A Victoria Secret exec’s comments on why it doesn’t hire trans and curvy models backfired spectacularly.
After his remarks, the CEO stepped down.
via Timothy A. Clary / Getty Images
Have the days of Victoria’s Secret dominating the lingerie business gone by the wayside? It appears as though the company is on the rocks because of its inability to meet America’s growing demand for inclusivity.
Recently, the company showed just how out of touch it has become after an executive made a boneheaded comment that was dismissive of the transgender community and people who aren’t a size -4.
In an interview with Vogue, Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer for L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, said it would not hire transgender or curvy models for the annual the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
“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,” Razek told the magazine.
Razek’s comments were not only discriminatory, but they’re dead wrong. Curvy and/or transgender people are entertaining and people sure do fantasize about them.
He also said it isn’t inviting any plus-size models to participate in the fashion show because they tried it 18 years ago and “no one had any interest in it.”
Evidently, he hasn’t noticed that things have changed since Y2K.
Another reason for the show’s lack of curvy models is that Victoria’s Secret and Lane Bryant, a plus-size fashion line, are owned by the same parent company, L Brands.
“We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant,” he continued. “Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”
Razek’s comments inspired a huge backlash on social media.
Bye Victoria's Secret you're canceled. Trans women are a fantasy and you don't deserve them.— Mike Ferlita (@MkFerlita) November 11, 2018\n
the whole “victoria’s secret show is a fantasy, an escape” is bullshit, they’re just afraid to include trans and plus size women because straight men will be upset. we’ve all been conditioned that the ideal body type is the typical victoria’s secret model.— Kerrigan (@KerriganHealy) November 13, 2018\n
Victoria’s Secret’s recent bs w/trans and plus size models just highlights how increasingly out dated the company is. Plus, lots of its actual product often feels juvenile or “done”.— Christina (@LikelyChristina) November 14, 2018\n
I feel like they can evolve while maintaining a lux/fantasy aesthetic but they just...haven’t?
victoria’s secret will never get another dime of my money, and I suggest that others do the same. there are so many more high quality, plus size, trans friendly brands to support!— lacey (@laceyreneed) November 11, 2018\n
Victoria’s Secret released an apology from Razek where he admitted that transgendered models have tried out for the brand.
Please read this important message from Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer, L Brands (parent company of Victoria’s Secret). pic.twitter.com/CW8BztmOaM— Victoria's Secret (@VictoriasSecret) November 10, 2018\n
Shortly after the company’s PR disaster, Jan Singer, CEO of the brand’s lingerie division, resigned after just two years with the company.
Her resignation comes while the brand is experiencing a significant decline in sales. In 2016, the company had a 33% share of the women’s underwear market, but that dropped to 28.8% in 2017. According to CNBC, it’s because the brand has failed to evolve in an era where a growing number of Americans value inclusivity in race, gender, and size.
“Some consumers and industry experts blame the retailer’s failure to adapt as the conversations around women’s bodies evolve,” Lauren Thomas from CNBC said. “The #MeToo movement has made the Victoria’s Secret brand seem even less appealing, some shoppers say. And a lack of size options makes the retailer even less relatable to a growing pool of women.”
“A lot of people say they don’t want that overt sexuality. That is what Victoria’s Secret is founded on,” Neil Saunders of GlobalData Retail told CNBC. “You walk past the windows and they do not represent the average woman. ... The brand hasn't moved on, and it looks increasingly out of step.”
One way for the brand to get back in step is to expand its definition of sexy by letting people of all shapes, colors, and genders on its walkways.