Arts & Culture Fashion

Victoria Secret’s shame–24 years no plus-size models

Chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, reveals why he doesn’t want to include plus size models in the show.

Victoria’s Secret’s 2018 Fashion Show took place on November 8 and the company claimed it would be their “most diverse show ever.” There was a lot of buzz about Victoria’s Secret possibly finally casting plus-sized models. But the company was thinking of a different kind of diversity. Almost half of the models were African American, Asian or Hispanic. None of the 52 models were plus size.

A large number of articles came out after the show, expressing frustration and anger towards Victoria’s Secret and their definition of diversity. Among the criticisms thrown at the Victoria’s Secret’s show, the brand’s unrealistic portrayal of the female body is a key issue. They portray the wrong image to their audience which creates a false standard that women begin to set for themselves.

An article written for Cosmopolitan expressed the frustration towards Victoria Secret’s interpretation of the word “diverse”. It stated “the message that Victoria’s Secret is sending out is quite clear; plus size isn’t sexy, curves aren’t something you should be proud of and when it comes to body type, there is only one ideal.”

On the other hand, there have been numerous body positive campaigns on social media that spread a far more positive message then Victoria’s Secret.  For example, the #Fatkini movement that fashion blogger GabiFresh started which was all about plus size women posting photos in their bikinis. It started with her just posting a photo in a Swimsuits For All bikini and it soon became a viral hashtag that plus size women could use to spread the message that every woman can look good in a bikini, regardless of her size.      

It doesn’t take a fashion insider to realize that Victoria’s Secret is discriminative towards plus-size women and they seem to have a closed-door policy about the situation. According to Business Insider, the fashion industry defines “plus-size” clothing as sizes 12 to 24, though many retailers offer up to a size 28 to meet demand. Their company has been on the market since 1977 and they have yet to release a plus-size range. From a business point of view this is very interesting because if they had released a plus-size range, it could increase their target market and boost their sales numbers. Clearly inclusiveness and body positivity aren’t morals that Victoria’s Secret follows as a brand. It is very unfortunate because they have a countless amount of women that want to shop their lingerie, but they simply can’t because they don’t fit into the size range that they offer.

In an interview with Vogue, Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of Victoria Secret’s parent company and the man behind the 2018 fashion show, finally explained why you won’t see any plus size or transgender models as long as he has a job: “If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus size model in the show, we have” he states. However, he goes on, “We market to who we sell, and we don’t market to the whole world.” He is implying that Victoria Secret is simply not interested in selling their products to plus size or transgender women. In his opinion, Victoria Secret is what the average woman aspires to look like. “The show is a fantasy,” he states. “It’s a 42-minute entertainment special.”

He is really hurting his brand by saying these cruel words because inevitably he is saying that curves aren’t attractive and they don’t deserve to be walking down the runway.

Not all brands have the same closed-door policy about casting plus-sized women. Rihanna held her own lingerie fashion show last year to close New York Fashion Week which included models of all size ranges. Among the Savage x Fenty queens, were Bella and Gigi Hadid, Joan Smalls and Rihanna’s favourite “It girl”, Slick Woods, who walked the runway nine months pregnant, wearing nothing but pasties, panties and an electric harness. This fashion show was a prime example of what inclusiveness should look like and that is why such positive reviews came out from the public. Bazaar writer, Lauren Alexis Fisher stated, “Championing inclusivity and diversity, the moving presentation-turned-runway featured women of all races and body sizes.” The brand’s inclusivity radiated throughout this show and it’s something many brands can learn from.

Undoubtedly, because of its position in the culture, the Victoria’s Secret Show matters, and when it messes up, it is important to recognize that. It portrays an image that young girls shouldn’t be having to look up to. Society is making progress in being more accepting of diversity while the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is doing the exact opposite. Young women of this generation should look at themselves in the mirror and be happy with what they see. Putting a so-called “ideal” image in front of them makes it much more difficult to be happy in their own skin. It takes a toll on the direction we would like society to go in.

The fact that Victoria’s Secret is a pop cultural leader is the exact reason why so many believe it has a responsibility to at least attempt to get with the times and show some support for body diversity. And hopefully, to do it in a way that isn’t all about marketing. After all, not only do all different types of women buy lingerie, but many different women have successful modelling careers with dedicated fan bases who would very much like to see those models walk for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Runway model, Winnie Harlow was cast for this year’s show with a disease called Vitiligo, which causes discolouration in some areas of the skin. She reported to People “any step towards a truly equal and diverse modeling industry is great, but for a huge brand like Victoria’s Secret to include me as a model with Vitiligo is a huge step to normalizing it in the entire industry.” Harlow added, “I’m glad to be the first, but part of me is also sad that there weren’t any before me and I hope that there are many more in the future. We need to work towards diversity, not for the sake of it, but to make it the norm. And I hope this is a big step toward that.”  

This was a huge step in the right direction for Victoria’s Secret as a brand but they still have to reconsider their goals before we can expect them to cast an equal and truly diverse group of women.

Image Credit: Oast House Archive

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