Victoria’s Secret Angel was heaven. Heaven with a demanding schedule and grueling eating and exercise plans leading up to the show, but heaven nonetheless. There were Train Like an Angel workouts featured in magazines, like US Weekly. “Angel or athlete?” a story asked in 2018. “When it comes to Victoria’s Secret models, each handpicked for the lingerie brand’s annual show, they’re the definition of both.”
Each year, there was a big buildup to the event. But this year seems to be different.
Here’s what you want to know:
1. An Internal Memo Says the Company Is ‘Rethinking’ the Annual Show & Two Models Say It was Canceled
This past Spring, an internal memo obtained by CNBC said that the company, headed by Wexner, founder, chairman and CEO of L Brands, Victoria’s Secret parent company, was “rethinking” the annual fashion show.
There were likely many reasons for this. For one thing, the viewership for the 2018 show was at a record low, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
While NFL dominated the night of the show, says THR, “…the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show averaged a limp 0.9 rating among adults 18-49 and only 3.3 million viewers. That followed another year of lows and marked a steep 40 percent drop in the key demo.”
Two models had previously said outright that the 2019 show was canceled, comments the brand has neither confirmed nor denied. Georgia Fowler told The Australian Daily Telegraph, “It’s disappointing it’s not going to happen this year – but who knows what will happen.” Shanina Shaik told Daily Telegraph: “Unfortunately the Victoria’s Secret show won’t be happening this year.” Turns out she was right.
2. Low Viewership is Just Part of the Problem
Earlier this year, the parent company announced that Victoria’s Secret plans to shutter 53 stores. According to CNN, the company stuck with the strategy that worked for years: “push-up bras and celebrity models.” Meanwhile, CNN reported, customers were interested in other things, namely “custom-fitted bras and inclusive messaging.”
Then there was that interview with the chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek, in Vogue, where he said, “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special…”This angered a lot of people and the show has been called out for a lack of diversity, even by a performer who sang at the 2018 show, Halsey.
In August 2019, The New York Times reported that Razek is retiring.
3. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Grew in Extravagance Over the Years
The first show, in 1995, was a relatively subdued affair by comparison. It took place at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Models like Beverly Peele and Veronica Webb out showed outfits that had an element of fantasy and luxury but the show was a bit more down-to-earth, compared with later years.
As Business Insider says, “Models wore slinky slips down the runway, accessorized with cardigans and handbags. Today, that same fashion show is a global phenomenon.” As time went on, the costumes became more decorative and extravagant.
4. Some Angels Have Moved On to a Company That Touts Its Inclusiveness
Not all but some of the Angels have been working with UK-based Boohoo on new lines for that company, which describes itself as an “inclusive and innovative brand targeting young, value-orientated customers,” as it says on the company’s website.
“Founded by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane in Manchester in 2006, for over 10 years, boohoo group has been pushing boundaries to bring its customers up-to-date and inspirational fashion, 24/7.”
5. The Parent Company’s CEO Has Been Linked to Now Deceased Financier Jeffrey Epstein
Other issues have caused challenges for Victoria’s Secret recently. According to The New York Times, L Brands, its parent company, was trying “to distance” itself from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, whose death in a Manhattan jail has sparked conspiracy theories.
Epstein was a “close adviser” to the company’s CEO and attempted to “pitch himself as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models,” the Times reported, adding that the CEO “was warned,” and around the same time, a model accused Epstein of attacking her.
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