Just when we thought those famous Angel wings had finally fallen forever, Victoria’s Secret reminded us of why they’re trying to stay relevant as ever in a time of cultural ‘woke-ness’.
Since the brand’s emergence in 1977, Victoria’s Secret has been an empire built on body image, self-worth and a questionable (at best) exploitation of female empowerment. And while this has afforded the brand much in the past, in recent years Victoria’s Secret hasn’t seemed to escape scathing criticism and declining sales and popularity.
Make way for the rebrand. To alleviate their precarious situation, Victoria’s Secret recently announced their move towards a drastic rebranding effort, specifically by ditching the ‘Angels’ – an assortment of notably thin catwalkers modelling mansize wings in disproportionately high stilettos. Incoming: the ‘Collectives’, a cohort of new #girlbosses, donning the impetus to become “the world’s leading advocate for women”. While this move *might* have had the best intentions, in which to embrace body inclusivity and positivity, the undertones feel slightly reminiscent of some sort of ritualised internal cleanse. A purge to dissociate themselves from the growing stigma surrounding the recent Epstein scandal, miscalculated cultural appropriation PR moments, and from the lack of diversity it catered to as a lingerie brand.
And, in fairness to Victoria’s Secret, this isn’t their first rodeo. When Les Wexner saved the company from near bankruptcy in 1982, Victoria’s Secret underwent a major brand U-haul after reconfiguring their target audience from men to women. The Angel wings of Victoria’s Secret had never taken off so much as the brand reached new heights (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves), with their runway show and amalgamation of A-List model ambassadors firmly in tow.
So what has made Victoria’s Secret so outdated? A combination of reasons, really. Fundamentally though, it all boils down to the tension that has arisen between the brand and its place in an age of the #MeToo movement. Since the #MeToo movement has come onto the scene, significant cultural change has occurred in relation to the over-sexualisation and objectification of women and female beauty standards… and rightly so.
Brands and their culture are intrinsically linked. Victoria’s Secret rebrand is a key example of the ways in which businesses must evolve in keeping with the times; failing to do so means impending extinction. It goes to show that something that once worked can, ultimately, expire. Don’t get us wrong, we loved the annual event and the drama of its production. The challenge though, was separating the fiction it portrayed about women and their bodies, from real life.
Still, the question remains: Will Victoria’s Secret manage to keep their wings intact and rise from the ashes like a phoenix? Or is it time to call it a day and hang up the wings for good?