Can Victoria’s Secret Undo Its Sexist Past?

What Happened: Victoria’s Secret has unveiled seven new figureheads from a variety of backgrounds, from sports to activism, including LGBTQ+ activist Valentina Sampaio, US soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and Chinese-American champion freestyle skier Eileen Gu. Known as 爱凌公主, or Eileen Princess, by her 700,000 Weibo fans in China, she joins the list of new trailblazing ambassadors which will form a VS Collective (described as “accomplished women who share a common passion to drive positive change”) to replace the company’s outdated VS Angels concept. 

The Jing Take: This is yet another attempt by Victoria’s Secret to shake off what can only be described as a deeply misogynistic legacy. It is long overdue and has provoked more positive reactions in China than its previous effort, which was perceived as insincere. In May, the appointment of body diversity star Yang Tianzhen was met with less than enthusiastic response from netizens; this was more to do with her endorsement being at odds with the company’s image rather than any opposition to Yang herself. 

This latest announcement builds on the company’s global revamp and as a result, comes across as more authentic. @懒羊羊月球车 noted, “I really like this new strategy” and @IamLujiakai added: “This is such a meaningful project!” Welcome the remarks is Chief Executive Martin Waters, who said in a press release: “At Victoria’s Secret, we are on an incredible journey to become the world’s leading advocate for women” and assured that more changes are on the horizon. Mighty words indeed. But, as one Weibo user pointed out, “it’s not only about using politically correct models.” 

From top down and inside out, luxury must now continue to push through tokenism towards the implementation of truly diverse workforces. According to parent company L Brands, the lingerie giant’s new board will likely consist of six women. If companies genuinely seek to empower all women, surely this includes Chinese representation at this level as well? Post-pandemic, they can no longer simply bank on China’s progressive “she economy.” Victoria’s Secret is no exception. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.