how victoria's secret became the fashion olympics

Victoria's Secret is the billion dollar company that has models training like athletes, gets girls buying bras in a frenzy and unlike any other brand, attracts the eyes of the whole world on their show for one night.

by Lynette Nylander
03 December 2014, 11:10am

Google Victoria's Secret, what comes up? Over 31 million results and after the 2014 show airs globally on December 9th, you can expect a couple more million search results. Once just an American megabrand that never really had much clout in the UK and beyond (mostly due to the lack of brick and mortar stores here and abroad), the brand entered the British market in 2012 with stores at London's New Bond Street and Westfield Shopping Centre and so the seed was planted, but what grew? Two years later, a mass hysteria seldom seen in the UK. From the queues around the block waiting to get a glimpse of the Angels in action and the elaborate costumes of last year's show lit up like the brand's crown jewels in the Bond Street store windows. This year's show was the brand's biggest PR stunt on British soil so far, and only the second time the show had been held outside the United States. The brand has taken the idea of a fashion show and turned it on it's head, girls rep their host nation and let their loyal (and social media crazed) followers in for just one night, making the Victoria Secret Fashion show the closest thing we have to a fashion Olympics, complete with spectators.

47 girls representing over 20 countries made up this years Victoria's Secret fashion show line-up. The selection process is rigorous, a panel made up of Ed Razek, Victoria's Secret's Chief Marketing Officer, Casting Director John Pfieffer, Creative Director Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou and Monica Mitro EVP of Public Relations. They look at the line-ups of the major shows from London, New York, Milan and Paris and keep tabs throughout the year for models they think may have the X-factor as well as inviting girls from all over the world to New York City for a chance to nab one of the elusive spots. Girls are judged on their personality, beauty and body whilst the panel looks on in scrutiny. Sounds scrupulous? They have to be... Spots on the Victoria's Secret catwalk can be the making of a models career. Taking her from run-of-the-mill runways and the odd editorial to chat shows, and if they're lucky, the fashion equivalent of Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket, a permanent contract with the brand and with it the chance to be named an Angel, the model equivalent of a rock star. Gisele Bundchen, Doutzen Kroes, Adriana Lima and Miranda Kerr are just a few who've been lucky enough to be named angels (who came in at numbers 1, 2, 3 and 6, respectively, on Forbes' Modelling Rich List in 2014). Victoria's Secret has the ability to be a catalyst that turns girls into bona fide brands.

The girls current roster includes VS stalwarts like Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima, blonde bombshell Candice Swanepoel, Doutzen Kroes, Elsa Hosk, Karlie Kloss, Lily Aldridge and Behati Prinsloo, collectively the girls have a social media following of almost 17 million people. The brand undeniably makes these girls into superstars who act as hugely popular ambassadors that help market the brand. This marketing is more personal and authentic than that of most fashion brands, as it comes from the purposefully picked brand ambassadors directly to those who love and admire the angels' every step, it's a cunning and smart move by a brand who could shell out for double page spread in all the glossy titles. The gold medal for an angel, quite literally is the specially crafted bra made from jewels and diamonds that is created each year for one of them to don during the finale. This year the honour fell upon two, Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima, the longest serving angels.

Girls train for months, undergoing everything from ballet to boxing to rigorous runs in Central Park, all cleverly hashtagged with the #trainlikeanangel stamp of approval; the preparation undertaken by the girls is crucial as all eyes are watching. Backstage at last night's show, Jourdan Dunn relaxed as she prepared for her 3rd Victoria's Secret show. As a Londoner born and raised, she had a rare opportunity to strut her stuff in-front of a home crowd. "The whole world gets excited about this," she told i-D, "not just the UK or the US. The fact I'm in it and from London, and the show is in London is just amazing."

Newcomer Grace Mahary, 25, seemed floored to be a part of such a huge show and to be representing her home country, Canada. "I am the only Canadian model in the show," she said, "I am so proud to be representing the women of Canada."

From Brazilian Isabeli Fontana, Polish supermodel Magdalena Frackowiak, Californian Jasmine Tookes and the Dutch Imaan Hammam, the girls seem acutely aware of the part they play in representing their countries and take it on with pride. The brand also seems careful that a number of countries are represented, maybe a nod to the global invasion of the brand we may be about to experience, with the brand looking to expand overseas.

Last night's show (shot twice to ensure all angles and girls are covered) is televised in 192 countries and watched by an audience of 500 million people. It was a rare chance to see models in action, primped, preened and in the very best of shape. It's a new version of the greatest show on earth, complete with grandeur to rival any Olympic opening ceremony, the games interlocking rings replaced with angel wings, and a spot on the winner's podium meaning the ultimate in mass exposure and supermodel stardom.


Text Lynette Nylander
Photography Oliver Hadlee Pearch

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