After several years of very public controversy, Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner has officially stepped down as head of the brand's parent company, NBC News reports.
Rumors of his departure circulated last month but his official exit was confirmed earlier this week along with a sale of the company. In recent years, Victoria's Secret, once the quintessential lingerie brand, has faced decreasing sales and massive downturn in public perception. Though issues with the embattled brand have been very well known, much of the drama surrounding it has been difficult to follow. Here's a breakdown on what's been happening.
Why Was the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Cancelled?
The brand's annual fashion show has routinely been criticized for its lack of diversity, but those misgivings were amplified in 2018, when Ed Razek, chief marketing officer of L Brands (Victoria’s Secret’s parent company), sat down with Vogue.com ahead of the filming of the 2018 fashion show. In the interview he said he didn't think the show should include more plus-size or any transgender models (whom he referred to as "transsexuals").
"Why not? Because the show is a fantasy," he said.
Razek has since apologized for his remarks, but the next year, it was announced the fashion show would no longer be broadcasted on TV after almost two decades on air, following years of declining viewership. At the time, the brand said the move was to "evolve the marketing of Victoria's Secret."
When Did Sales Start Declining?
After two straight years of declining sales, Victoria's Secret shuttered 53 of its 1,143 stories in 2019. Though it was once a shopping mall fixture, the brand faced steep competition from other lingerie labels that focused on inclusivity, like Thirdlove, Aerie, and Rihanna's Savage x Fenty line.
Why Did the CEO Step Down?
Wexner's step down from the company came after public scrutiny over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein. He has since said that his trust in Epstein was "grossly misplaced" and that he "deeply regret[s] having ever crossed his path."
"I think about the endless possibilities ahead for this company. And I’ve thought about where I fit in the picture," Wexner said in a message to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. "In keeping with this same thoughtful examination, I have decided that now is the right time to pass the reins to new leadership."
What Does a Sale Mean For Victoria's Secret?
Victoria's Secret's parent company has also sold a controlling stake in the brand, selling 55% of it for $525 million. The brand will now be separated into a private company, which Wexner said would "restore" the business's growth.
What About Those Harassment Allegations?
Earlier this month, the New York Times published a report detailing the alleged harassment models went through. The report suggested that Wexner and Razek created "an entrenched culture of misogyny" at the company.
Razek was accused of making inappropriate comments about models at castings, including a crude remark about Bella Hadid's breasts. During that same fitting, he allegedly grabbed another model’s crotch. Model Andi Muise told the Times she was passed over for the 2008 fashion show — for the first time in four years — after she refused Razek's advances. In the report, Razek denied the allegations saying they were, "categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context."
Last week, members and supporters of Model Alliance held a protest outside the Victoria's Secret N.Y.C. headquarters to demand action on the allegations.
What's Next For Victoria's Secret?
At the launch today for @victoriassecret and @bluebella at their flagship store in NYC. I believe I’m the first size 14 on @victoriassecret? Regardless I’m pretty stoked to work with a brand I idolized when I was a teen. Great step in the right direction for bodies. Available online @victoriassecret and at select stores across the country and UK.
A post shared by Ali Tate (@ali_tate_cutler) on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:54am PDT
Moving forward, it's hard to say what's next for the brand, though its critics certainly have thoughts.
Model Robyn Lawley, who launched a boycott of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, told Time last year that it was time for an overhaul, pointing to Rihanna's Savage Fenty as an example.
"Rihanna upscaled it so immensely. I think they learned their lesson," she said. "This is fashion. They have the opportunity to be diverse. They’re going to try and rebrand. They need to rebuild."
It's also worth noting that the brand's contract models known as "Angels" are seemingly unaware of what the next move for the brand is, especially when asked about the next potential fashion show. Many of them, including Romee Strijd, Jasmine Tookes, Martha Hunt and Josephine Skriver have started successful YouTube channels in the past two years, where they are often seen doing photoshoots and in-store events for the brand's "PINK" line.
InStyle has reached out to Victoria's Secret for comment on what's next for the brand.