On Wednesday, Victoria’s Secret announced a new “VS Collective” in a long overdue effort to rebrand and leave behind its era of sexy fashion shows, bejeweled fantasy bras, and “Angels” (yep, the Angels are no more). The move is likely a way to distance the lingerie retailer from its controversies, which have piled up over the last few years, including its owner Leslie Wexner’s ties to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the harassment claims against its former top executive Ed Razek, and callouts over the lack of diversity both inside the company and in regards to casting models.
Razek departed in 2019 and Wexner stepped down as CEO of parent company L Brands in 2020, and now new leadership is taking on the challenge of turning around the label—and its public perception. The new “VS Collective” representatives include soccer star Megan Rapinoe, actress and businesswoman Priyanka Chopra, models Paloma Elsesser, Adut Akech, and Valentina Sampaio, professional skier Eileen Gu, and advocate Amanda de Cadenet.
In a press release, the collective is described as “an ever-growing group of accomplished women who share a common passion to drive positive change.” It also stated that, “through social, cultural, and business relationships, the VS Collective will work to create new associate programs, revolutionary product collections, compelling and inspiring content, and rally support for causes vital to women.”
Victoria’s Secret is hoping it conveys empowerment and inclusivity with this initiative, and Martin Waters, the newly appointed chief executive of the brand, acknowledged its past mistakes in an interview with the New York Times. “When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” he said. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.” While he is yet another male CEO at a company that caters to women, the board is now occupied by almost all women. (Waters is the only man on the seven-member board.)
Reactions to the rebrand so far have been mixed. Some customers on Victoria’s Secret’s Instagram posts have voiced disappointment over the new direction. “Bring back the Angels!!! We don’t need more woke companies,” one user wrote. On Twitter, others have slammed the VS Collective representatives, coming particularly for Megan Rapinoe.
But! Many showed support for the soccer champion and Olympic gold-medalist.
Men have also needlessly inserted themselves into the discussion with moronic tweets like these:
Though users were quick to call them out and remind them that the lingerie isn’t for them, TYVM.
In an interview with the NYT, Rapinoe acknowledged what she called the brand’s “patriarchal, sexist” and “harmful” past, but said the new leadership convinced her to join as an ambassador to help steer it in a positive direction. Paloma Elsesser, a plus-size model, said in the same interview that she wants to use her role to increase the brand’s product sizing. “I didn’t start modeling to just do all the cool stuff; I did it to change the world,” she said. “With platforms like VS, where you enter the living rooms of all people, that’s where you make radical change.”
Now that VS has a new roster of representatives and is embarking on an entirely different marketing strategy, word’s still out on whether it will translate to more sales—or, more importantly, if customers will buy into the updated messaging.