Victoria's Secret Self-Flagellates... And More Fashion News
The Angels, VS's CEO admits are no longer "culturally relevant."
This week is all about figuring out our feelings. We got a big announcement from Victoria’s Secret, fashion shows from Ferrari and Dior, and a return of the wedge sneaker. Many of us are conflicted about all of it, on the verge of applause yet not quite there (well, perhaps not Ferrari on the runway, sorry Ferrari).
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Victoria’s Secret Bets on Self-Flagellation
Victoria’s Secret used to glorify supermodels who felt they had to go on liquid diets before the annual fashion show and then spend the entire day of the show telling reporters about how they really couldn’t wait to have pizza. The amount of time it took for the world to publicly embrace how deeply fucked up this all was seems ridiculous in retrospect, but logical when you consider that the media that covered it was probably worried about pissing off the brand as an advertiser. But now with the company’s executives’ ties to Jeffery Epstein, misogyny, fatism, transphobia and the belief that if you are not Candice Swanepoel you are not beautiful well established, they’re trying something new and making a big deal about it.
This week, the brand unrolled a marketing strategy hinging on a diverse, outspoken, and, for VS, unexpected cast of bona fide role models, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe and top model Paloma Elsesser. They join Priyanka Chopra in the “VS Collective,” a group of women who represent values that, to say the least, can be traced to an era that postdates the Oregon Trail.
Victoria’s Secret has given a story on the new marketing campaign to the New York Times. Early last year, the Times took the company down with a report about how “two powerful men” – VS parent company L Brands founder and chief executive Leslie Wexner and his top marketing executive Ed Razek – “presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment.” (I previously heard similar claims when researching the brand for a 2018 feature in Time magazine.) The Times now reports the Collective includes seven women who “will alternately advise the brand, appear in ads and promote Victoria’s Secret on Instagram. They are joining a company that has an entirely new executive team and is forming a board of directors in which all but one seat will be occupied by women.”
Rapinoe spoke to the Times:
“I, too, was like, ‘What? Why do you want to work with me?’” She said she had been convinced by the willingness of the brand’s executives to acknowledge their mistakes and history, and by the fact that her role is not limited to the typical “brand ambassadorship,” but extends to consulting on language the company uses, the assortment of products it offers and narrative it’s putting out.
Martin Waters, CEO since February, said, “When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” adding, “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.” Re: Angels, he said, “Right now, I don’t see it as being culturally relevant.”
Razek, whose hugs with models wearing underwear and short bathrobes backstage at fashion shows always struck me as bizarre, has a private Instagram account with 360,000 followers, including lucky yours truly; he last posted about Ye Olde VS’s 2017 fashion show on June 7.
Did the VS rebrand need to happen? Yes. Are target customers better off that this is happening, given advertising is inescapable for the vast majority of us? Yes. Does the brand really care? Honestly, who knows?
Victoria’s Secret is still in the business of selling apparel to women. Did this sort of apology tour and self-flagellation serve the brand in the past, when it seemed to view women as nothing more than canvases for diets with disposable income? No. Does it serve them now, when consumers are demanding corporate America crow about inclusive social and political values? Yes.
Corporations and people deserve the chance to change. But good business and strong personal convictions are different things, and they rarely coexist without compromise. Which is why I have a hard time looking at this and thinking it springs from much more than a deep fear that the recent bad press didn’t exactly set the company up for its next phase.
Victoria’s Secret will become its own publicly traded company this summer. Investors will surely want to know it has a plan for correcting for the $2 billion in revenue lost in the pandemic.
Ferrari Joins McLaren in Launching Unnecessary Fashion Line
Well the internet had an absolute ball making fun of the Ferrari clothing line this week, which seemed to blatantly knock off Off White.
Vogue.com reported the show took place in “Ferrari’s home town of Maranello, Italy, on the assembly line where its automotive artisans are usually employed to hook up mighty V12 engines to hand-sculpted 812 GTS.”
The show had to be taken seriously, I guess, because it has a real fashion designer, Rocco Iannone, who previously worked at Dolce & Gabbana and Armani. Plus, Mariacarla Boscono opened, and Natalia Vodianova closed. These are real fashion people, doing the real fashion thing.
Asked why Ferrari was doing this, Iannone said, “to enlarge our fan base, including young generations and women especially—although women have always been part of our fan base but it has never been well told.” Because in the culture, men get to buy Ferraris when they’re 45 and while women are assumed to take their midlife crises at the strip mall medspa.
If bright yellow seatbelts as regular belts with “Ferrari” on them aren’t doing it for you, ladies and youth, Ferrari has an SUV coming out later this year. Nothing says “fun for the whole family” like a nice crust of Cheerio dust on the fine leather interior of your new $200,000 utility vehicle.
After I became aware of Ferrari’s fashion line, I noticed a few press releases in my inbox about McLaren’s fashion line collecting dust in my inbox. Apparently they’ve been at this whole “car brands as clothing” thing since last year. Who’s next? Toyota, I’m looking at you.
High-Heeled Sneakers Are Back
The wedge sneaker by Isabel Marant that everyone went apeshit for circa 2011 has been reincarnated. This week a new version came out in bright colors with a thicker platform. This just suggests to me that, now that we’re all emerging from a pandemic that kept many luxury shoppers home in athleisure for more than a year, designers are going to be able to take serious advantage of how warped our perspective on fashion has become. Do any of us need a $770 bright yellow high-heeled sneaker? No. Are we all looking at this right now and thinking, “Wow! Fun shoe! I can wear that in front of other people!”
Dior Showed in Athens; Does Anyone Have Anything Nice to Say?
Dior showed in Athens and my new Instagram addiction @ideservecouture reports:
The show was staged dramatically in Athens, in the Panathenaic Stadium, the world’s only one made entirely of marble. Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri rearranged the furniture in her Paris apartment to make way for a pilates machine during the pandemic, which got her thinking about movement and exercise, which led her to this place where sporting events occurred in the BC age.
Enthusiasm for Chiuri’s collections in the broader internet, where commentary isn’t influenced by Dior’s ad dollars, has been tepid at best, even though she gave us a viral moment with that swan dress. This collection got me thinking about how, yet again, the pandemic has failed to obliterate theatrical fashion shows with a giant carbon footprint, and how the best place to read reviews of fashion shows is in Instagram stories, veteran casting director @jamespscully one of my longtime favorites and now @Ideservecouture for speaking the truth and making me laugh.
The clash, concerning accusations of bullying and racism and fabricated screenshots (!), between Chrissy Teigen and designer Michael Costello has been a wild ride… I can’t unsee photos of Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly wearing clothes together… Tessica Brown, who went viral after applying Gorilla Glue to her hair, launched a hairspray called Forever Hold..
And I leave you with this shot of Brad Pitt, for the new Brioni campaign, looking like a long lost member of Reese Witherspoon’s squad on Big Little Lies.
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