2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show; Image: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has been making headlines lately for all the wrong reasons. It started with a Vogue interview with Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, in which he stated that they do not plan on hiring transgender or plus-size models: “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.” Since then, there has been social media backlash and calls to boycott the company. The week has also seen the brand’s CEO, Jan Singer, tender her resignation after two years with Victoria’s Secret.
It has been almost two weeks since the interview and subsequent apologies, but the anger is still brewing. In addition to Razek’s insensitive comment, he also shaded lingerie competitor ThirdLove by stating, “But we’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.” Now, Heidi Zak, CEO of ThirdLove, has released an open letter via The New York Times and Instagram reading:
“Dear Victoria’s Secret,
I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week. As hard as it is to believe, he said the following:
“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”
“It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? 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.”
I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements?
You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country.
Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide.
We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend.
I founded ThirdLove five years ago because it was time to create a better option. ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm.
Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves.
As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last.
To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own.
Victoria’s Secret has not commented on Zak’s message as of yet. But with sales in decline, customers in an uproar and management in flux, there’s no doubt the brand needs to make some changes and strides towards inclusivity if it wishes to survive.
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