Victoria's Secret is ditching, well, the secret.
Rather than hiding their brand in the bedroom, the lingerie giant has decided to rebrand into a more socially expansive and responsive company with two new entities: The VS Collective and The Victoria's Secret Global Fund for Women's Cancers, all in the wake of numerous sexual misconduct controversies over the last few years.
In a press release, the company positions The VS Collective’s goal as to highlight “accomplished women who share a common passion to drive positive change.”
The Collective’s inaugural spokeswomen include actress Priyanka Chopra, 38, United States Women's National Soccer Team player Megan Rapinoe, 35, South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, Los Angeles journalist and photographer Amanda de Cadenet, Chinese skier and women's sports advocate Eileen Gu, British model and activist Paloma Elsesser, and Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio, Victoria Secret’s first transgender model.
The VS Collective brand ambassadors will, according to the press release, "create new associate programs, revolutionary product collections, compelling and inspiring content, and rally support for causes vital to women."
Victoria’s Secret’s Chief Marketing Officer, Martha Pease, said in a statement, "With The VS Collective, we are creating a platform that will build new, deeper relationships with all women. Through a series of collaborations, business partnerships, and cause-related initiatives, we're bringing new dimensions to our brand experience. In marrying our new partners' energy, creativity and perspectives with our network and scale, we can transform how we connect with and show up for women.”
For her part, Rapinoe sees the Collective as a way to address feelings she’s always felt when facing the fashion industry. She admits she always felt "on the outside looking in with brands in the beauty and fashion industry" and she wants to create "a space that sees the true spectrum of ALL women."
Further, as People reports, the press release announced that The Victoria's Secret Global Fund for Women's Cancer will donate "at least $5 million annually to examine and address racial and gender inequities and unlock new innovations that improve cancer outcomes for all women.”
These initiatives are not just a sudden diversity awakening for the popular boudoir fixture. Victoria’s Secret has had a rough couple of years.
In August, 2019, over 100 models, via the Model Alliance, signed a petition sent to CEO John Mehas asking the company to protect its models against sexual misconduct. A follow-up letter came in February 2020, alleging a “culture of misogyny and abuse.” Mehas eventually stepped down in November of that year, and was soon replaced by Martin Waters.
This came after a series of major missteps. The parent company, L Brands, sold a 55% stake of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, and Pink to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for approximately $525 million. The move resulted in longtime L Brands chairman and CEO, Leslie H. Wexner, stepping down, following scrutiny for his business ties with Jeffrey Epstein.
Then, months after that scandal, former Victoria's Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek was accused of sexual harassment along with various misogyny charges, according to a December 2020 New York Times report. Razek had already stepped down from his position in August 2019, months after making controversial comments about the move to hire transgender or curvier models for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
That show itself already had a long history of leveled criticism for not embracing a more diverse range of models on its runway.
The company ultimately dropped the “Victoria’s Secret Angel” title, and the Fashion Show was finally cancelled for good last year. Razek later apologized for the comments.
Of these recent moves, meant to prove the company is aware of and working to change its internal and external workings, new CEO Waters said, "At Victoria's Secret, we are on an incredible journey to become the world's leading advocate for women. This is a dramatic shift for our brand, and it's a shift that we embrace from our core. These new initiatives are just the beginning. We are energized and humbled by the work ahead of us."