Founded in 1977 by Roy Raymond and wife Gaye, Victoria’s Secret remains today the premier designer, manufacturer, and marketer of lady’s underwear and lingerie products. In its first year of production, the business made just $500,000, but it was enough to finance more shops and a design team.
Things went well. According to an article in the New York Times back in 2007, Victoria’s Secret had 1,000 stores across the United States, which “accounted for one-third of all purchases in the intimate apparel industry.” By 2012, its sales had reached $6.12B and it was credited as “single-handedly transforming America's conception of lingerie by pioneering sexy underwear as fashion and lingerie mainstream entertainment.”
The business is also known for its catalogs and annual fashion shows and continues to be seen as a manifestation of “the increased cultural acceptance of shopping for undies.” With its “sexually charged come-hither marketing,” Victoria's Secret is progressive. It’s now also responding to movement in the youth fashion marketplace unveiling, earlier this year, a range of “bralettes” (bras without underwire, often intended to be worn visibly) and sports bras. Victoria's Secret’s bralettes include bandeau and racer-back styles and the featured “Crochet Lace High-neck Bra,” which we think rather nicely accentuates the lady’s embonpoint.
With social media ready to devour someone at a moment’s notice, we thought it might be fun to see what people make of the Victoria's Secret phenomenon, its catwalks, models, and catalogs. Here are 15 memes we think are priceless.
Back to that slump in self-esteem after one of VS’s annual shows, and this meme is taken straight from the usual outpouring of chagrin. The show generally creates hype like none other when women in their undies are broadcast to the nation. On the run-up to the annual gathering, social media is usually buzzing with comments, such as “RIP self-esteem,” “Never eating again so I can look like these girls,” and “I’m trash.” What’s more worrying, these statements usually come from younger viewers.
With society labeling the women on the catwalk as “perfect,” the question has to be asked how such talk affects girls and young women who already feel bad about themselves. The hype of the show is probably more to blame than the show itself, college publication Equinox suggests. “They [viewers] just spent over an hour watching these perfect, skinny models parade around a runway, and now they’re comparing themselves to them.”
14 The Secret
Following last December’s bash in Paris, there was more than a little outcry in the press about the size of the models on the runway. Many social media commentators hit out at them being too thin, with Tweeps complaining that VS was “ditching models with curves in favor of more athletic body types.” After all, the VS model shape is not what most of us look like and for good reason: most of us put food in our mouths.
There have been various drives over the last few years to force fashion houses to choose less skinny models for their lines. The Paris show in 2016 proves the industry penchant for super-thin is still going strong. In a 2016 interview for konbini.com, Danish Film Director Nicolas Winding Refn was quoted as saying, "Having so much focus put on your appearance leads some to 'lose yourself.'"
VS revenue up to this year has been healthy, to say the least, and things have been improving steadily for the fashion house since the noughties. According to statisticbrain.com, the annual revenue is $12,500,000,000, which accounts for 15% of the high street lingerie market and 20% of the bra market. The number of Victoria’s Secret and La Senza shops comes in at 1,040 -- impressive when you consider that founder Roy Raymond borrowed just $80,000 to open his first shop.
But it’s the catalog that has had an “almost cult-like following,” according to The Los Angeles Times. That's hardly surprising when you consider that the number of subscribers currently stands at 375,000,000. It’s because of this that we think the meme is spot on. What better way to spend a quiet afternoon than to leaf through the glossy pages of the world’s number one lingerie catalog. Whether that means buying something for the better half or not is another matter.
12 L (Limited) Brands
In 1980, the Victoria’s Secret brand, store, and catalog were bought from Roy Raymond for $1M by L Brands, but their acquisition of the lingerie giant was only the warm-up to a string of other buyouts, including that of Abercrombie and Fitch. The 1990s then saw the firm’s organic evolution of distinct sectors of their now impressive portfolio, namely Limited Too, Bath & Body Works, Structure, and Victoria's Secret Beauty.
This is one of those memes that were created off the back of the 2015 VS show in New York City. It’s an indictment of both VS’s insistence on forced starvation and over the top costumes, in our opinion. Included in the line-up were the 2015 VS Secret Angels Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Candice Swanepoel and Kate Grigorieva to name but a few. The extravaganza as always boasted the glitterati of the year with the likes of Ellie Goulding, Selena Gomez, and The Weeknd.
11 Bella Hadid
Back in 2016, Victoria's Secret (VS) held their annual fashion show in Paris at the Grand Palais. A famous $3M Fantasy Bra designed by jeweler Eddie Borgo was exceedingly well-worn by Jasmine Tookes, and Kendall Jenner (of Kardashian fame) showcased a pair of fetching red suede over-the-knee boots. All this and more prompted one punter -- sorry, guest -- to remark, “That was the happiest thirty minutes of my life.”
Memes-aplenty came from this one event, and we’ll be looking at a few more of them later. But first, check out this one. We think it fits the bill of being incredibly hot, for starters, thanks to the goddess grace and beauty of American model Bella Hadid, but so too the perfect idea of a meme, especially since we think a meme has to have a little bit of humor to it as well.
10 Ariana Grande
The annual VS show of 2014 was held in London and featured some of the world’s leading fashion models with names on the runway like Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Candice Swanepoel. Music was performed by Ariana Grande, among others, and she soon took to the stage for a set with some of the Secret Angels. Incidentally, the Secret Angels got their name from a line of lingerie called “Angels.”
Here, we see a meme that really took the internet by storm: lil’ Grande being clocked by the wing of an angel. How very poetic, you might add, but think again, Sherlock, because those wings aren’t as soft as they look (back in 2011, Angel Alessandra Ambrosio sported a couple of 40-pounders). In fact, it looks to us as though they're a composite of cardboard and metal, so getting clobbered by something like that is surely going to put you off your game.
9 Smart Bra
VS has recently gone techy. The fashion giant invented a sports bra, which can be hooked up to a heart rate monitor. Fitted with electrodes, the bra stops short of being fitted with an actual heart monitor, but the company assures its customers the bra’s connections “will fit most clip-on heart rate monitors from leading brands.”
We don’t think the “Incredible” is going to be a massive seller, especially with the ongoing development of smart wristbands and watches, but analysts do predict this sort of “Smart garment” has the greatest potential for growth. But wouldn’t it make sense if, as well as having, “maximum support, breathable padding, flexible underwire for maximum comfort, and supersoft elastic band for comfort & movement,” it came with its own in-built monitor?
8 The Weeknd
Instagram now. It has to be said that the runway activities of the stunning Bella Hadid broke the internet in a way Kim Kardashian could only dream of. This 5’8 fashion model at just 20 years old caused a sensation when she arrived on the catwalk wearing a sexy plunge strappy V-neck bodice and lace V-string panties all in silver-grey and complete with a long kimono-style drape. Yes, we definitely approve.
But we think this meme has way more to do with the look on Habib’s face, which is a mixture of disdain and aloofness. But was she acting? Grammers and Tweeps alike caught on to this and drew their humor from the unmistakable irony of The Weeknd serenading his actual ex-GF and to no avail. Mind you, if what he was singing was anything like his big-time unpopular track “Earned It,” the wooing was never going to work.
7 Food And Mood
The imminent arrival of a show of stunning catwalk models in their underpants usually creates a general drop in self-esteem for women interested in it. But we heartily believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in any case, it’s just a spectacle. The Telegraph succinctly reported on the Paris bash in 2016: “For all the accusations of bad taste or anti-feminist value, there has to be something to be said for the spirit of camaraderie and aspiration which seems to be shared amongst the models.”
OK, this isn’t a meme, strictly speaking, but we want to keep things sexy. It did, however, come with the caption, “I was going to watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show tomorrow, but I just remembered that I like having self-esteem.” In December 2016, Facebook and Twitter were awash with women drowning in low self-image. Don’t worry; we still think you’re gorgeous.
6 Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks made her angel debut on the VS runway in 1997. During a 2005 show, the now 43-year-old former model was parading her exquisite form along a catwalk in New York City when she lost an expensive company bracelet somewhere along the way. Quoted a little later, Banks was heard to say, “I lost a trillion dollar bracelet on the runway; I have no idea where it went.”
Nine years later, Banks wasn't so excited when her plans to make a surprise appearance at the annual show were vetoed by management. Not having worked as a model for four years, she thought it would be a nice treat to come on board this one time, especially after her long affiliation with the brand. VS’s bosses didn’t see the funny side as one insider is quoted as saying, “'[Ms. Banks] was rejected by the brand and the network.” Ouch!
5 The Fantasy Bra
For VS, the Secret Fantasy Bra has been a mainstay of the runway at annual shows throughout the years. On each occasion, the company chooses one of their models to wear the Fantasy Bra, and with the passage of time, the bra has become more embellished and a lot more expensive. The first model to wear the Fantasy Bra was German model Claudia Schiffer back in 1996; costing $1 million, the “Million Dollar Miracle Bra” featured over 100 carats in diamonds and other precious jewels.
And so the tradition continued with its most recent bearer being Jasmine Tookes at the Paris show last year. She wore a $3M Bright Night Fantasy Bra designed by Eddie Borgo. Borgo worked a total of seven months on the project, including 700 hours of gem-sewing into the material of the bra. Phew!
Back in 2012, Jenna Sauers, writing for zine Jezebel, uncovered some interesting techniques used by VS to create the so-called perfection of their models. According to Sauers, VS, by mistake, published a pre-edited photoshoot of supermodel Doutzen Kroes then withdrew the publication in order to make the changes they should have made before. Once they’d made the changes, they re-published, except that allowed everyone to compare the before and after shots. You must have known that was going to happen, VS!
While most of the alterations are not massive and consist of some color and light touch-ups, Sauers goes on to point out other more drastic differences, and for a company that's already been through some controversy surrounding body image, they’re a little surprising. The changes include removal of skin folds, reshaping of legs and hips, removal of expression lines, removal of armpit folds, and smoothing over of muscle shapes.
3 Perfect Body?
Back in 2014, VS came under fire for an ad campaign they ran, which included the slogan “The Perfect Body.” Despite the line referring to a new type of bra, the company was instantly rebuked for its poster, which also shows a lineup of the usual underfed ladies so synonymous with the brand. An anti-campaign campaign was launched through change.org which petitioned VS to “apologize for, and amend the irresponsible marketing of your new bra range ‘Body.’"
Shortly afterward, VS yielded to the campaign and reissued their promotion, changing the tagline to “A Body For Everybody;” not only was this more in tune with the product but also less ambiguous in its relation to the models pictured. However, the tragedy to this story is that the posters were only changed online and not in-store, prompting one Tweep to say, “Victoria's Secret, I am appalled. Frick you and your 'perfect body' campaign.”
2 The Catalogue
The catalogue was and still is VS’s unique selling point. There from the outset under Raymond’s management, it allowed not only women to choose products at leisure but so too men who had previously been reluctant to walk into a high street lingerie shop. It was undeniably the precursor to e-commerce and became the mainstay of the company’s essence.
In the early days, it presented itself as an upmarket and sassier rendition of some of the catalogues already on the market. In 1982, it was reportedly a publication that inspired some of the others to present their lingerie wear as “romantic and sensual but tasteful.” The catalogues were also comprehensive in nature and embraced lines in underwear and nightwear that previously had been the domain of the functional sell. Consumers were finally able to “review the entire spectrum of product offerings, along the axes of style, color, and fabric.”
Lane Bryant, a clothes store for plus-sized women, took a potshot at VS back in 2015. In seemingly direct response to the “Perfect Body” campaign run by the lingerie giant, Lane Bryant revealed its own line of Cacique lingerie. This poster for their new reveal features six well-known plus-size models: Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, Candice Huffine, Victoria Lee, Justine Legault, and Elly Mayday.
The poster seems to be a deliberate response (or uncannily timed) to the VS spread and caused a stir when it was published. Linda Heasley, CEO of Lane Bryant, was defiant: “Our #ImNoAngel campaign is designed to empower ALL women to love every part of herself [sic].” And so it must have done, especially when it was backed up with the stats that “curvy brunette models sold more underwear than thin blonde ones” -- all in all, a successful backlash against one company’s take on “perfection.”
Sources: victoriassecret.com, smash.com, vh1.com