Victoria’s Secret has specifically stated that they will not be including trans models, or plus-size models in their runway show. Despite recent progress with body positivity and more diverse representation in the fashion and beauty industries (such as Savage x Fenty and Fenty Beauty, among others), this lingerie giant refuses to budge. Runway models for VS will remain archetypal Angels – tall, thin, and cisgendered.*

 

 

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Ed Razek (chief marketing officer of L Brands) and Monica Mitro (Victoria’s Secret executive vice president of public relations) explained their position in a Vogue interview with Nicole Phelps. When Nicole referenced a June report that stated that both comparable sales and market share at VS were down, Ed’s response was a defensive non-answer: 
 
‘Retail is constantly moving. We’re not competing against small lingerie competitors, we’re competing against a woman’s dresser drawers. So if we’re not providing new on a constant basis, we won’t succeed at the level of our size. […] We have to have our fashion right. And we have to move it constantly. And it hasn’t moved fast enough… But how do we have this one bra that outsells the [entire offering] of this noisy little competitor on its own? One bra that happens to have a Victoria’s Secret strap on it? What that tells me: Women want the brand to win. They want to buy the brand. And it is their first love and their first choice.’

 

The big brand is committed to not changing what has worked for them so far. Ed Razek had this to say on why the brand has not included trans models: 
 
‘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. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader. They don’t talk about each other. I accept that. I actually respect it. Cool. But we’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.’

 

This answer does not explain in specific terms why VS will not include trans models, and it is a dig at the brand ThirdLove, an inclusive, smaller, body-positive competitor. The marketing officer also had this to say regarding the exclusion of curve models:
 
 
‘We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes. No one had any interest in it, still don’t… But the number one selling bra in the brand at the moment is a bra that will sell more as a single item than a small competitor that’s been trying to make a lot of noise lately [sells from its complete range]. Now tell me how it’s possible that that bra would be the number one most popular bra in the marketplace if people didn’t like the brand? Particularly if young people didn’t like the brand?’

 

Although Victoria’s Secret does not put curve models on the runway, Monica Mitro noted that the bras are available in bigger sizes with a 30A to 40DDD range. However, Victoria’s Secret doesn’t seem to have plans to change their advertising anytime soon. They have come right out with the fact that they are not trying to be inclusive; and that they are refusing to ‘pander’:
 
 
‘I don’t think we can be all things to all customers. It is a speciality business; it isn’t a department store. I’m always asking myself: if we do that, what is the reason we did it? Why did we include that person? And did we include them to shut up a reporter? Did we include them because it was the right thing to do or because it was the politically correct thing to do?’ said Ed.

 

According to VogueRihanna’s Savage x Fenty show is perhaps the biggest rival to Victoria’s Secret. This inclusive brand has been front of mind for many, as it continues to break barriers in the world of fashion and beauty, through inclusivity and representation. The 2018 Savage x Fenty show included trans women, disabled women, queer women, women of colour, and women of all sizes and skin tones, and the runway show created a lush green oasis of a backdrop for a radically new kind of fantasy. Fenty It-girl Slick Woods walked the runway heavily pregnant in nipple pasties and stilettos. She gave birth that same night and posted the following on Instagram: 
 
‘…we hold shit down most of us don’t even know how much we’re going through, I’m here to say I CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT WHENEVER THE FUCK I WANT AND SO CAN YOU.’

Compare this to Victoria’s Secret’s imaging, and it does begin to feel a little stagnant.

This year, we’ll see 19 new VS Angels, and they will look more-or-less as they always have. Victoria’s Secret may have diversified (slightly) in terms of race, but the bodies it showcases its lingerie on are still unrealistic and unrepresentative. One thing is certain, change is not coming from the inside – not this year. Ed Razek later issued an apology for his comments regarding the inclusion of transgender models.