Tune in to this episode of Will It Stick, the podcast with Alexis and Melissa where they break down public relations stunts, ad campaigns, and creative marketing efforts that brands pull to understand: did it work and will it stick? Today we’ll be looking at the brand which once defined femininity for millions of American women: Victoria’s Secret.

Victoria’s Secret got its start in 1977 by an American businessman Roy Raymond, who wanted both men and women to feel comfortable shopping for lingerie at high-end stores. He imagined something elegant, elaborate, and comfortable and, with an $80,000 loan, created the first lingerie-only store inspired by the Victorian era.

Early Victoria’s Secret Ad – Credit: Business Insider

The first year, he began a mail-order catalog and opened 3 stores in San Francisco, generating $500,000. In 1982, catalog sales accounted for 55% of the company’s $7 million annual sales. At this point, they were still an underdog in the underwear market and the company was purchased by L Brands for $1 million. They swiftly expanded to 100 stores in 1986 and began expanding their products.

Victoria’s Secret Angels

Sales were growing monumentally for the company until the 90’s when quality became a concern for customers. In response, they launched commercials featuring supermodels and started their iconic invitation-only Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows. 

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

In 1997, the Victoria’s Secret Angels were launched and featured in commercials depicting them as angels in heaven. In 1999, their annual fashion show aired online for the first time and was considered an internet-breaking moment. In 2001, the show started airing before Christmas to capitalize on holiday shopping, and the buzz was insane.

In 2018, the brand began to lose its trustworthiness when customers began to complain of the poor quality of the garments. Around the same time, Ed Reznik of L Brands made some controversial statements regarding the standards for their models. Critiques around the brand’s male gaze model, lack of inclusivity, and misogyny began to surface. In 2019, the brand announced they would no longer air the fashion show, marking the major decline of the brand because of their failure to respond to the changing social norms.

Victoria’s Secret Mother’s Day Ad

Fast forward to 2021, when a private equity firm purchased Victoria’s Secret. Seven women, famous for their achievements, are making up the VS collective. These women will attempt one of the most major brand turnarounds we’ve seen, redefining what it means to be sexy and humanizing the brand.

The NEW VS Collective

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Check out some of the great articles we sourced to gather all the facts for this episode.


Business Insider

Washington Post

The Drum

Allure Magazine

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