During a time when consumers and fashion industry insiders are calling for more inclusivity and diversity, there have been several companies that appear hesitant to change. According to Vogue Magazine‘s recent interview with Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek, it appears the mega-popular lingerie brand may be one of the companies reluctant to evolve. Ed shared several controversial statements about discriminatory casting practices for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show such as “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy” and “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” His comments provoked plenty of social media backlash, with celebs and models calling for boycotts and showing their support for a more diverse show.
Out Magazine editor-in-chief Phillip Picardi was among the many fashion veterans who responded to Ed’s interview. On Saturday, Phillip tweeted, “We, as an industry, must stop honoring this arcane pageantry and demand that they change. The fact that this show exists, the way it does in 2018, is absurd.”
On Instagram, transgender model and out-spoken activists Geena Rocero shared a message for VS about their outdated thinking writing, “I say, getting stuck in the limited and outdated thinking of beauty standards is just plain boring and missing a future driven economic opportunity.”
So far, it appears only three VS angels who participated in this year’s show have spoken out — models Karlie Kloss, Lily Aldridge, and Kendall Jenner. Karlie and Lily responded to Ed’s remark by both posting the words “Trans and GNC people are not a debate” on their Instagram stories. Fellow VS angel Kendall Jenner, whose Dad Caitlyn Jenner announced she was transgender three years ago, shared a photo of a “celebrate trans women” pin on her Instagram story.
Model Alliance, a not-for-profit research, policy and advocacy organization, released a statement about Ed’s interview via Instagram on Saturday. The message read, “We are disappointed by the recent comments about trans and plus-size models made by Ed Razek, CMO of L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company. Such comments create a hostile work environment for people who do not conform to Victoria’s Secret’s mold – one that enforces an idea of female beauty that is predominantly white, cisgender, young and thin.” The statement additionally called for Victoria’s Secret to join the company’s RESPECT Program, which holds companies responsible for instituting policies and practices that nurture a safe working environment for models regardless of their race, sex, and other unique characteristics.
On Friday, Ed released a statement via Victoria’s Secret’s official Twitter account apologizing for his comments. In his message, Ed shared that VS does support transgender models and, in fact, has asked them to attend castings before. Ed wrote, “We’ve had transgender models come to castings… And like many others, they didn’t make it…But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.” Transgender model Carmen Carrera, who years ago was rumored to make a debut as VS first trans model responded to Ed’s apology on Instagram describing a time when she was invited to attend a VS casting but then disinvited the morning of the casting. “I don’t understand if these casting folks just like to make you suffer on purpose or they just wanted to rejoice in their own foolery after they cancelled it,” wrote Carmen.
Ed’s apology seems to have come a bit too late, as people have already called for a boycott of the brand. In addition to Ed’s comments, VS’s lack of body inclusivity and racial diversity have also been cited as a reason for the boycott and many have speculated may be the cause of the brand’s declining sales over the last few years. Transgender model Leyna Bloom shared a message on Instagram stating that anyone who continues to support VS is supporting transphobia: “If you support this, you support transphobia and you are part of the problem in the world. Hate has caused a lot of problems, but has not solved one yet. This is the moment where all trans people should abandon this brand, this is the problem of our society today. “
Victoria’s Secret competitors’ Savage X Fenty, Aerie and Thirdlove have experienced great success over the past few years. The company’s dedication to creating marketing materials and products that cater to a wide-ranging audience, including people with disabilities, illnesses, different body types and skin tones, appears to be paying off. If this weekend’s events teaches VS executives anything, it should be that they may not be able to sustain their business if they do not drastically adjust their business model to conform to a new forward-thinking industry and consumer.
Read more of the fashion industry’s responses below:
Get the Teen Vogue Take. Sign up for the Teen Vogue weekly email.
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: 8 Transgender-Friendly Lingerie Brands to Support Instead of Victoria’s Secret