It was December 2018 when the last Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show aired on CBS. A year earlier, the show garnered a billion viewers worldwide, but its size and success had blinkered the company to both the cultural shifts being brought about by a born-online generation that demanded to see itself reflected in advertising and the upstart competitors who were building inclusion into their business plans. Rihanna’s debut Savage Fenty show in the fall of 2018 made Victoria’s Secret’s reliance on an impossibly narrow conception of beauty—all razzle-dazzle push-up bras, highly exercised abs, and angel wings, along with the occasional culturally appropriative headpiece or other accessory—seem out of touch. Then there was its owner’s entanglements with alleged sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. On an earnings call in November 2019, it was official: The Fashion Show was canceled.
In the years since, the company has undertaken a sweeping, ambitious rebrand, removing the architects of the original Fashion Show; swapping the Angels for a VS Collective that includes Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Paloma Elsesser; and expanding its size range and developing the kind of products it had long neglected to make—nursing bras and mastectomy bras, for instance—because they didn’t fit its male-driven definition of “sexy.” Leslie H. Wexner, the founder of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, also stepped down as Chairman and CEO, and sold his majority stake. Today, Victoria’s Secret remains the leader in the U.S. for the intimates category and on a rolling 12 month basis the brand experienced slight growth in 2022 compared to 2021.
Now, in its biggest and most visible move yet, the brand is reinventing its annual show, producing a feature-length documentary film set to premiere in September. Though it’s a fairly radical rethink, the company is billing it as every bit as spectacular as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows of old—there might even be wings.
“There’s no need to explain ourselves anymore,” said Raul Martinez, EVP, head creative director of Victoria’s Secret, who is spearheading the project. “We’ve evolved and we’ve moved on, but it’s not that we’re leaving anything behind. We’re touching both the storytelling, which is about our advocacy and celebrating female voices, but also that full-on, fashion entertainment [experience], because that is something that was quite iconic.”
Dubbed “Victoria’s Secret World Tour,” the new show will bring together a cast of international women creators from four cities across the globe. The “VS 20” includes filmmakers, musicians, artists, and other creatives, with a quartet of fashion designers at its center. Using Victoria’s Secret resources, London’s Supriya Lele, Lagos’s Bubu Ogisi, Tokyo’s Jenny Fax, and Bogota’s Melissa Valdes will each produce collections, the behind-the-scenes makings of which will be captured in the doc. All four narratives will come together with a filmed fashion show that will also feature a fifth segment of Victoria’s Secret-designed pieces.
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