Victoria's Secret

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Victoria's Secret
FoundedJune 12, 1977; 42 years ago (1977-06-12)
Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, California, U.S.[1]
FounderRoy Raymond
HeadquartersThree Limited Parkway, ,
Number of locations
1,017 company-owned stores
18 independently owned stores[2]
Areas served
Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Maldives, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic, Serbia, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panamá, Brazil, Curaçao, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, China, South Korea, South Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Australia, Qatar, New Zealand, and Singapore
Key people
John Mehas
(CEO of Victoria's Secret Stores)[3]
Pamela Edwards (CFO)
Patrick Sanderson (President, COO)
ProductsUnderwear, women's clothing, lingerie, swimwear, footwear, fragrances and beauty products, and make up.
ParentL Brands

Victoria's Secret is an American designer, manufacturer, and marketer of women's lingerie, womenswear, and beauty products. The company was founded in 1977 by Roy and Gaye Raymond[4] as a response to packaged underwear, which Roy Raymond considered to be "ugly, floral-print nylon nightgowns". As of 2019, in the United States, Victoria's Secret is the largest lingerie retailer.[5]



Victoria's Secret was founded by Roy Raymond, and his wife, Gaye Raymond,[4] in San Francisco, California, on June 12, 1977.[6][7] Eight years prior to founding Victoria's Secret, in the late 1960s, Raymond was embarrassed when purchasing lingerie for his wife at a department store. Newsweek reported him looking back on the incident from the vantage of 1981: "When I tried to buy lingerie for my wife," he recalls, "I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns, and I always had the feeling the department store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder."[8] Raymond spent the next eight years studying the lingerie market.[9][10]

At the time when Raymond founded “Victoria's Secret”, most women in America purchased "dowdy", "pragmatic", "foundation garments" by Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Jockey in packs of three from department stores and saved "fancier items" for "special occasions" like honeymoons.[11] "Lacy thongs and padded push-up bras" were niche products during this period found "alongside feathered boas and provocative pirate costumes at Frederick's of Hollywood" outside of the mainstream product offerings available at department stores.[11] In 1977, Raymond borrowed $40,000 from his parents and $40,000 from a bank to establish Victoria's Secret: a store in which men could feel comfortable buying lingerie.[7][12] The company's first store was located in Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California.[7]

Raymond picked the name "Victoria" after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to associate with the refinement of the Victorian era. The "Secret" was what was hidden underneath the clothes. The “angels” comes from his wife being in a sorority, Pi Beta Phi, where their mascot was an angel.[12]

Victoria's Secret grossed $500,000 in its first year of business,[7] enough to finance the expansion from a headquarters and warehouse to four new store locations[13] and a mail-order operation.[7] By 1982, the fourth store (still in the San Francisco area) was added at 395 Sutter Street.[14] Victoria's Secret stayed at that location until 1990, when it moved to the larger Powell Street frontage of the Westin St. Francis.[15]

In April 1982, Raymond sent out his 12th catalog; each catalog cost $3 (equivalent to $7.79 in 2018).[14] Catalog sales accounted for 55% of the company's $7 million annual sales in 1982.[14] The Victoria's Secret stores at this time were "a niche player" in the underwear market. The business was described as "more burlesque than Main Street."[16]


In 1982, Victoria's Secret had grown to five stores, a 40-page catalog, and was grossing $6 million annually.[7] Raymond sold Victoria's Secret Inc. to Leslie Wexner, creator of Limited Stores Inc of Columbus, Ohio, for $1 million.[7][17][18] In 1983, Wexner revamped Victoria's Secret's sales model. He discarded the money-losing model of selling lingerie to male customers and replaced it with one that focused on female customers.[19] Victoria's Secret transformed from "more burlesque than Main Street" to a mainstay that sold broadly accepted underwear. The "new colors, patterns and styles that promised sexiness packaged in a tasteful, glamorous way and with the snob appeal of European luxury" meant to appeal to female buyers.[19] To further this image, the Victoria's Secret catalog continued the practice that Raymond began:[20] listing the company's headquarters on catalogs at a fake London address, with the real headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.[19] The stores were redesigned to evoke 19th century England.

Howard Gross took over as president from his position as vice-president in 1985.[21] In October of that year, the Los Angeles Times reported that Victoria's Secret was stealing market share from department stores;[22] in 1986, Victoria's Secret was the only national chain of lingerie stores.[23]

The New York Times reported on Victoria's Secret's rapid expansion from four stores in 1982 to 100 in 1986, and analysts' expectations that it could expand to 400 by 1988.[24] In 1987, Victoria's Secret was reportedly among the "best-selling catalogs".[25] In 1990, analysts estimated that sales had quadrupled in four years, making it one of the fastest growing mail-order businesses.[26] The New York Times described it as a "highly visible leader", saying it used "unabashedly sexy high-fashion photography to sell middle-priced underwear."[27] Victoria's Secret also released their own line of fragrances in 1992.[28]

Having joined the business in 1984, Cynthia Fedus (Fields) became the leader of the catalog in 1986 and was promoted to President and CEO in 1987.   Cynthia Fedus-Fields “oversaw Victoria’s Secret enormous direct business, including its catalog, from the mid-1980s until 2000.”  During her tenure, total revenues increased to “almost $1 billion.”In 1987, Victoria's Secret was already reported to be among the "best-selling catalogs".[28] By 1990, analysts estimated that sales had quadrupled in four years, making it one of the fastest growing mail-order businesses.[29] The New York Times described it as a "highly visible leader", saying it used "unabashedly sexy high-fashion photography to sell middle-priced underwear."[30]


By the early 1990s, Victoria's Secret faced a gap in management that led the company to be "plagued by persistent quality problems".[29][30] Howard Gross, who had grown the company significantly[31] since Wexner's 1982 purchase, was moved to the poorly performing L Brands subsidiary Limited Stores.[29] Business Week reported that "both divisions have suffered".[29] Grace Nichols, who became President and CEO beginning in 1992,[32] worked to resolve the quality problems;[31] their margins tightened, resulting in a slower growth of profits.[29]

The company also released their own line of fragrances in 1992[31] and expanded their footprint in the $3.5 billion cosmetic market[33]  in 1999 with the introduction of their own cosmetics products.

Sales and profits from the catalog continued to expand due to the addition of clothing, swimwear and shoes and increasing circulation. The New York Times reported that the financial success of Victoria's Secret catalog influenced other catalog by presenting lingerie as "romantic and sensual but tasteful", "in which models are photographed in ladylike poses against elegant backgrounds."

Victoria's Secret introduced the Miracle Bra selling two million within the first year, but faced competition from Sara Lee's WonderBra a year later. The company responded with a TV campaign.[34] By 1998, Victoria's Secret's market share of the intimate apparel market was 14 percent.[35] That year Victoria's Secret also entered the $3.5 billion cosmetic market.[36]

The Los Angeles Times described the catalog in 2000 as having achieved "an almost cult-like following” and in May of that year – after delivering record profits in FY 1999 and record first quarter results in 2000, Cynthia Fedus-Fields decided to join her husband in retirement.

In 1993, the original founder of Victoria's Secret passed away in a tragic manner. Having sold the failing San Francisco-based company in 1982 to Columbus, Ohio-based business man Leslie Wexner for $1 million, the founder of Victoria's Secret, Roy Larson Raymond, invested most of the money in a new clothing brand, which went bankrupt in 1986. With Raymond owning the unincorporated business assets personally, the bankruptcy caused Raymond to lose all of his family cars and two of his houses, according to the Daily Mail UK. Meanwhile, Wexner had turned Victoria's Secret into a multi-billion dollar business, owning most of the competitive lingerie market share. Raymond attempted two more start-ups, reportedly borrowing money from his mother, both of which immediately failed. Soon after, Raymond, who anecdotally started Victoria's Secret to establish a place to by lingerie for his wife, divorced with his wife of two children, in 1993. Raymond committed suicide later in August of the same year at the age of 46 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. His ex-wife, Gaye Raymond, later a professor at Samuel Merritt University, said he was likely depressed at the time, contributed to by multiple business failures.

In 1999, the company aimed to increase its coverage with the Body by Victoria brand.[37] In May 2000, Wexner installed Sharen Jester Turney, previously of Neiman Marcus Direct, as the new chief executive of Victoria's Secret Direct to turn around catalog sales that were lagging behind other divisions.[38][33] Forbes reported Turney stating, as she flipped through a Victoria's Secret catalog, "We need to quit focusing on all that cleavage."[38] In 2000, Turney began to redefine Victoria's Secret catalog from "breasts—spilling over the tops of black, purple and reptile-print underthings" to one that would appeal to an "upscale customer who now feels more comfortable buying La Perla or Wolford lingerie.";[38] "dimming the hooker looks" such as "tight jeans and stilettos"; and moving from "a substitute for Playboy in some dorm rooms," to something closer to a Vogue lifestyle layout, where lingerie, sleepwear, clothes and cosmetics appear throughout the catalog.[38] Beginning in 2000, Grace Nichols, CEO of Victoria's Secret Direct, led a similar change at Victoria's Secret's stores—moving away from an evocation of 1800s England (or a Victorian bordello).[38]


By 2006, Victoria's Secret's 1,000 stores across the United States accounted for one third of all purchases in the intimate apparel industry. [39] In May 2006, Wexner promoted Sharen Jester Turney from the Victoria's Secret catalog and online units to lead the whole company.[16] In 2008, she acknowledged "product quality that doesn't equal the brand's hype."[40] In September 2006, Victoria's Secret reportedly tried to make their catalog feel more like magazines by head-hunting writers from Women's Wear Daily.[41]

In 2015, according to CBS News, Victoria's Secret abandoned it's "on-call" employee scheduling structure, following a probe into employment practices by the State of New York Attorney General, and a pending class action lawsuit in the State of California.

In February 2016, Turney stepped down as CEO of Victoria's Secret after serving for a decade.[42][43][44] In 2016, direct sales only grew 1.6% and fell by 7.4% in the last quarter of the year, typically a high revenue period due to the holidays. The company discontinued its use of a print catalog and dropped certain categories of clothing such as swimwear.[45] Sales revenue continued to stagnate and drop in early 2017.[46]

In November 2018, it was announced that CEO Jan Singer had resigned amid declining sales.[47] According to The Wall Street Journal, quarterly same-store sales in the last two years raised only once.[48] The announcement came one week after CMO Ed Razek made the controversial comment that the company doesn't cast transgender or plus-size models in its annual fashion show "because the show is a fantasy."[49] After a 40% stock plunge in a single year, Victoria's Secret announced in 2019 that it will be closing 53 stores in the U.S. The company also announced the relaunch of its swimwear line in March 2019.[50] In 2019, April Holt the executive vice president stepped down after 16 years.[51][52]

On November 21, 2019 it was announced that Victoria's Secret will no longer be hold their annual fashion show. Executive Vice President, Stuart B. Burgdoerfe stated, "We think it’s important to evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret. There will be more to come as that continues to get evaluated." [53]


Current products and lines[edit]

Victoria's Secret[edit]

This is the main line of the brand including bras, underwear, lingerie, and sleepwear.[54]


Victoria's Secret Pink Store NYC

In 2002, Victoria's Secret launched Pink (stylized PINK), a lingerie line targeted toward college-age women, younger than Victoria's Secret's main line customers.

Victoria Sport[edit]

Victoria sports is a line of activewear that can be worn to the gym and on the street.[55]

Victoria's Secret Beauty[edit]

The beauty line is composed of fragrances, make-up, accessories, lotions, and other bath and body products.[56]


In 2002, swimwear was introduced and available via the web site and catalog.[57] In 2015 and 2016, a swim special was aired on CBS to promote the line. In April 2016, Chairman and CEO Leslie H. Wexner announced that Victoria's Secret would end their swimwear line, replacing it with a new activewear line.[58] In November 2018, John Mehas replaced Jan Singer as Victoria's Secret's CEO and announced the relaunch of the swimwear line.[3] In March 2019, the swim line was made available in shops.[50]

Recent product history[edit]

In 2010, Victoria's Secret launched the Incredible bra.[59] In 2012, Victoria's Secret launched the Victoria's Secret Designer Collection described by Vogue as the company's "first high end lingerie line."[60]

In 2016, Victoria's Secret stopped selling swimwear, shoes, accessories and apparel that were only sold in online Victoria's Secret stores to stay more focused on the lingerie, fragrances and sleepwear that are still available in stores and online. In 2017 Victoria's Secret began to put more emphasis on bralettes (bras without underwire, often intended to be worn visibly) and sports bras (under the Victoria Sport label) to appeal to a younger customer base.[61]

In 2019, Victoria's Secret relaunched its product line of eyewear, footwear and swimwear line in hopes of boosting struggling sales for the brand.[50]

Operating divisions[edit]

Victoria Secret's operations are organized into three divisions: Victoria's Secret Stores (stores), Victoria's Secret Direct (online and catalog operations), and Victoria's Secret Beauty (their bath and cosmetics line). The company does business in the following retail formats: general merchandise stores, apparel stores.[citation needed]

Victoria's Secret stores[edit]

A store display
Victoria's Secret in Las Vegas, Nevada

Throughout the 1980s, Victoria's Secret took over the market using "faux-British veneer, romantic styling and soft classical music."[35][79] In 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that Victoria's Secret continued the practice of putting "on a British air—or what the Ohio-based chain thinks Americans believe is British. Boudoirish. Tony. Upscale."[75]

During the 1990s, Victoria's Secret saw a 30% increase in store sales after the use of analyzing in their data warehouse in which specific store the styles, sizes and color of which bras were selling.[80]

As of 2010, there are 1,000 Victoria's Secret lingerie stores and 100 independent Victoria's Secret Beauty Stores in the United States, mostly in shopping centers. They sell a range of bras, panties, hosiery, cosmetics, sleepwear, and other products. Victoria's Secret mails more than 400 million of its catalogs per year.[81]

During the 1990s, store sizes grew from the average 1,400 square feet to between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet.[64] In 2002, the average Victoria's Secret store was 6,000 square feet.[82][83]

International expansion[edit]

Map of Victoria's Secret stores in the United States, as of August 2011

Up until the early 2000s, management at Victoria's Secret actively decided to not expand outside the United States.[84] The drive to continue growing coupled with facing a maturing of the American retail market led to a change in that decision and to expand Victoria's Secret outside the United States.[84] Victoria's Secret announced the company's plan to expand into Canada in 2010.[85] The company opened 23 stores[citation needed] stores in Canada with locations in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec,[86] Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

In November 2005, the company opened its first boutique in the United Kingdom at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5 with the help of World Duty Free.[87] This was followed in 2009 with several Victoria's Secret Travel and Tourism stores residing within airports outside the United States. These include locations in Schiphol International Airport, The Netherlands.[88][89]

Victoria's Secret opened their first store located at the Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford, London[90] on July 24, 2012.[91][deprecated source] Their flagship 40,386-square-foot- (3,752.0 m2) store on New Bond Street, London opened on August 29, 2012,[92] and there will be further nationwide expansion across the United Kingdom. Victoria's Secret executive vice president and chief administrative officer Martyn R Redgrave told Women's Wear Daily "That's what we're looking to do as we expand, in the UK in particular, and those will be company-owned and operated".[93] Since 2013, stores opened across the United Kingdom in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol and London including Westfield London, Bluewater and Brent Cross and Glasgow. As of 2018, there are 16 stores in the United Kingdom.[94]

International franchises[edit]

In 2010, Victoria's Secret expanded with franchises internationally.

The first franchise store in Latin America opened in Isla Margarita, Venezuela on June 25, 2010 followed by other stores in the country, and in Bogota, Colombia, in July 2012 selling beauty products and accessories. Angel's Group, the Colombian company operating the franchise, is planning to open 10 stores in Colombia.[95] Victoria's Secret is also planning on opening a store in the exclusive Multiplaza Mall in San Salvador, El Salvador.[96]

In 2010, M.H. Alshaya Co. opened the first Victoria's Secret store in the Middle East region in Kuwait. M.H. Alshaya Co. operates the Victoria's Secret franchise located in the Marina Mall selling products including "cosmetic and branded accessories, but it has left out the brand's infamous lingerie line".[97]

The brand's first Caribbean store opened in November 2011 at Plaza Las Americas in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[98] Two stores also opened in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic at the Agora,[99] (mainly selling beauty products and accessories) and Sambil Santo Domingo[100] malls in August 2012 and October 2012, respectively.

The first Polish store opened in July 2012 at the Złote Tarasy shopping mall in Warsaw and is operated by M.H. Alshaya Co. It was the first Victoria's Secret franchise store in Europe,[101] and it opened just a day before the first British store in London.[93]

The first Serbian Victoria's Secret store opened in January 2014 at the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade.[102] This was the first Victoria's Secret store to open in the former Yugoslavia.

Victoria's Secret Direct[edit]


Prior to the emergence of e-commerce, the Victoria's Secret's catalogs provided both an informative and exciting experience in the comfort of the consumer's home.

The catalog under Raymond's leadership took the form of an upmarket version of Frederick's of Hollywood lingerie catalog being more sensuous than the catalog published under the future leadership of The Limited.

The New York Times reported that the financial success of Victoria's Secret catalogs influenced other catalogs, which changed to present lingerie as "romantic and sensual but tasteful" "in which models are photographed in ladylike poses against elegant backgrounds."

This led to Victoria's Secret dominating the catalog field for "lingerie and sexy nightwear." The catalogs allowed for consumers to review the entire spectrum of product offerings, along the axes of style, color and fabric. Victoria's Secret accepted catalog orders via telephone 24 hours a day.

Victoria's Secret's catalog offers a more diverse range of merchandise.

The Los Angeles Times described the catalog in 2000 as having achieved "an almost cult-like following."

In May 2016, the brand decided to discontinue the catalog which had cost the brand $125 million to $150 million annually. The decision came after the brand had the impression that catalogs have grown stale as a marketing device and that tests of dialing back the release of its catalog hadn't resulted in negative sales numbers.[103]


In 1995 Victoria's Secret began building its e-commerce website which the company launched after three years of development at 6 p.m. December 4, 1998, using the domain Twenty minutes later the first order was placed on the website from a Littleton, Colorado, customer at 6:20 p.m.

It was reported that the three year development was a result of the company's concern of rolling out a half-baked website that could "discourage return visits".

Viewers who logged onto the Victoria's Secret's website to view the company's first webcast of their fashion show on February 3, 1999, were unable to view the webcast due to the Internet infrastructure Victoria Secret's selected was unable to meet user demand causing some users to be unable to view the webcast.

Victoria's Secret Beauty[edit]

The Limited, Inc in 1998 created Intimate Beauty Corporation with a mandate to establish a group of beauty businesses with Victoria's Secret Beauty being the first company in the firm's portfolio.[citation needed]

In November 2012 Susie Coulter became president of Victoria's Secret Beauty; the company's beauty division located in New York City[104]

Corporate affairs[edit]


Victoria's Secret was originally owned by "The Limited".[105] In 2002 Wexner reincorporated Victoria's Secret into the Limited; previously Victoria's Secret's parent company was Intimate Brands, a separately traded entity whose President was Ed Razek.[16][106]

By 2006, 72% of Limited Brands' revenue—and almost all of their profits—came from their Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works units.[107]

On July 10, 2007, the Victoria's Secret parent company, Limited Brands, sold a 75% interest in their apparel brands, Limited Stores and Express to Sun Capital Partners, to focus on expanding their Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works units.[108] The immediate impact of the sale resulted in Limited Brands taking a $42 million after-tax loss.[109]

In 2017 Victoria's Secret recorded net sales of about US$7.39 billion worldwide.[110]

Management structure[edit]

Victoria's Secret stores[edit]

In 1985, Howard Gross was promoted to president from vice president.[21] In 1991 Grace Nichols replaced Gross as president of Victoria's Secret Stores. Nichols previously had been "executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Limited's lingerie division."[111]

Victoria's Secret Direct[edit]

In 1987, Cynthia Fedus (Fields) became the President and CEO of the company prior to the formation of Intimate Brands.[112][113]  She held this position until May 2000.

In May 2000, Wexner installed Sharen Jester Turney, who had previously worked at Neiman Marcus Direct, as the new chief executive of Victoria's Secret Direct.[38]

Victoria's Secret Beauty[edit]

Victoria's Secret Beauty logo

In May 2006, Christine Beauchamp was named president and CEO of Victoria's Secret Beauty. Beauchamp was succeeded by Shashi Batra in 2009, who became president of Victoria's Secret Beauty.[114] Robin Burns was CEO of Victoria's Secret Beauty.[84]

Environmental record[edit]

After two years of pressure from environmentalist groups, Victoria's Secret's parent firm and a conservation group reached an agreement to make the lingerie retailer's catalog more environmentally friendly in 2006.[112] [113] The catalog would no longer be made of pulp supplied from any woodland caribou habitat range in Canada, unless it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The catalogs will also be made of 10 percent recycled paper.[115]

The company has bought organic and fair trade-grown cotton to make some of its panties.[116][117]

Legal proceedings[edit]

On March 4, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Victoria's Secret in Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc. that there must be proof of actual harm to the trademark.[118][119]


In 2006 it was reported that Victoria's Secret paid workers $7 per day to make bras for them in Thai factories.[120]

One-tenth of all Victoria's Secret bras are sourced via Intimate Fashions, a manufacturer with factories in the South Indian city of Guduvanchery.[121][122][citation needed]

As a by-result of the Jordan–United States Free Trade Agreement, which retreated from standards established in the 1990s, working conditions in Jordan have been compared to slave labour.[123]

Corporate identity[edit]


Prior to the 1982 sale, the company's business name was Victoria's Secret, Inc. then afterwards the name was changed to Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc. In 2005, the company changed to Victoria's Secret Stores, LLC.[citation needed]

Marketing partners[edit]

In the early 1980s, Victoria's Secret used FCB/Leber Katz Partners for the development of their brand, marketing, and advertising.[62]

In 1989, FCB/Leber Katz Partners and Victoria's Secret executed a national advertising campaign featuring for the first time in the company's history a ten-page glossy insert that appeared in the November issue of Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Victoria, House Beautiful, Bon Appetit, New Woman, and People magazines.[64] Victoria's Secret used the insert to announce their expansion into the toiletries and fragrance business.[64] Up until the ten-page insert, the company's growth had been driven by their catalog, sporadic ads in fashion publications, and word of mouth.[64] Catalogs were discontinued in early 2016.


Victoria's Secret

The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is an annual "elaborate marketing tool for Limited Brands".[124] The show is a mix of "beautiful models scantily clad in lingerie" and A-list entertainers "And every year, it becomes less about fashion and more about show".[124] The company gained notoriety in the early 1990s after it began to use supermodels in its advertising and fashion shows. Throughout the 2000s, Victoria's Secret has turned down celebrity models and endorsements.[125] In 1999, Victoria's Secret's 30 second Super Bowl advertisement led to one million visits to the company's website within an hour of airing.[126]

In 2004, Victoria's Secret featured Bob Dylan in an advertisement to test new marketing possibilities while Victoria's Secret dropped their fashion show for 2004 as a result of the fallout from the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl incident that caused complaints from women's groups.[127][128][129]

The company created a campaign to market its "Body" bra line called "The Perfect Body." The campaign has elicited substantial controversy, with many sources saying it will lower women's self-esteem because it does not embrace all body types.[130]

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show[edit]

In 1995, Victoria's Secret began holding their annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which is broadcast on primetime American television.[131] Starting with the 1995 fashion show, they are "a combination of self-assured strutting for women and voyeuristic pleasures for men—and lingerie becomes mainstream entertainment."[132]

Ken Weil, vice president at Victoria's Secret, and Tim Plzak, responsible for IT at Victoria's Secret's parent company Intimate Brands, led Victoria's Secret's first-ever online streaming of their fashion show in 1999.[106] The 18 minutes webcast streamed February 2, 1999, was at the time the Internet's "biggest event" since inception.[106] The 1999 webcast was reported as a failure by a number of newspapers on account of some user's inability to watch the show featuring Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, and Stephanie Seymour[133] as a result of Victoria's Secret's technology falling short being able to meet the online user demand resulting in network congestion and users who could see the webcast receiving jerky frames.[106] In all, the company's website saw over 1.5 million visits while the's computer's were designed to handle between 250,000 and 500,000 simultaneous viewers.[134] In total, 1.5 million viewers either attempted or viewed the webcast.[135]

The 1999 webcast served to create a database for Victoria's Secret of over 500,000 current and potential customers by requiring users to submit their contact details to view the webcast.[106] The next spring Victoria's Secret avoided technical issues by partnering with, America Online, and Microsoft.[106] The 2000 webcast attracted more than two million viewers.[33]

By 2011, the budget for the fashion show was $12 million up from the first show's budget of $120,000.[136]

Victoria's Secret Angels[edit]

Victoria's Secret started working with renowned models in the early 1990s, with the hiring of Stephanie Seymour, Karen Mulder, Yasmeen Ghauri, and Jill Goodacre.[137][138][139] These models helped the brand gain notice and soon enough were featured in televised commercials.[138] Veronica Webb is one of the original Victoria's Secret models.[140]

Angels is one of Victoria's Secret's lingerie lines, which was launched in 1997, with a commercial featuring Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Daniela Peštová, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks as well as pop star Tom Jones.[141][142] The commercial was a major success and the Angels began to be featured in various commercials, alongside other contract models for the brand such as Yasmeen Ghauri, Inés Rivero,[citation needed] and Laetitia Casta.[citation needed] From then onwards, the term Angel started to become synonymous with being a contracted spokesmodel for the brand and in February 1998, the Angels made their runway debut at Victoria's Secret's 4th annual fashion show, with Chandra North filling in for Christensen.[143]

Seymour, Mulder, Pestova, Banks, and Casta were all featured in both of Victoria's Secret webcast and took part in the promotion as the brand's contract models.[144] Starting 2001, the show has been televised and usually features the year's Angel line-up at the start of the show, starting with Pestova, Banks, Klum, Adriana Lima, and Gisele Bundchen[a] In 2004, due to the Super Bowl controversy, instead of a televised show, Victoria's Secret sent its five contract models (Banks, Klum, Bundchen, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio) on a tour called Angels Across America, as by then, the word had become synonymous with Victoria's Secret spokesmodels.[145] The last original Angel, Tyra Banks, departed the following year, as Karolina Kurkova, Selita Ebanks, and Izabel Goulart were hired.[146]

Among other recognitions, the Victoria's Secret Angels were chosen to be part of People magazine's annual "100 Most Beautiful People in the World" issue in 2007[147] and became the first trademark awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 13, 2007, with Klum, Lima, Ambrosio, Kurkova, Goulart, Ebanks, Marisa Miller, and Miranda Kerr at hand.[148] Alongside new Angel Doutzen Kroes, they also took part in the grand reopening of the Fontainebleau in Miami in 2008.[149] In 2009, it was widely reported that Candice Swanepoel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Chanel Iman, Emanuela de Paula and Lindsay Ellingson had been hired by the brand.[150] However, De Paula was absent from the fashion show and Erin Heatherton was credited in her place, alongside the Angels (Klum, Ambrosio, Kerr, Miller, Kroes, and Behati Prinsloo, with Lima being on maternity leave).[151] The brand also held a nationwide competition to hire a new "runway Angel" (as are dubbed all the models who walk in the show), Kylie Bisutti was crowned as the winner but soon parted ways with the brand.[152] In the following year-and-a-half Swanepoel, Huntington-Whiteley, Iman, Heatherton, and Ellingson all were revealed as Angels.

Various tours have been held featuring the Angels, such as the Bombshell Tour in 2010 (featuring Laura Croggon, Sophia Timpano, Katie Bryan, and new recruit Lily Aldridge), a VSX tour in 2013 (featuring Swanepoel, Ambrosio, Ellingson, and Aldridge) and a Swim Tour in 2013 (featuring Swanepoel, Ellingson, and Heatherton). The Angels have been heavily featured on the brand's social media, including on a short-lived Facebook application in 2013-2014 highlighting the Angels (then including Lima, Swanepoel, Ellingson, Aldridge, and Karlie Kloss) as well as Lais Ribeiro, Toni Garrn, and Barbara Palvin.[citation needed]

Ellingson, Kroes, and Kloss all departed soon after the 2014 fashion show, leaving the brand with only 5 Angels.[153][154] In 2015, the Angels as well as models Elsa Hosk, Joan Smalls, Lais Ribeiro, Martha Hunt, Jasmine Tookes, Stella Maxwell, and Monika 'Jac' Jagaciak were featured on the brand's first ever Swim Special. Soon after, in the brand's biggest group hiring ever, all but Smalls were revealed as Angels, along with longtime catalog regulars Lais Ribeiro and Sara Sampaio as well as Kate Grigorieva, Taylor Hill, and Romee Strijd.[155][156] The following year, Jagaciak and Griegorieva exited, while catalog regular Josephine Skriver was added to the roster.[157] In 2017, Alessandra Ambrosio announced that the yearly fashion show would be her last.[158]

In 2018, Chinese models Sui He and Ming Xi received China-exclusive contracts; they are promoted as Angels in China, but are not official worldwide Angels.

After nearly 20 years of serving as a Victoria's Secret Angel, Lima made her final walk down the runway during the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show before retiring.[159]

In 2019, new Angels Barbara Palvin, Alexina Graham, Leomie Anderson, and Grace Elizabeth were added to the roster. Palvin made her fashion show debut with Victoria's Secret in 2012, afterwards not appearing in a runway show again until 2018, while Graham had appeared in Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows in 2017 and 2018. Graham became the first redhead to be named a Victoria's Secret Angel. Anderson first began walking in 2015, while Elizabeth walked her first show in 2016 and was a PINK spokesmodel from 2016 to 2019.[160][161][162][163]

In August 2019, the brand cast its first openly transgender Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio. The 22-year-old was hired for catalog work of its athletic line, VS Pink.[164] However, days after Sampaio was hired, Victoria's Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek stepped down. The Senior Executive had sparked controversy in 2018, and was extensively criticized for claiming that the lingerie retailer shouldn't cast “transsexual” as “the show is a fantasy”.[165]

Other notable spokesmodels for the brand have included: Claudia Schiffer,[166] Eva Herzigová,[143] Oluchi Onweagba,[167] Jessica Stam,[168] Ana Beatriz Barros,[169] and Bregje Heinen[170] as well as a handful of celebrities such as Taylor Momsen.[171]

Pink spokesmodels[edit]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Harassment and abuse[edit]

In 2019, Model Alliance and an exuberant amount of publications have reported on Victoria's Secrets, California, New York and the United States' movement to protect models from harassment and sexual abuse.[212][213][214][215]

Influence on socio-cultural body image norms[edit]

In the 2008 article "Victoria’s Dirty Secret: How Sociocultural Norms Influence Adolescent Girls and Women" written by Strahan, Lafrance, Wilson, and Ethier from Wilfrid Laurier University along with Spencer and Zanna from the University of Waterloo[216] have stated: "Women's body dissatisfaction is influenced by socio-cultural norms for ideal appearance that are pervasive in society and particularly directed at women." These norms tell women that they are valued for their bodies, physical appearance, and scale of attractiveness. Girls as young as 10 years old start dieting because they are struggling with their weight and body perception. This will continue throughout their life span. Victoria's Secret sends a message to these adolescent girls and women that their models are the standard of beauty. The models are shown on TV commercials, ads, and magazines meaning it is seen on an everyday basis. Girls are comparing themselves with these high unrealistic standards that is captivated by the media. Women in these ads are highly objectified, idealized, and sexualized. If women feel they have to live up to this socio-cultural norm standard, it is only telling men that it is okay to objectify and sexualize women. The article concludes by stating: "Exposure to societal messages that reflect the socio-cultural norm for ideal appearance has a negative effect on women."[216]

Formaldehyde lawsuits[edit]

In 2009, Victoria's Secret was sued several times. The lawsuits alleged that defective underwear contained formaldehyde that caused severe rashes on women who wore them. Six cases were filed in Ohio and two in Florida. At least 17 other suits were filed in six other states after January 2008.[217][218][219] The plaintiff refused to submit to a simple patch test to determine the precise cause of her reaction and her case was later withdrawn.[220] The Formaldehyde Council issued a statement that formaldehyde quickly dissipates in air, water and sunlight.[221]

Child labor[edit]

In 2012, a Victoria's Secret supplier was investigated for use of child labor in harvesting cotton used to make its products.[222][223][224]

Zephyrs lawsuit[edit]

Also in 2012, Victoria's Secret was sued by Zephyrs, "accused of breaching a 2001 agreement and selling cheap 'knockoffs' of the company's stockings."[225]

Go East lingerie collection[edit]

The company drew criticism for a newly released lingerie collection titled "Go East" whose tagline pledged to women the capacity to "indulge in touches of eastern delight with lingerie inspired by the exquisite beauty of secret Japanese gardens."[93][226] The collection included a mesh teddy "Sexy Little Geisha" featuring "flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals".

The Wall Street Journal reported that the collection was "accessorized with a miniature fan and a kimono-esque obi sash."

Victoria's Secret removed the Asian-themed collection "that traded in sexualized, generic pan-Asian ethnic stereotypes."[227][228][229]

Lawsuits of discrimination and allegations of racism[edit]

Equal Opportunity Employment Commission lawsuit[edit]

In 2002, the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) filed a federal, Title VII lawsuit (Civil Action Number 02-CV-6715) against Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc. in the State of Pennsylvania, on behalf of former employee, Lauren Ellerson. Ellerson previously filed complaints of harassment, lack of religious (Baptist Christian) accommodation, constructive discharge (wrongful termination), civil rights violations, racism, emotional injuries, and negligence of management to correct a hostile environment, against the Victoria's Secret store in Oxford Valley Mall, in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. The EEOC stated in the lawsuit that Ellerson had reported to her district manager, Alexis Black, that her co-workers and the store managers, Evelyn Gibson and Jackie Addis, would bully Ellerson, and the company's responses were to state that employees "should not come to [the District Manager] but should solve the problems themselves within the store," and to remove Ellerson from at least one store staff meeting, where all other store associates were present. The store employees and managers were also complaint to have left insulting notes in Ellerson's locker, told Ellerson to keep an eye on "Black" customers and report them even if they were not seen doing anything wrong while also directing Ellerson to not report actual incidences of shoplifting and theft by "White" customers, refused to allow Ellerson to take off communion Sundays despite HR promising Ellerson she would only work one Sunday a month upon hire, told Ellerson the store would not respond to voicemails from callers ending with "God Bless," a store co-manager telling Ellerson that having her as one "Christian person [on staff]" was more than enough, that staff spoke to Ellerson in pejorative slang which the staff called "Street" and "Ebonics" to insult Ellerson in a racist manner, regularly directed racist slurs against Ellerson, said that women who were "race-mixers" were not allowed in the store as customers, and employees pulled Ellerson's hair while verbally and physically insulting her appearance.

The United States Federal Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court allowed the claims of Discrimination under federal Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to proceed unconditionally.

In 2003, Victoria's Secret Stores (Limited Brands) settled the case with the EEOC, Ellerson, and the federal court, paying the amount of $179,300 in damages to the charging parties and signing a Consent Decree (often used where companies do not admit to wrongdoings, but settle cases in the Plaintiff's favour).

Apology to Kimberly Houzah[edit]

In December 2016, at the Victoria's Secret store in Oxford, Alabama, a woman was believed to be caught shoplifting and a manager responded by calling mall security guards and kicked three women out of the store who had no relation to each other. In a story which reached national headlines, a nurse, Kimberly N. Houzah, posted a video of the incident on, alleging that she and another woman were kicked out of the store for no reason due to racial-profiling, after a woman she had never met was caught shoplifting. The Victoria's Secret company responded by terminating the manager in question and posting an apology to Houzah on its Facebook page: "We take the experience of our customer at the Quintard Mall very seriously and have reached out to her directly to express our sincere apology. What happened at our store should not have happened and does not represent who we are or what we stand for. The store associate involved in this matter is no longer employed with the company. Victoria's Secret is adamant that all customers regardless of race be treated with dignity and respect at all times." According to the Birmingham Advance Local News, Houzah stated she would continue to shop with the company, but avoid the Quintard Mall store location in Oxford, AL.

Shoplifting policy[edit]

In a 2018 article by Business Insider, Victoria's Secret has adopted a stringent policy of never engaging customers on the issues of theft and shoplifting after numerous incidents where customers were accused of shoplifting but later found not to be and complained of racial-profiling. Commentators have said the policy makes theft more difficult to prevent in the stores, but that it "protects associates from dangerous situations" and "prohibits unreasonable searches or the profiling of customers by any employee."

Perfect Body campaign[edit]

In 2014, a petition against the newly released lingerie collection called "Body" was created when the poster ads displayed the words 'THE PERFECT "BODY"' over well-known VS Angels. The petition, while becoming popular across social media, demanded that Victoria's Secret "apologize and take responsibility for the unhealthy and damaging message that their ‘Perfect Body’ campaign sends out about women's bodies and how they should be judged."

The petition also demanded a change in the wording on Victoria's Secret advertisements for their bra range Body, to something that does not promote unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty," asking the company to not use such harmful marketing in the future. Petitioners created the hashtag "#iamperfect", which trended on Twitter for "body shaming women". The petition had over 30,000 signatures.

Although there was never a formal apology released, Victoria's Secret took note of the petition and changed the words on their ad campaign to 'A BODY FOR EVERY BODY.'

Cultural appropriation[edit]

At the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, the brand was accused of "cultural appropriation" during the segment "The Road Ahead" that drew inspiration from Chinese culture. Kendall Jenner's flame tail, Elsa Hosk's dragon costume, and Adriana Lima's embroidered thigh-high boots is what caused an uproar because many fans thought that it was inappropriate for women of other cultures to wear those items that meant so much to the Chinese culture. The reason behind Victoria's Secret including this segment to the 2016 fashion show is because of their recent expansion into the Chinese market. They thought it would be a good way to appeal to the new Chinese customer. No apology or statement was released from the brand.[230]

Transphobia allegations[edit]

In November 2018, Victoria's Secret president Edward Razek and executive Vice President Of public relations Monica Mitro were interviewed by Vogue. In the interview, when discussing diversity, Razek made the following comments regarding the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show: “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.” [231] These comments received immediate backlash from many in the modeling community, including transgender model Carmen Carrera, current and former Victoria's Secret Angels Lily Aldridge and Karlie Kloss, and model Kendall Jenner.[232]

Razek later issued an apology, stating "My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize. To be clear, we would absolutely cast a transgender model for the show."[232]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ There have been various instances where the fashion show credits included models who weren't Angels but were prominently featured by the brand, such as Candice Swanepoel, Lindsay Ellingson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Erin Heatherton, and Behati Prinsloo in 2009, Lais Ribeiro in 2011, PINK model Elsa Hosk in 2013 and Hosk, Ribeiro, Jasmine Tookes, Martha Hunt, and Stella Maxwell in 2014. All of them later went on to become Angels.
  2. ^ Most Angels started working with the company years prior to signing an Angel contract. Listed above are the dates of first published or aired campaigns or, by default, first runway show or event.
  3. ^ Contracted as a replacement Angel for Helena Christensen during the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 1998 and released immediately afterwards


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