Calling for Change
We live in challenging times when almost everything is being questioned and asked for change. It does not matter whether we look at politics, sport or simply just the way of living, everything seems to be facing an important question. Is this enough? Are we doing it right?
Not even the fashion industry got spared when it comes to big changes. Maybe it is because fashion is something that is more or less accompanying us for our whole life. Some might not realise that, but fashion and lifestyle are affecting the way others see us as a person, the way the society is accepting us.
Yes, it might be superficial and we tend to fool ourselves with arguments against it, but let’s be honest. The way people dress and their style are often the first things we notice about them. It is simply something we can recognise about the person straight away, only later we decipher their character.
Therefore, I believe the fashion industry is one of the fields which must set a good example to society. Diversity is something that seemed to be missing in many industries for decades and is now on high demand.
The answer to the question of why this is happening and why many of us felt the lack of it in fashion in the past is because we just had enough. Seeing still the same type of a model, same body types, age or colour of skin cannot represent the multiculturalism we live in. Fortunately, most global brands have reflected this problem and now face major changes.
Lack of Diversity
While brands such as Marina Rinaldi, Fenty or Aerie are providing what the customers are seeking and offering a variety of styles, sizes and models, some other brands are adopting the changes slowly.
When Ed Razek, Ex-Chief Marketing Officer of Victoria’s Secret, said: “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 felt like he just caused a huge earthquake under his feet. Back then many suspected that this might cost him a lot.
While the industry was calling for change, the US lingerie brand lingered on the same business strategy as ever. Victoria´s Secret fashion show has been a highlight of the year for many fans of Angel´s wings and beautiful underwear.
Over the years we might have noticed at least some effort to approach a wider audience by hiring models of various race and ethnicity such as Maria Borges or Liu Wen. Tyra Banks was not only the first black model to become VS Angel in 1997, but also the first woman of colour to wear the Fantasy Bra for the show.
Nonetheless, that was ages ago and even though Banks was one of the groundbreakers of the label, the company did not come a long way throughout the last two decades.
Despite the effort, Victoria’s Secret lacked diversity and inclusivity. However, it is not just about the colour of the model’s skin. The annual show and the brand’s advertising always depicted the same body type – tall, toned every single muscle and without a gram of excess fat.
Body activists such as Ashley Graham or Iskra Lawrence are just examples of names consumers associate with body positivity movement within the industry and expressed their disagreement with the brand. Victoria’s Secret had to deal with Lane Bryant’s campaign with hashtags #ImNoAngel or ThirdLove´s #weareallangels while insisting on presenting their idea of a perfect body.
It is only natural for customers to buy a product from the brand they agree with and by which they feel represented. It is no surprise the sales have declined for VS, while brands like Savage x Fenty profit from being inclusive of all sizes. Rihanna’s label seems to be one of the biggest competitors in the lingerie market thanks to its reputation, clear message and featuring women of all shapes and sizes in the show and on the brand’s homepage.
Finding a New Way
In general, it is very difficult for any brand to survive without reflecting what the world is demanding. Eventually, even Victoria’s Secret realised the need for a change and the importance of body positivity. After the scandal following Ed Razek’s interview for Vogue and him leaving the company, the brand seemed to turn away from its usual business strategy and is learning slowly from past mistakes.
Valentina Sampaio has become the first transgender model being featured in Victoria’s Secret campaign. The VS Instagram account is now full of pictures of angels posing along with models with fuller figures like Candice Huffine or Solange van Door. Their pictures are finally giving us more of a feel of being closer to the brand and being included.
Only time will tell whether the cancelled annual show will eventually come back with new faces and carrying a new positive message. Fashion and diversity now go hand in hand and is as important as any other part of the strategy in case a label wants to be successful. When it comes to Victoria’s Secret, it is better to realise this late than never. Let’s see what else the brand is going to prepare for us in the future.