When Victoria’s Secret’s three-story flagship in midtown Manhattan reopens at the end of July, it will be scrubbed of any evidence of its former pride and joy: the Victoria’s Secret Angels.
The store, which has been closed since the pandemic hit in March of last year, is currently gearing up for a relaunch that will not include the company’s trademark framed photographs of supermodels looking as if they are in the throes of ecstasy while wearing the company’s lingerie.
The construction crew hard at work on the store are also removing a museum-like homage to its Angels that has long occupied the store’s third-floor. The exhibit consisted of headless mannequins donning elaborate costumes (think Las Vegas showgirl meet S&M-obsessed fashion designer) from past Victoria’s Secret fashion shows.
Customers can also bid farewell to the videos that ran on a constant loop on television screens of its fashion shows and interviews with models, a spokesperson confirmed.
Located in the heart of a busy shopping district on Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center, the flagship is currently among hundreds of Victoria’s Secret stores undergoing major makeovers as the lingerie seller scrambles to revamp its image from a company that objectifies women to one that empowers them.
In 2019, Victoria’s Secret scrapped its once popular fashion show amid backlash over its refusal to include women of different shapes and sizes. And it’s been slowly adding plus-sized models to its marketing materials since last year.
In its most dramatic move yet, the company recently announced that it has signed soccer star Megan Rapinoe, freestyle skier Eileen Gu and a slew of other accomplished women to help rebuild its brand. Other brand ambassadors include Indian actor and tech investor Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and plus-sized model Paloma Elsesser.
Redoing the stores, which have largely looked the same since the mid-1990s, is a big and likely costly step in the process as the company gears up to be spun off from its parent company, L Brands, in August.
About half of Victoria’s Secret’s 1,400 global stores have begun to swap out the angel imagery for a look that is “more inviting for women to enter,” Victoria’s Secret’s new creative director, Raul Martinez, told The Post.
The bricks-and-mortar makeover is perhaps best represented by Victoria’s Secret’s newly revamped store at the Polaris Fashion Place shopping mall near its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters, where the lingerie juggernaut has upped the brightness of light bulbs and exchanged its black lacquered walls for a softer shade of pink.
It’s also trashed the boudoir decor that has defined it for decades (think bubblegum pink velvet furniture), in exchange for simple white and black display tables and dressers.
The mannequins include full-bodied shapes for the first time in the company’s 44-year history, and the models on display are of women of all shapes and sizes looking sexy because they are happy and not the other way around.
Store associates are being instructed on the company’s new ethos, helped by slide presentations that have been shared by CEO Martin Waters at companywide meetings, according to a spokesperson.
Martin has echoed what he has been telling associates in a recent earnings call where he said: “We are moving from what men want to what women want; We are going from a look to a feeling, from excluding most women to including all women, from mostly unattainable to grounded in real life
Of course, the NYC flagship may be designed with more flashy displays than a traditional mall store because it serves as a global showcase for the company’s products. Victoria’s Secret declined, however, to elaborate on its design plans for the Fifth Avenue store currently under construction, including its plans for what will replace the museum-like homage to the Angels on the third floor.
The supermodels aren’t going away entirely. There will just be fewer of them.
“The word angel is retired but that doesn’t mean the women we worked with as angels are retired,” Martinez said, adding, “We did have conversations with the former angels. It was an honest conversation.”
Martinez declined to elaborate on that conversation, but said at least three Angels continue to represent the brand: Taylor Hill, 25, who became an angel in 2015, Grace Elisabeth, 24, who became an angel in 2016 and was recently photographed nine months pregnant for the brand’s first ever Mother’s Day campaign, and Helena Christensen, 52, who was photographed with her 21 year-old son for the Mother’s Day campaign.
Not everyone thinks the transformation, which is expected to evolve, will work, or that it will win back customers it offended in the past.
Former Victoria’s Secret Angel Bridget Malcom recently slammed the company’s rebranding on TikTok as a “performative allyship” and “joke.” She claimed that Ed Razek, former chief marketing officer for the company’s parent, declined to using her in a show and said her body “did not look good enough” because she inched up from a 30A to a 30B in bra size.
But retail consultant Gabriella Santaniello notes that the company “didn’t have a choice,” but to shed its image for something new. “It will be interesting to see what happens next,” she said.