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The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Is Coming Back … Again



Models backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2018.
Photo: Heidi Gutman/Getty Images Television Network

When was the last time you thought twice about Victoria’s Secret? Perhaps it was last fall, when the struggling mall chain first “brought back” its annual runway show? Four years had passed since its final televised runway show in 2018, which aired as the brand’s profits took a nosedive and as controversy grew around its tone-deaf leadership and retrograde beauty ideals. For the 2023 comeback, Victoria’s Secret put a spin on the Rihanna approach, releasing a concept-heavy, straight-to-Amazon streaming film that few people actually watched.

Even though the documentary-style feature starred some famous runway models, including Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid, the messaging was muddled. Few of the models actually wore lingerie, and most of what they did wear was custom-made, never to be made available to buy at Victoria’s Secret. In a particularly confusing move, the company debuted a clip from the film at a party during New York Fashion Week, a few weeks before the Amazon release. Afterwards, more than one guest told me they would rather see the old show return than parse through whatever was happening on the screen. They weren’t alone — look at the comments below any Victoria’s Secret Instagram post, and you’ll find someone begging the company to bring back its supermodels and wings.

“We’ve read the comments and heard you,” read a message on Victoria’s Secret’s Instagram account on Wednesday, announcing its latest comeback plans: another reboot of its signature fashion show coming this fall that “will reflect who we are today” but still have “glamour, runway, wings, musical entertainment, and more!” Earlier this year, when I first heard Victoria’s Secret was planning to stage a live show in the original runway–meets–variety show format, it was set for November. (The company has yet to announce when the show will take place or how the footage will be released.)

But what does Victoria’s Secret stand for today, anyway? It’s still the largest seller of women’s underwear in the U.S. by far, as big as Hanes and Aerie combined, but its sales have plateaued. Net sales dipped 3 percent last year. Since its turnaround began in earnest in 2021, it has lured back many of the former Angels that defined its most successful eras, including Gisele Bündchen, Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel, Doutzen Kroes, and the Hadid sisters. (The models’ involvement has varied, however. Bella Hadid is part of many of the brand’s major shoots now, while Bündchen only appeared in one bra-launch campaign last year.) Victoria’s Secret still sells lace-trimmed push-up bras and fringed bathing suits. The shopping bags are still covered in pink stripes. Its campaigns now regularly feature plus-size models, however, and its stores finally sell nursing bras.

Every time Victoria’s Secret “brings back” the runway show, it guarantees widespread attention and conversation. Perhaps that’s more than enough reason to try. But these reboots also set high expectations that any company would struggle to meet today. Images of beautiful women in lingerie with wings strapped to their backs will inevitably bring up complicated conversations about male fantasies and the societal pressures around women’s beauty standards. By comparison, Skims’ latest antics, like its faux-nipple push-up bra, seem not only more innovative but more fun.

Instead, Victoria’s Secret today looks a lot like other past-their-prime mall brands that shoot the same crew of models and influencers, mostly in plain backdrop studios. The brand could take some lessons from its Columbus neighbor, Abercrombie & Fitch, which has fixed its business by ditching its own heavy legacy and focusing on millennials who want well-made, trendy wardrobe staples at a better quality than you would guess from their prices. At Victoria’s Secret, however, a similar strategy seems out of the question, so long as there are more versions of the fashion show to reboot.

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