Victoria’s Secret: A Transphobic and Fatphobic brand?

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By Shawna Healey

The annual Victoria’s Secret Show took place in New York at Pier 94, last week. It was Adriana Lima’s last show, where she walked the catwalk for the 19th run. Other well-known faces, including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Winnie Harlow, Duckie Thot and Devon Windsor also walked the runway.

Elsa Hosk was chosen to wear the fantasy bra, which was covered completely in Swarovski crystals and “responsibly sourced” topaz. This year’s fantasy bras were relatively cheap by previous standards, despite coming in at an estimated value of $1 million. Last year’s bra was estimated at $2 million, and 2013’s bra, worn by Candice Swanepoel, was estimated at $10 million dollars, containing 4200 gems including a giant ruby and set in 18-carat gold.

Victoria’s Secret has received criticism in the past for its lack of diversity. While the brand work with models of varying ethnicities and ages, including 37-year-old Adriana Lima, these models are invariably very thin. Victoria’s Secret have never shown a plus size model on their catwalk, nor have they ever cast a transgender model in their show or advertorial campaigns. The brand’s pants also only go up to an ‘XL’, which is about a size 16.

Victoria’s Secret’s sizing is also notoriously panned, with some bra styles only going up to a D-cup.

Over the weekend, Vogue released an interview with Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of VS parent company, L Brands, and the man behind the annual show. In this interview, Razek made gross comments that garnered backlash on the internet.

Razek said: “If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have.”

Razek also goes on to say: “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. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader.”

While some members of the LGBT community do identify as being transsexual, the preferred term is transgender which is the most commonly accepted terminology for trans people in the UK and USA.

Razek went on to mention Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty lingerie show, which was showed in September of this year and featured a diverse cast of models of different ethnicities, sizes and age, including a heavily pregnant Slick Woods.

Razek said that if Victoria’s Secret created a show like Fenty, they’d be “pandering without question”. When asked why, Razek replied that it was all about branding.

Yesterday, Razek released a statement on Twitter. He said “My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize. To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings…And like many others, they didn’t make it…But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”

A petition was launched in 2013 to see Carmen Carrera hired as the campaign’s new angel, a move which would have made Carrera the brand’s first transgender model. This petition gained more than 48,000 signatures however, their calls went unheard.

Teen Vogue spoke to Carrera about the importance of trans visibility. Carrera explained, “It’s important to have transgender representation because we represent the forthcoming generation, and their new perception on the standard of beauty – which I believe is being true to yourself, loving yourself and others. It’s also about being more aware, socially, and shedding a light on all marginalised groups. It’s beyond the surface beauty.”

Tess Holliday, an outspoken plus size model was also interviewed by Teen Vogue about the importance of diversity in the industry. She said, “There’s not just one kind of body type. Change only happens when there’s more representation in the industry.”

Razek’s apology was clearly lacking and Victoria’s Secret need to do better, if they want to keep up with modern fashion brands. As more and more fashion brands adopt a more inclusive approach, with Fenty x Savage as a perfect example, Victoria’s Secret will be left behind. Why would consumers show loyalty to a brand that doesn’t reflect them anyway?

What do you think? Have your say and join the conversation over on Twitter @aAh_mag

About the author / 

Shawna Healey

I'm Shawna, 21, and Welsh studying Geography at MMU. I have varying interests and opinions but usually its all things feminism.

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