victoria’s secret issued a weak apology for their statement on trans and plus sized models
This ain’t it.
Let’s be honest, for years now, Victoria’s Secret hasn't been as aspirational or chic as it once was. As our collective idea of what is considered ‘sexy’ has changed, the lingerie brand has failed to keep up with the times. Its shows, complete with angel wings and overwhelmingly white, thin models are increasingly viewed as out of touch with what female customers actually want. Recently though, the brand has compounded their image problems with some problematic comments from one of their top executives on the lack of transgender or plus sized models in their annual show.
Speaking to Vogue, Ed Razek, Victoria’s Secret’s Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of (get this) Public Relations said: “If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus sized model in the show, we have. It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? 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. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitions that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader.”
Understandably, the comments were immediately pounced on and decimated by legions of angry, ex-VS fans on social media. Many announced that they were instead switching what remained of their dwindling allegiance to Victoria’s Secret to Savage x Fenty, Rihanna’s inclusive, thoroughly modern lingerie collection, which grabbed headlines earlier this year by sending a heavily pregnant Slick Woods down the runway. Ed Razek told Vogue that if Victoria’s Secret were to pull the same stunt they would be accused of “pandering”, but considering Fenty’s stratospheric rise to success, which coincided with a 25% drop in sales from Victoria’s Secret, the whole thing reads like sour grapes.
Reacting to the social media backlash, Victoria’s Secret quickly released an apology for their PR fuck up. In a grovelling message hastily posted to Twitter yesterday, Ed Razek backtracked on his comments. “My remark on the inclusion of transgender models to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show came across as insensitive. I apologize. To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings… and like many others, they didn’t make it… But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”
The apology though, like the show itself, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s easy to read between the lines of what Victoria’s Secret are saying here. It’s not that transgender models are banned, they’re telling us. No no, it’s just that they’re not good enough. Disregarding the fact that trans and intersex models regularly walk for luxury brands at fashion week -- Dara Allen, Maxim Magnus, Teddy Quinlivan, Finn Buchanan opening for Margiela this season, Hanne Gaby Odiele are just a few that spring to mind -- the brand’s logic here is transparent and offensive. It’s an easy get out clause. It was also quickly taken down as such by transgender model and activist Carmen Carrera, who confirmed that she had not been asked to audition underneath the post. Leyna Bloom, who earlier this year started a campaign to become the first trans WOC VS angel, also spoke out about the comments on Instagram, predicting correctly that the brand would soon realise they had made a huge mistake.
The fact is that the aesthetic propagated by Victoria’s Secret doesn't feel very modern. It’s too white, too tanned, too cis to be aspirational for real women. The angels are dated. They’re mid-noughties, Garnier sun shimmer and smearing foundation on your lips. They’re wearing VS Pink hot pants to sleep in and being “in a relationship” on Facebook. They’re the netball girls in the year above you wanted to look like at 15, before you realised how boring that was.
The brand’s stubborn refusal to update their beauty standards to reflect what women really want is tedious at best and self-destructive at worst, and their proclamation that they’re the “leader” in their field is laughably anachronistic. Whatever they might say following the backlash, it comes down to this: Victoria’s Secret’s decision not to cast non-binary, trans or plus-sized models in their show is a choice. Deciding not to buy their products anymore is a choice too.