Why Victoria's Secret still refuses to include plus-size women in its shows


Among the criticisms thrown at the Victoria’s Secret show, the brand’s unrealistic portrayal of the female body is a key issue. Last year, Ashley Graham called out VS for not featuring plus-size women in its shows, doctoring an image from its catwalk to show herself with angel wings, along with the caption: “Got my wings…My #AdditionElle wings! #thickthighssavelives.”

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Ed Razek, chief marketing officer at the brand, has explained why he still refuses to use women larger than a size eight in the shows. Victoria’s Secret has apparently considered it, but decided that the public has “no interest it it”. He highlighted that the company also runs a separate plus-size label, but that there is no need to include the styles in the VS show itself.

“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,” he told US Vogue. “We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.

“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

Romee Strijd

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Interest in Rihanna’s recent Savage x Fenty fashion show, which featured women of different sizes, shapes and ethnicities, would suggest otherwise. The show also included a heavily pregnant Slick Woods, who gave birth the day after. However, Razek thinks if Victoria’s Secret followed a similarly inclusive format that it would be accused of “pandering”. He didn’t explain whom to.

“Everybody keeps talking about Rihanna’s show,” he said. “If we had done Rihanna’s show, we would be accused of pandering without question.

“Because [Victoria’s Secret] has a specific image, has a point of view. It has a history. […] By the way, we’ve had three pregnant models walk the show. Everybody had the conversation about Savage [x Fenty] having the pregnant model in the show. We watch this, we’re amused by it, but we don’t milk it. And all of these things that they’ve ‘invented’, we have done and continue to do.”

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Irina Shayk

A pregnant Irina Shayk in the 2017 Victoria’s Secret show

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Razek misses the point. No one is critiquing the VS show for its failure to feature pregnant models (Irina Shayk, Alessandra Ambrosio and Lily Aldridge have all done so, albeit in the early stages of pregnancy with their bumps covered up – although this could have been a personal choice rather than an instruction from the brand), but rather its limited view of what it means to be beautiful.

By the sounds of it, Razek has no plans to change his formula anytime soon, writing off any criticism to jealousy.

“It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should,” said Razek. “Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. 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.”

“Nonsense gets written about us; God bless, we understand, we’re a big target, a very big target,” he concluded. “We get it, we’re enormously successful and have been for a very long time.”

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