The UK arm of lingerie empire Victoria’s Secrets has fallen into administration, making the retailer yet another high-street victim of the pandemic.
The high-street has been hit hard in recent months, with chains including Laura Ashley, Oasis and Warehouse suffering a similar fate. The truth is Victoria’s Secrets has been struggling for years, and although lockdown may have been the final nail in the coffin, its downfall is more attributed to a reluctance to evolve with modern taste and values.
An unmissable sign of Victoria’s Secret’s waning popularity was the cancellation of last year’s iconic runway show, blamed on increasingly disappointing TV ratings. The glittering catwalk extravaganza became famous for its jewel-encrusted designs and spectacular angel wings worn by the world’s top supermodels, a.k.a the ‘Angels’. But in 2018, the broadcasting recorded its lowest ratings ever with just 3.3 million views, compared with almost 10 million in 2013.
The mounting public criticism of the show was another clear indication that the shine was wearing off the Victoria’s Secret Angels. The label was particularly vulnerable to complaints about a lack of diversity and inclusivity. Despite a growing aversion to narrow beauty standards among its customer base, Victoria’s Secret has moved at a glacial pace to pivot their marketing and promotion accordingly. Even in recent years, their shows were dominated by the same tall, thin, white supermodels – a result of their anachronistic weight and body fat requirements – making them wholly unrelatable to most female shoppers.
Despite efforts to offer a wider selection to customers, Victoria’s Secret remained strongly associated with the heavily padded push-up bras of a bygone era. The traditional push-up bra has become increasingly outdated as shoppers seek more than just sex appeal. For women looking for comfort and confidence from lingerie, brands like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty or Les Girls Les Boys have proved much more appealing. These competitors pride themselves on being available to all, and inspire their customers with messages of body positivity and empowerment.
As women decide it’s time to slip into something a little more comfortable, lingerie brands must embrace the notion that female sexuality is not something defined by heterosexual males. It’s essential to move with the times, and a brand built on Victorian refinement was an unsurprising casualty in the modern market.
By Rebecca Taylor