Inclusive marketing at Victoria’s Secret: the angels give the change

The underwear brand, regularly accused of promoting a stereotypical image of women and which lost 3.8 million customers between 2017 and 2019, is continuing its rebranding campaign by highlighting women with different physique and backgrounds, including a model with Down syndrome.

If we had a bad mind, we would think that Victoria’s Secret really has a lot to blame itself for making such a radical shift in its communication. The American underwear brand famous for its annual fashion shows, with a lot of peacock feathers and Indian headdresses, highlighting “angels” with UFO-like and stereotyped physique, caricatures of fighter jet-style baby dolls, has lived through the one of the most severe blowbacks in recent history. To the point of canceling its big rout in 2019 and taking advantage of this time saved to think about the future and, above all, the signal to send to its customers, attracted by labels more in tune with the times, such as Savage Rihanna’s X Fenty or Kim Kardashian’s Skims – just to name the new behemoths in the industry.

Accused by the younger generation, and primarily American feminists, of disseminating a distressing image of the fairer sex, no longer at all relevant to the post #MeToo era, mixed with scandals which have more than tarnished its image – in particular a case of sexual harassment on the part of one of its photographers assigned to models for certain minors – Victoria’s Secret had to strike hard. Last year, a campaign featured women with more normal physique and destiny “inspiring”a word about to be overused as it is used wrongly and through, such as Megan Rapinoe, American football player and world champion in 2019, openly lesbian, Paloma Elsesser, plus size model, or Valentina Sampaio, transgender model – a first for the brand founded in 1977. Which, again present this season, belies the statements of one of the former directors of the house who had assured that transgender models did not correspond to pure “fantasy” that the brand wanted to convey during its fashion shows.

The second part of this shock rebranding has just been unveiled on social networks to praise the merits of a comfortable collection offering a very wide range of sizes. Among the 18 new faces and bodies in this campaign, let’s first mention Sofía Jirau, a 24-year-old Puerto Rican girl with Down’s syndrome, who had dreamed since her childhood of going on the catwalks – which she did for the designer. Marisa Santiago at New York Fashion Week in 2020. A business leader since the launch of her clothing and decorative objects label, the young woman is the first model with Down’s syndrome to sign a contract with Victoria’s Secret. Other role models include Miriam Blanco, 32, who has a neurodegenerative disease that forces her to walk on crutches, 27-year-old Native American firefighter Celilo Miles. Recall that Victoria’s Secret has been – rightly – accused of cultural appropriation on several occasions in the past for having dressed tops in underwear and accessories strongly inspired by the traditional clothes of Native American tribes.

For Jailyn Matthews, 47-year-old pilates teacher and model of this new campaign: “We all have a unique life story. I think sharing our experiences inspires growth and compassion. Someone who doesn’t look like you may have a point of view you hadn’t considered… she wrote on Instagram. Perhaps if we begin to open discussions without judgment or fear of our differences, we can encourage healing for ourselves, others and the world.” Victoria’s Secret therefore strikes a blow here, taking advantage of its dominant position on social networks (71.6 million subscribers on Instagram alone) to advocate an opening message, and get – finally – on time to the diversity. We can certainly doubt the sincerity of such a campaign, which fits perfectly with consumer expectations and tends to bring back into its fold the 3.8 million customers lost between 2017 and 2019. But the example has proven its effects. , and young people are now demanding that fashion and cosmetics brands commit to worthy causes.

On this ground, Victoria’s Secret was beaten at the post by Adidas. On February 10, the equipment manufacturer unveiled a highly commented campaign for its sports underwear featuring sportswomen with various profiles and in particular a young woman with Down’s syndrome. The three-stripe brand has also posted on its social networks (apart from Instagram which still prohibits the publication of bare breasts) a series of photographs of bare breasts of all stripes in order to communicate on the wide variety of sports bra models now on sale. Various studies have indeed proven that the vast majority of women wear bras that are not adapted to their morphology. Competition reigns even in the field of good feelings.

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Inclusive marketing at Victoria’s Secret: the angels give the change

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