The company Victoria's Secret lived years of glory through the end of the nineties and much of the beginning of the 2000s. But the standing of the largest American lingerie brand in the industry has dropped dramatically in recent years. And although the stumble was predicted among fashion professionals for some time, the interesting thing was the indifference of the public after hearing the news that the annual transmission of the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" has been canceled, as reported in an internal statement by Les Wexner, CEO of L Brands. "Fashion is a business of change. We need to evolve and change in order to grow”, Wexner stated.
Nowadays, an emotional connection between company and consumer is now more profitable than inducing compulsive consumption. Given the growth of e-commerce and access to instant information, modern consumers have become conscious consumers: more informed, demanding and intelligent, but less predictable in their buying behavior. Social relationships and values influence consumers' decisions by giving preference to brands that speak to them in the same way that a friend would speak to them.
Victoria's Secret continues to have an immense presence on social networks, but this has not been enough. On Instagram, the firm has surpassed 60 million followers, not counting the number of followers of each of the supermodels or influencers working with the brand. The company also relied on the international broadcast of the fashion show to attract young audiences and generate new customers. But the negative publicity towards the show came from the antiquated ideas of femininity and the unilateral vision of what is sexy for the company, which reflect a lack of emotional connection with the public that has adapted to the recent cultural changes. "The idea of what is sexy has changed, it is no longer based on having endlessly long hair or capturing the male gaze. Now there are more types of sexy, "says Cora Harrington, editor of the blog Lingerie Addict in an interview for the Business of Fashion.
"Modern consumers have become conscious consumers: more informed, demanding and intelligent, but less predictable in their buying behavior.”
What about the products?
Currently, people seek to make a purchasing decision that gives us satisfaction, leaving aside the practical option. When we satisfy our basic needs, there is a greater motivation to achieve self-realization. What we wear is one of the most important aspects in the experience of human life because it influences our self-esteem, identity and emotions, as well as the way we interact with others.
Enclothed cognition is the concept that studies the effects of clothing, both on the person who wears it and on observers. It seeks to analyze what a garment can represent for a person, such as a special occasion, a memory, or a symbol of belonging to a certain social group, based on physical experience (when carrying it), or the emotional and mental (the impact and what the wearing of this garment makes us feel).
“What we wear is one of the most important aspects in the experience of human life because it influences our self-esteem, identity and emotions, as well as the way we interact with others.”
Earlier this year, like everyone else in the world, I decided to clear out my closet, Marie-Kondo style. Between pictures and magazines, t-shirts, records and jeans, it took me approximately three weeks to get rid of what no longer inspired happiness. I remember that when I reached a certain drawer, I found an endless number of Victoria's Secret bras, all with the infamous padding. Despite the memories that each brought from my adolescence, these bras no longer connect with my lifestyle, my ideologies, or the image I want to project when I go out into the world. (FYI - in the name of sustainability, all of it has gone to the donation center.)
The bra has always had an intimate relationship with the body and identity of women. It is the garment that has accompanied us the most throughout our lives. Thanks to sociological and technological changes, there is now a great variety of companies that offer us bras for any type of activity, occasion, personality, preferences, stages and lifestyles of those who wear it.
We know very well that any bra keeps its functionality in all women, but modern consumers choose to buy products from companies that better understand us, produce a positive effect on us, and make us feel both comfortable, as special. Victoria's Secret has failed to recognize the individuality of women by offering generalized and limited products that do not connect with our emotions.
Beyond the aspirational ideology that relates to the brand, studies show that current consumers prefer to invest a large part of their budget to wellbeing, or mental and physical health, compared to twenty years ago. This change gave direction to the boom of the trend of athleisure some years ago. Women now prefer comfort when it comes to dressing and this has been reflected in the underwear industry, which has reported an increasing demand for bralettes and bras made of soft materials.
This has led to the decline in sales of the famous Victoria's Secret padded bra, which it insists on including in its sports bras. Returning to the concept of enclothed cognition, if an outfit influences the attitude of the person wearing it, how does a padded sportsbra affect our physical performance when practicing a sport? I find it jarring.
Under scrutiny is also the lack of variety of products for women with different skin tones. During the last year, an increase of 127 percent in nude lingerie sales has been reported. This means a wrong shot on the part of Victoria's Secret to ignore users who are in search of a bra that more closely resembles their skin tone, since the company offers few nude options for women of color. The inability to buy a garment sold under the name of nude because certain nude tone does not exist within the range of Victoria's Secret, creates a negative shopping experience enhancing the lack of authenticity of the brand's advertising campaign.
It is no longer a secret that modern, conscientious consumers want clothes that make us feel physically secure and that excite us when we use them. There are women of different sizes and skin tones, none is equal to another. Although the lingerie industry naturally has irregularities in terms of size, Victoria's Secret also has the smallest range. Diversifying the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is not enough. We know that they created the company with a certain look in mind, but the company needs to integrate diverse feminine points of view to evolve, both in variety of products, as well as in the shopping experience through physical stores and online. VS needs to strengthen the relationship they once had with women and build a community. We are beings that seek a camaraderie with companies that we support. It is true that many of us once aspired to see ourselves as angels, but now we seek to support companies that inspire authenticity that help us reach our goals here on earth.
Yenia Hernández Fonseca has experience in visual presentation and exhibition design for some of the biggest luxury brands. As a writer, Yenia explores the relationship between trends in retail, experiential marketing and fashion psychology from Mexico City.