The era of the Victoria’s Secret Angels is officially over: The lingerie company announced this week that it is overhauling its branding going forward and partnering with celebrities like Priyanka Chopra and Megan Rapinoe.
As The New York Times first reported, the brand is bringing in a group of seven women, including Chopra and Rapinoe, to be part of the VS Collective. The women “will alternately advise the brand, appear in ads and promote Victoria’s Secret on Instagram.” The company also has “an entirely new executive team and is forming a board of directors in which all but one seat will be occupied by women.”
A press release for the Collective said that “through social, cultural and business relationships,” the group “will work to create new associate programs, revolutionary product collections, compelling and inspiring content, and rally support for causes vital to women.”
The VS Collective will also include skier Eileen Gu, model and body positivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, trans model Valentina Sampaio, model and South Sudanese refugee Adut Akech, and photographer and founder of #Girlgaze, a digital platform for female photographers, Amanda de Cadenet.
The Times called the end of the Victoria’s Secret Angels “the most extreme and unabashed attempt at a brand turnaround in recent memory,” since the company was notorious for selling overtly sexy merchandise modeled on women with impossibly perfect bodies.
News of the change came after the company canceled its iconic — and controversial — fashion show in 2019 after consumers and advocates had for years asked the company to increase its size offerings and to showcase more body diversity on the runway.
Martin Waters, the former head of Victoria’s Secret’s international business who was appointed chief executive of the brand in February, told the Times: “When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond. We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”
Response to the news has been mixed. Many conservative voices criticized the brand’s decision to align itself with outspoken feminists like Rapinoe and, while some women’s advocates praised the decision, others were skeptical about the brand’s motives and whether it could be successful.
I was having dinner with a friend, so my thoughts on this:
1) Any rebrand without a size expansion is DOA.
2) I don’t think this new VS Council or whatever it’s called will change Victoria’s secret brand credibility. It might hurt the image of those associated with it though. https://t.co/T1YQZTpwzp
— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) June 17, 2021
Some of the dumbest people run the most powerful companies on earth and it’s hilarious watching them destroy themselves.
Megan Rapinoe?? Nobody likes feminists. Nobody. Even other feminists hate feminists. They’re the least appealing people on the planet. https://t.co/4C2i7z2mMx
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) June 16, 2021
Ask ANY woman how seeing a Victoria Secret ad with the angels makes them feel. ANY woman. If it was working, they wouldn’t change it.
— Christopher Moore (@TheAuthorGuy) June 16, 2021
In addition to its refusal to update its retrograde branding for years, Victoria’s Secret is no stranger to controversy. Scandals related to the brand owner’s ties to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and complaints of toxicity within the company have circled for years.
A 2020 New York Times report detailed Victoria’s Secret’s history of “misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.”
In response, more than 100 models signed an open letter to then-Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas asking him to take action.
“We believe that this moment can be a wake-up call for Victoria’s Secret,” the letter read.