Can Victoria’s Secret Still Be ‘Sexy’ Targeting Gay and Transsexual Women?

Victoria’s Secret, the massive, $5 billion lingerie and underwear clothing company for women, is about to undergo a radical change.

As a company, VS enjoyed huge success selling a fantasy. Victoria’s “Angels” were internationally recognized supermodels and became cultural icons.

But that “fantasy” being sold was largely a male fantasy. Women generally have their own ideas about what’s “sexy” and what isn’t. It would be stretching the point to say that women bought lingerie only to please their man, but the times are changing. It isn’t radical feminism that’s driving the change either. It’s ordinary women who don’t have the bodies of supermodels who want to look good and feel good about themselves — even if they’re plus-sized moms.

And they want to please their man in the bedroom.

The Victoria’s Secret fantasy was, like all fantasies, unattainable. So the company is going to change and sell fantasy for both men and women — and gay and transexual women too. Any company that ignores that market today will only be hurting itself. Victoria’s Secret is no different.

One of the big changes is in VS hiring 7 decidedly different women to act as an advisory board for the company as well as appear in ads for products.

New York Times:

The Victoria’s Secret Angels, those avatars of Barbie bodies and playboy reverie, are gone. Their wings, fluttery confections of rhinestones and feathers that could weigh almost 30 pounds, are gathering dust in storage. The “Fantasy Bra,” dangling real diamonds and other gems, is no more.

In their place are seven women famous for their achievements and not their proportions. They include Megan Rapinoe, the 35-year-old pink-haired soccer star and gender equity campaigner; Eileen Gu, a 17-year-old Chinese American freestyle skier and soon-to-be Olympian; the 29-year-old biracial model and inclusivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, who was the rare size 14 woman on the cover of Vogue; and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a 38-year-old Indian actor and tech investor.

Rapinoe was the U.S. soccer team star who kneeled during the national anthem and said mean things about Donald Trump. But it wasn’t her rancid politics that the company hired her for.

“Of course there will be people who are like, ‘Does this make sense?’” said Ms. Rapinoe, who acknowledged that when she was first approached, “I, too, was like, ‘What? Why do you want to work with me?’” She said she had been convinced by the willingness of the brand’s executives to acknowledge their mistakes and history, and by the fact that her role is not limited to the typical “brand ambassadorship,” but extends to consulting on language the company uses, the assortment of products it offers and narrative it’s putting out.

There are others in the so-called “VS Collective” who will be acting as consultants and models. They include Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian trans model, a South Sudanese refugee, a photographer — in the words of Rapinoe, they are people who were not “typical brand targets in the past.”

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Changing an iconic brand could easily turn into a corporate disaster. Just ask the guys who tried to push “New Coke” on the world. But in addition to appealing to younger, hipper women, the company is going to have to keep a sizable portion of its traditional customer base or it will continue to lose market share.

The former head of VS international and now CEO, Martin Waters, realizes the challenges but thinks it’s long past time for a change.

“In the old days, the Victoria brand had a single lens, which was called ‘sexy,’” Mr. Waters said. While that sold for decades, it also prevented the brand from offering products like maternity or post-mastectomy bras (not considered sexy) and prompted it to sell push-up sports bras (sexy, but not so popular). It also meant, he said, “that the brand never celebrated Mother’s Day.” (Not sexy.)

There are plenty of people who do, in fact, find motherhood seductive, but the myopia of the Victoria’s Secret lens was such that they were never acknowledged, let alone listened to.

It’s not that men will be ignored in the “new” Victoria’s Secret. It’s that women will be listened to and heard more than before. Most of us probably don’t agree with a lot of what they’re saying. But it’s long past time that women help define what they believe is “sexy” and that men accept them for it.

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