For the past two decades, US lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has been one of the most popular fashion shows but now the company is axing its annual show due to controversy and weak financial results in the #MeToo era.
After several years of declining TV viewership, the decision reflects a shift towards brands seen as more empowering of women such as singer Rihanna’s.
Victoria’s Secret is often condemned for objectifying women and recently struggling to appeal to the younger generation of lingerie shoppers who prefer simpler and less sexualised designs.
The lingerie brand also received negative publicity surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, its owner who killed himself in prison this year while awaiting trial on charges he trafficked underage girls for sex.
First aired in 1995, the fashion show features models parading around with angels’ wings on their backs.
The venue changes from year to year and it was broadcast around the world.
Since 2014, American viewers have declined by almost a third, from nine million then to 3.3 million in December last year.
Stuart Burgdoerfer, finance director of parent company L Brands confirmed the decision to cancel the show, during a conference call with analysts about the brand’s latest quarterly results.
Highly sought-after supermodels like Gisele Bündchen and Naomi Campbell were attracted to Victoria’s Secret’s glamour.
Despite recent leadership changes, the brand had not been able to achieve a new lease on life even though it was the jewel in L Brands’ crown for many years.
In the last two years, sales have been slipping, weighing on the bottom line of L Brands which reported a net loss of $252 million in the third quarter, against a $43 million loss a year earlier.
The brand’s sales in the third quarter of 2019 were just over $1 billion, down seven per cent from the same period in 2018.
Since February, more than 30 of its stores have closed.
Victoria’s Secret is paying the price for some marketing blunders facing much criticism for having little regard for diversity in its choice of models.
Marketing director Ed Razek ruled out using transgender or plus-size models in future shows days after last year’s show.
As demands for greater diversity on catwalks increases, Razek made ill-judged comments.
On social media that sparked an outcry which he later apologised for.
Disgraced hedge fund manager Epstein who was accused of multiple sexual assaults on young women, many of them teenagers has also been linked with the brand.
Epstein is close to L Brands founder Leslie Wexner. The hedge fund manager was arrested in July.
It was thought that Wexner was Epstein’s biggest financial backer for a while after hiring him as a financial advisor in the 1980s.
In 2008, after Epstein’s conviction for sex crimes with underage girls surfaced, Wexner severed ties with him.
Countless women who accused Epstein of sexual assault said they were recruited to work for him on the false promise that he would get them jobs as Victoria’s Secret models.
Model Alliance, a models’ rights group noted the show’s cancellation, confirmed that 100 models have signed a letter calling on Victoria’s Secret to join its “Respect” programme aimed at preventing sexual assault and fostering fair working conditions.
Rihanna seems to be the new ambassador of the lingerie market with her “Savage X Fenty” while Victoria’s Secret continues to slide.
Rihanna’s brand is about diversity and it hopes to project an image of women as the masters of their own bodies and desires.
Supermodels Cara Delevingne as well as Gigi and Bella Hadid modelled its lingerie at New York Fashion Week in September.
Supermodel Bella Hadid said that it was the first time on the runway where she felt really sexy.-/TISG
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