The Victoria’s Secret Fashion show will likely never happen again. It is certainly not happening this year. On Thursday, L Brands, the company that owns Victoria’s Secret, confirmed in a statement that the lingerie company would no longer air the long-running televised event.
“We think it's important to evolve the messaging of Victoria's Secret and that is happening in certain respects now," L Brand CFO Stu Burgdoerfer said. "We will be communicating to customers but nothing similar in magnitude to the fashion show. We will communicate to customers through lots of vehicles including social media and other channels."
In May, L Brands CEO Les Wexner sent a memo to employees saying that the brand would be changing the way it advertises. “Fashion is a business of change,” Wexner wrote. “We must evolve and change to grow. With that in mind, we have decided to re-think the traditional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Going forward we don’t believe network television is the right fit.”
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and the culture it represents, have been dying a slow and public death for some time. In 2018, the show received its lowest ratings since first going on air in 1995. Meanwhile, the value of the company’s stock has dropped by 60 percent. While some analysts predicted the company would make a comeback in 2019, L Brands is still operating at a loss and laying off staff at its Ohio, headquarters.
The financial decline is only one portion of the brand’s failures. For years, Victoria’s Secret’s fans have expressed interested in seeing a cast of models that included different body types, genders, and races. When asked about the possibility of switching it up, the former chief marketing officer for L Brands, Ed Razek, dismissed the idea.
"Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should," Razek told Vogue in a 2018 interview. "We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it. Still don’t.”
Razek, who resigned shortly after the Vogue interview, added that if Victoria’s Secret attempted to be more inclusive, they’d be accused of pandering.
“The show is a fantasy,” Razek continued. “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.”
Razek seemed to be referencing Rihanna’s Fenty x Savage runway show from that year, which made headlines for its inclusivity and star power. But while the VS show will not be returning this year, Rihanna’s 2019 fashion show received an upgrade: an hour-long special on Amazon Prime.
And then there are the models involved in the show, who have spoken out in recent months about their experience. “The reason I decided to stop working with Victoria’s Secret was I didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful,” Karlie Kloss told Elaine Wentworth in July.
Bella Hadid, who walked in Victoria’s Secret shows and the Fenty x Savage shows, recently said that it wasn’t until the Fenty shows that she actually felt comfortable walking in lingerie.
“For me, that was the first time on a runway that I felt really sexy. When I first did Fenty, I was doing other lingerie shows and I never felt powerful on a runway, like, in underwear," Hadid said in Paris in November.
Models have been known to be expected to meet a strict set of requirements in order to be Victoria's Secret's "Angels." Their hair, their height, their weight, and their spray tans had to be uniform.
There is also Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner’s decades-long relationship with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. According to a New York Times investigation, Epstein had control over Wexner’s financials for years, acting as his money manager while simultaneously trying to become involved in the model recruitment process for Victoria’s Secret. It wasn’t until ten years after one of Wexner’s employees filed a police report against Epstein for sexual assault, and 18 months after Epstein was charged with multiple counts of child molestation in Florida, that Wexner cut ties with him.
Considered alongside the company’s refusal to cast models who don’t meet a very specific set of requirements, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show is a relic from a bygone era. Today, people shopping for lingerie don’t want to buy someone else’s vision of a fantasy — they want to create their own.