Can Victoria’s Secret climb out of the hole it has dug itself into? As we’ve reported, the brand’s hyper-sexualized marketing is not resonating with younger customers: Its sales and market share took a nosedive around the time the #MeToo movement emerged.
But now it appears to be trying to be seen as more inclusive. Victoria’s Secret has just hired its first transgender model, Valentina Sampaio, who hails from Brazil. On Instagram, she gave her followers a glimpse into a behind-the-scenes shoot for the brand’s teen-focused Pink line.
This comes just months after Victoria’s Secret’s CMO, Ed Razek, said in an interview with Vogue that he did not believe it would be appropriate to hire transgender models in its shows. “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show?” No,” he said. “No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.”
These comments drew immediate criticism, including from supermodel Karlie Kloss, who announced that she would no longer be working with Victoria’s Secret. (Victoria’s Secret did not immediately respond to our request for comment.)
In the wake of these offensive comments, the hiring of Sampaio doesn’t seem like an act of inclusivity from an enlightened brand. It seems like an effort to catch up with more progressive competitors, which are winning over younger consumers by being more inclusive. Meanwhile, those competitors are continuing to grow. Lively, a three-year-old, direct-to-consumer brand founded by Michelle Cordeiro Grant, a former Victoria’s Secret merchant director, was just acquired by Wacoal for $85 million.
With Lively, Grant wanted to create a brand focused on comfort, inclusivity, and community—which could not be more different from Victoria’s Secret’s approach. It’s unclear whether Victoria’s Secret can rebrand itself quickly enough to keep up with the rest of the industry.