By Mari Sato
It has been four years since the last world-renowned Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and this New York Fashion Week, marks its return. The live event took place on Sept. 6, featuring a musical performance from Doja Cat, and will air as a feature-length documentary on Amazon Prime on Sept. 26. The fashion show was canceled in 2019 due to heavy backlash from the show’s lack of diversity and the various scandals involving former CEO Les Wexner’s connection with infamous sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Since then, Victoria’s Secret has undergone serious rebranding efforts to prove they are a brand that empowers consumers of all sizes. Especially with the rise of size-inclusive brands such as Savage X Fenty and Skims, a change had to be made to stay relevant.
This year’s show will not just be a fashion show; the collection will focus on four different designers representing four cities: London’s Supriya Lele, Tokyo’s Jenny Fax, Lagos’s Bubu Ogisi, and Melissa Valdes of Bogota. These women are a part of the VS20, a group of 20 innovative global creatives that will be featured in the documentary. The VS20 includes a variety of creatives, including filmmakers, musicians, and artists, but will center around the designer quartet. The documentary will follow the cast of women as they work through their creative process and give a voice to their vision of what makes women “sexy.” Supriya Lele’s London-based creative director notes, “For better or worse, they [VS Angels] are iconic images, powerful images. And for me, I see this as an opportunity to create a new set of images that more people can find themselves in” (Margot Bowman, Vogue). The brand will also include a fifth segment of Victoria’s Secret-designed garments as part of its core collection. In the show, we can expect appearances from past Angles, such as Adriana Lima and Candice Swanepoel, along with the familiar faces of Naomi Cambell, Gigi Hadid, Hailey Bieber, and Paloma Elsesser.
While we all wait in anticipation for the documentary’s Sept. 26 premiere, social media coverage of the pink carpet was certainly a source of insight into what we may expect. I may be with the majority to say that the pink carpet was nothing to be impressed by. Compared to the glamorous gowns worn to the event in years past, there seemed to be no dress code and a distinct lack of grandeur. Outfits ranged from lingerie sets to cocktail dresses, with leather and lace in the midst of it all. In my opinion, Iris Law, Naomi Campbell, and Candice Swanepoel were among the few who hit the mark. The carpet may have been a “hot mess,” but maybe that was the point. Every woman has been there, and what’s more relatable than Victoria’s Secret joining the struggles of the everyday woman?
The upcoming live event promises to reinvent the iconic show, placing a distinct emphasis on portraying women not merely as objects of attraction for men but as individuals with voices and compelling stories to share. This shift redefines what constitutes “sexy” by focusing on women’s self-expression rather than conforming to the male gaze. While the show’s essence remains firmly rooted in lingerie, it has notably shifted its focus toward fashion this year. Victoria’s Secret has also chosen to forsake the dark and sultry look with which their show has long been associated, instead opting for a more natural makeup aesthetic. Most notably, there was no runway, and wings were displayed in scaffolding, a nod to what once was. However, elements of tradition persist; pastel pink and the classic bejeweled lingerie appeared on the pink carpet, and pink VS robes continue behind the scenes. Nevertheless, the question remains: Will this show really be bigger, better, and more inclusive than ever?
I am sure it will be, but is that enough? SMU’s own Professor Lascity thinks not: “I would say no, and for the mere fact that the audience that will watch this will be so limited” (Lascity). Compared to the 10 million views the show got broadcasting on CBS, the views on Amazon Prime will likely not have a similar reach. Victoria’s Secret is already late to the game in supporting women, size-inclusivity, and diversity on the runway, and considering its brand heritage, it will be hard to redefine its image. Lascity also adds that Victoria’s Secret specializes in garments that are meant to be shown off. If done right, it seems like there is potential to incorporate size-inclusivity in a way that makes people feel seen and sexy. At the end of the day, Victoria’s Secret is not leading the trends; they are playing catch-up. Will simply saying they stand for women be enough? Perhaps only time will tell.
Lascity, Ethan. Interview. Conducted by Mari Sato. Sept. 10, 2023.
Phelps, Nicole. “Victoria’s Secret Announces Its ‘World Tour.’ It’s Not Just Another Fashion Show.” Vogue, Vogue, 9 May 2023, www.vogue.com/article/victorias-secret-announces-world-tour.
All Photos by Mari Sato