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Victoria’s Secret Christmas campaign: too little too late for diversity?

The 2020 Victoria’s Secret Christmas campaign encourages us to be ‘Merry and Cozy’ in their lacy lingerie. A first glance sees Barbara Palvin attired in a silk robe and pink underwear situation, toothbrush in mouth as if she’s been caught in the act. It’s difficult to discern how the brand’s new collection will supply the ‘coziness’ that their campaign’s name promises, but the models, a marvellously diverse bunch including Chanel Iman, Candice Huffine and Helena Christensen, certainly look merry. Their beautiful bodies are slim, plus-sized, young, mature, Caucasian and Korean/African American. But if this is Victoria’s Secret’s concerted effort to become ‘woke’, it may be too little and much, much too late.

Why can’t VS just do what they’ve always done, you ask? Why must they promote the diversification of their lingerie to suit all body types now, when their renowned campaigns have been populated almost exclusively by size 6, 6-foot supermodels all these years, to great success? Their catwalks were all the rage when I was 13 and the cool girl on my bus referred to each Angel on a first-name basis. Why must this change?

The answer is simple: it’s bad for business. The last decade has seen viewer engagement with the annual fashion show spiral, plunging from 9.7 million in 2013 to 3.3 million in 2018. Not even Shawn Mendes’ appearance on the latter hallowed stage with dulcet tones undulating throughout NYC’s Pier 94 could garner interest. The show has since received the chop, with Variety attributing the brand’s waning popularity to customers’ preferences changing from ‘push-up bras and washboard abs’ to ‘bralettes and body inclusivity’. The audience has experienced a shift in cultural morals.

It’s also difficult for consumers to forget the 2018 comments of Ed Razek, fashion show architect and then-chief marketing officer of VS’s parent company. When asked by Vogue about transgender and plus-size involvement on the catwalk, he infamously replied, ‘Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should’, justifying his exclusionary stance by reasoning that their presence would ruin the ‘fantasy’. He continues that competitors are ‘carping’ at Victoria’s Secret because ‘we’re the market leader’, before noting that the show’s attempt to include plus-sized models in 2000 failed to garner support and business. He concludes: ‘No one had any interest in it. Still don’t.’

Yet, he is, simply put, wrong. People don’t just want to see Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid strutting their stuff anymore; they want to see powerful men and women who reflect the body types of the general population. VS’s new ‘Merry and Cozy’ campaign might be a move in the right direction, but it’s a long way off Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show, the second instalment of which dropped last month on Amazon Prime. The Fenty show is a celebration of bodies through dance and light, a patchwork amalgamation of all walks of life. Only a year after Razek’s bigoted comments, Rihanna manufactured her fantasy using just the ingredients that he swore would ruin his. Perhaps it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to drop ‘Merry and Cozy’ with Ed Razek and freshen up their brand so it’s ‘Modern and Misogynist-Free’.

Image: Flaunter via Unsplash