VS attempt to save their brand with inclusivity – is it too little too late?

Hungarian supermodel Barbara Palvin was named the latest Victoria’s Secret Angel last week amid the lingerie company facing ongoing criticisms over its lack of inclusivity.

Branded as ‘plus-sized’ by many fans on social media, Palvin’s enrolment to the coveted status of angel appears to many as an attempt by Victoria’s Secret to distance the brand from its history of embracing only the one ideal of beauty, namely ultra-thin models.

Criticisms stem from remarks made by the brand’s Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, in an interview with Vogue.com ahead of its annual runway show last year.

Models at the 2018 VS runway show
Credit: fashionista.com

Razek, revealed his reasons for not casting plus-sized or transgender models for the show, stating he believed the brand shouldn’t “because the show is a fantasy”.

The interview quickly went viral online, with many outside and inside the fashion industry rebuking Razek’s comments. Within days the Model Alliance had posted a statement on its Instagram It said, “Such comments create a hostile work environment for people who do not conform to Victoria’s Secret’s mold – one that enforces an idea of female beauty that is predominantly white, cisgender, young and thin.”

After Razek’s comments the 2018 runway show suffered its worst ratings on record. According to data from Nielsen, attracting 3.3 million viewers, down from 5 million the previous year. Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands has reported same-store sales at Victoria’s Secret were down 3% during the fourth-quarter and 3% overall in 2018. L Brands also announced that it would be closing as many as 53 of its stores this year, citing a “decline in performance” as the reasoning.

Fans applauded the brand for featuring Palvin in a more body-positive Instagram post days before revealing the news of the 25 year old’s appointment to angel status.  Instagrammers celebrated the post for being more body-inclusive, as they perceived her to be curvier than some of the brand’s other models.

The brand’s post featuring Palvin proved popular with fans
Credit: Instagram/ Victoria’s Secret

“At last! A real human body,” one Instagram user wrote.

According to Insider.com this move could signal that the struggling retailer is beginning to listen to its critics. But is it too little, too late?

Palvin previously walked for the show in 2012 but was allegedly fired for being ‘too fat’.

Hailed a fan favourite, Palvin was invited back to walk in the 2018 show, accompanied by other models displaying diversity such as Winnie Harlow, who lives with the skin condition vitiligo.

Supermodel Winnie Harlow walking the 2018 VS runway show
Credit: pinterest.com

Victoria’s Secret embracing a diverse range of models in their show is definitely progress. But should the brand’s sudden rush to include those they once rejected in a bid to boost falling sales be rewarded?

Reflecting on the 2018 show, The New York Time’s Vanessa Friedman notes, “there were a few curvier women on the catwalk but none that could qualify as plus size by any objective definition”.

It stands to remain that while the VS brand dips its toe in the diversity pool in an effort to stay relevant to the modern consumer in the #MeToo era, competing brands such as Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty are growing in popularity celebrating the diverse range of beauty that Victoria’s Secret was not too long ago quick to dismiss.

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