How the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show went from the most exclusive in the world to completely underwhelming
Is it just me or was anyone else a little underwhelmed by the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show?
The annual spectacle, often hailed as a “the greatest show on earth” is undoubtedly the most elaborate and entertaining fashion show ever.
51 genetically blessed beauties from around the world parading around in lingerie made of diamonds and seven foot wings are the stuff fantasies are made of.
There was a time when being a Victoria’s Secret Angel was the be all and end all. It was the most exclusive club in the world and you had to have the right criteria to be admitted (every model except for the ingrained Angels has to audition every year to see if they landed a coveted spot).
In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, this fashion show launched the careers of Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. They went from top industry models to international superstars, all of whom enjoy lucrative careers based on this.
The first ever show in 1995 had one purpose – marketing. There were no wings, no colourful ensembles and certainly no live music from Grammy winners. By today’s standards, it was a relatively simple production which included a runway and beautiful models with bedroom hair at New York’s Plaza Hotel.
According to chief marketing officer Ed Razek, Victoria’s Secret chairman Lex Warner: “If this is truly a fashion brand, it should have fashion shows,” he told The Telegraph.
By its second year, it was a major player in the fashion show game. In 1996, Helena Christensen, Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell left such an imprint that today’s models have struggled to fill their impossibly high heels.
Costumes from earlier years are displayed in niche museums and preserved with the same meticulousness as pottery from Mesopotamia.
The show's creative director Sophia Neophitou told the Telegraph in 2014, "The first time I worked at Victoria's Secret, in 2010, I gave Izabel [Goulart] her wings and she started to cry.
"I didn't understand what was happening. I said to [the executive producer] Monica Mitro, 'Is she unhappy with her look?' and Monica said, 'No, they are tears of pure joy.'
"Getting a wing feels like a moment of magic for these girls, no matter how big or small the wing."
These days however, the show has become a parody of itself. From staged “run-ins” between newbie Bella Hadid and her rapper ex-boyfriend The Weeknd to the inclusion of the ever-controversial “social media supermodels” like Kendall Jenner and Bella’s big sister Gigi, authenticity isn't exactly the name of the game.
To get a pair of wings, you had a pass the test - if the right people liked you, you were in. If you weren't, that was it. Just ask Jourdan Dunn. You had to be beautiful, toned and healthy looking – have long hair, white teeth and avoid controversy like carbs.
Tyra, Heidi and Gisele were Amazonian. They were strong. They strutted down the runway with such confidence they were the ultimate #fitspo before it was had a name. You were inspired to get healthier, look better and of course, buy Victoria’s Secret.
But the Amazons are no more. Of the 51 models featured in this year's show, the average age is 21 and most have only begun to “make it” in the industry in the last year.
There was a time when Stella Maxwell, a new Angel who only walked for the brand once in 2014 before getting her wings in 2015, would be considered a rising star who would join the ranks of Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio after a few years of proving herself.
Now she’s being hailed as one of the main faces of the brand, despite not having household name recognition.
Like all companies, Victoria's Secret has to think of new ways to innovate and excite a new generation of customers – this includes culling their iconic, but now irrelevant, catalogue from American distribution and instead focusing their output on best-selling body sprays and their PINK range.
It also includes expanding their horizon to a new range of models making waves in the notoriously tough to crack Gen Y social media market.
Jasmine Tookes, only the third woman of colour to wear the much lauded Fantasy Bra has this year been hailed as a bastion of body confidence, none who is “breaking down body barriers”.
Because she has stretch marks.
Victoria’s Secret made a purpose of not retouching them during promotional shots during her bra fitting before releasing them to the press.
“I think it’s good for other girls to see that we’re not all perfect,” she told the Telegraph.
Perfect they are not, but all these years, we've been led to believe they are close to it as humans get. Adriana and Heidi both famously strutted down the runway just weeks after giving birth.
As for the changing runway styles, it seems Vogue was correct in their declaration that ‘cleavage is over’.
Instead of focusing on the wonders of push-up bras, our eyes were averted to women’s groins and I was forced to contemplate just what kind of bikini wax one would require when your pelvic bone can be seen through your sheer underwear.
Along the way to becoming “the greatest show on earth”, the billion dollar company saw year-round growth opportunities related to the show.
They pushed the #TrainLikeAnAngel hashtag in 2014 to coincide with the success of their exercise collection. And thanks to social media, we’ve been following these models in their day-to-day run up to the show.
A successful marketing feat, yes; but the air of mystery is officially gone.
Even the decision to move to Paris was too transparent for my taste. Having been held in New York since 1995, the decision to try London is 2014 was seen as a bold move for the brand, but by Paris in 2016 - presumably to garner more interest among consumers as it continues its expansion into Europe - was too obvious a business strategy to enjoy.
I still love the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, I’ll still trawl over the hundreds of pictures and I will definitely watch it on tv when it airs next week, but the shine has worn off.