Could The Cancellation of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show be Due to Lack of Diversity

By Guest Contributor, Ranu Coleman, CMO of Azazie

Recently, Victoria’s Secret model Shanina Shaik leaked the news that the company’s famous (and controversial) fashion show may be cancelled this year.

While it’s unclear what exactly warranted this decision, the public was quick to jump to conclusions on the reasons the show should not continue. With the show’s viewership dipping below half in the last 10 years, the show’s glory days may unfortunately be coming to an end. 

Victoria’s Secret is no stranger to controversy.

Since its start in 1995, the show has received criticism for almost every aspect of the production: from lack of racial diversity, arbitrary definition of sexiness, and even tone deaf moments of cultural appropriation. Plus, the stereotypical Victoria’s Secret model is tall, thin, and white (although the brand has made steps to include models of color in recent years) making the show’s issues inherently intersectional. But it’s no secret that the biggest and most lasting complaint about the Victoria’s Secret brand is their lack of size inclusivity. 

In regard to size inclusivity, the closest thing to a curvy model on the Victoria’s Secret stage is Barbara Palvin, whose 120 lbs on her 5’9” frame is nowhere near plus size. Palvin, who is likely a size two or four, does not come close to the average American woman’s size 16 or 18

In addition to the negative public opinion, other notable models in the industry have spoken out against the notorious fashion show.

Plus-size model Ashley Graham and former Victoria’s Secret angel Karlie Kloss have given their criticisms regarding the brand’s size descrimination. Graham, who has modeled for Sports Illustrated and even created her own inclusive lingerie line, called out the brand for not including successful plus-size models in their shows. Kloss spoke out about ending her contract with Victoria’s Secret in 2015 after realizing that the brand’s image did not line up with the message she wanted to send to young women. As big names in the industry, these comments carry huge weight and a call to action for brands to reassess their mission.

From a social perspective, the decision to exclude diverse models, particularly in regard to body positivity, creates the damaging rhetoric in our culture that insinuates you must be unattainably skinny to be beautiful. It’s no secret that these models go to extreme measures to look “perfect” for the show which creates a dangerous mindset in women of all ages who compare their bodies to these models and believe that they, too, should go to these measures to lose weight. 

Plus, from a business perspective, the decision to exclude plus size models and products is a huge missed opportunity, with the plus-size industry reaching $20-billion.

Given that 68% percent of women in the United States wear a size 14 or greater, Victoria’s Secret is missing out on a key customer base. With other competing lingerie brands such as Savage X Fenty, Aerie, and Third Love embracing body positivity and size inclusivity, women are abandoning Victoria’s Secret as their go-to lingerie brand. These brands are careful to make sure that they not only offer a wide range of sizes, but that their larger pieces actually fit and are comfortable for the woman. 

At Azazie (the wedding website that one in 10 brides are using for their wedding day) the idea of not only offering a wide range of sizes, but also making sure that increased sizes did not take away fit and quality was one of our main priorities as a brand. We put the same care and attention to detail into both size 0 wedding dresses and size 30. Our free custom sizing also means that women will never feel stressed when selecting their gown size, and instead feel confident knowing that their body is never the problem when it comes to how a dress fits.  

We’re proud of the strides we’ve made at Azazie and continue to inspire the fashion industry to provide a wider range of options for women of all sizes. We encourage other brands to look at fashion through an intersectional lens as we believe that all women are perfect at any size, and we’re excited to keep women feeling sexy for the most important person in their lives–themselves. 

So Victoria’s Secret–we see your efforts to empower women and appreciate the strides towards a more inclusive business model. We know other women are with us, and hope that they continue to look towards brands like Azazie that reject the fashion industry’s expectations. 

Ps. Check out Azazie’s Instagram here for some of their real beauty moments!