(Bloomberg) – The secret is out: Victoria has a bold new look.
The angels leave, enter VS Collective, a group of women recognized for their achievements and opinions. The hope is that they will help Victoria’s Secret reconnect with shoppers who have grown weary of the brand’s narrow beauty standards.
It’s a brave move, but will it sell bras? As America’s largest lingerie retailer prepares for life as Victoria’s Secret & Co., an independent company spun off from parent L Brands Inc., that’s the $ 5 billion question.
The most prominent member of the seven-member VS Collective is professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe. Joining her are plus-size model Paloma Elsesser and transgender model and actress Valentina Sampaio, who have already worked with the brand. There is also actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, 17-year-old world ski champion Eileen Gu and model Adut Akech, who was a refugee as a child. The group will participate in a podcast hosted by the oldest member, Amanda de Cadenet, 49, who also advises the company.
With its multifaceted identities and activism campaigns, VS Collective breaks the one-dimensional view of beauty that angels offer. The U-turn sends a powerful message that the old Victoria’s Secret is no more.
A break with the past was desperately needed. In the midst of the MeToo era, the company seemed increasingly male-dominated and disconnected. The scandal sparked by former L Brands president and CEO Leslie Wexner’s association with the late financier Jeffery Epstein only hurt the brand further.
Meanwhile, the company has grappled with fashion trends. Underwire bras are being replaced by less structured bralettes, and the rise of . style is making sports bras less exclusive for the gym and more suitable for day-to-day wear. New competitors such as ThirdLove and CUUP have emerged to meet the changing needs of consumers.
But such a radical makeover for Victoria’s Secret runs the risk of sounding like a cynical marketing ploy. It won’t be easy to get rid of the image of sexually attractive women that the retailer has been selling for so long.
Other brands, like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie line, still feel more authentically inclusive. The pop star transformed the beauty industry with 40, now 50, different base shades; She did the same with the underwear with a bold color palette to suit every skin tone and size. And Aerie from American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. is now seen as a more accessible and youth-focused retailer. Its AerieReal campaign removed retouched photos in 2014.
Victoria’s Secret must overcome a credibility gap if it wants to win over women. Fortunately, there is a good sign that female empowerment is also present in the boardroom: There are six non-executive directors, including the president.
Stores and products must also be in line with the new Victoria. The company already offers bras up to G cup and sizes up to XXL, but must go much further to adapt to consumers. It is also necessary to expand the product range. Nursing, maternal and mastectomy bras will be added this year. (The VS Collective reveal overshadowed a side announcement that the company would fund research into women’s cancers.)
It is worth remembering that lingerie is one of the most technically complex areas of fashion, and some bras have up to 30 components, so the restructuring will not be instantaneous. And the retailer will launch collections with some of its new faces. This should help bridge the gap between your new look and what’s on the shelves.
So far, investors are giving the makeover the benefit of the doubt, but the real risk is that buyers aren’t as excited. Focus is a big gamble. Even after its struggles, Victoria’s Secret generated sales of more than $ 5 billion in 2020.
The retailer is changing because customers have told them they want a different version of what is beautiful and sexy. But what consumers say and what they buy can be two different things.
Not everyone is looking for progressive and inclusive content. Take, for example, Love Island, the popular British television reality show in the US, where a group of young people compete to flirt in a luxury villa. Even though contestants adhere to a very traditional view of what is “attractive,” sponsoring the cultural phenomenon can boost sales. Consequently, companies like Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s Boots and online retailer I Saw it First are joining the program.
Like the Love Island contestants, the Victoria’s Secret Angels were glamorous, dreamy, and ambitious. The company should be aware of this as it prepares to feature VS Collective in its campaigns. It describes its ambassadors as a “constantly growing group,” so new faces are likely to be added over time. And the retailer will continue to work with women who are not part of the traditional profile. That offers some leeway in case the current seven members disagree with consumers.
In the end, the angels had to fall to earth. But for Victoria’s Secret to truly put the past behind her, her new VS Collective must find her wings.
Original Note: Victoria’s Secret Sees a Future With No Angels: Andrea Felsted
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