Is too little too late for Victoria's Secret?
The brand has been falling out of favor for years, first gradually, then suddenly, with the decline precipitated by former executive Ed Razek's transphobic, body-shaming remarks and cancellation of the VS Fashion Show.
For a few years after that, the heritage brand was relatively unchanging as its competitors revolutionized the space, from Aerie's shift away from retouching photos to Savage x Fenty's Vol.1 Show at New York Fashion Week.
That silence ended three weeks ago, when the brand introduced The VS Collective “to drive positive change.” Its seven founding members represent multiple age groups, races, and careers, including World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe, activist Paloma Elsesser, and journalist Amanda de Cadenet.
Share the process -- where transparency lives
In a recent New York Times article, CEO Martin Waters admitted that Victoria's Secret has been slow to change. Explicitly recognizing that lag and genuinely committing to change may be precisely what will turn skeptics into supporters. More than that, sharing the process behind a rebrand is more than an empty PR commitment — it shows that a brand is actively thinking about its meaning and doing it.
However, the announcement of the VS Collective drew ire from conservatives and liberals alike. It seems the brand is simultaneously doing too much and not enough, changing too quickly and too slowly. That's how it goes for lots of rebrands, especially for culture-defining brands like VS.
Fact is, VS's rebrand will lose the company some customers, but that's necessary. With a pivot like VS's, trying to appeal to everyone would be counterproductive. And, because it’s going to inevitably lose some customers, there's no reason not to go further and actively stand for deeper issues, beyond loosely advocating for women's empowerment. Otherwise, the rebrand feels more #girlboss than revolutionary.
Don't just reflect the current culture -- shape the future landscape
Finally, while the VS Collective is diverse, it’s the bare minimum in the current landscape. In an era where the meaning of brand safety has radically shifted and brands are taking stands on leading issues, VS is doing the least possible.
In selecting members of the collective, VS could have pushed further, partnering with individuals that don't just fit within the brand's limited size offerings but that could provide the guidance and creative vision to bring new product ranges to life. In doing so, they wouldn't be reacting to cultural shifts, they'd be creating them.
VS isn't the first mall brand to undergo a rebrand; so has Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale. Still, time will tell if the new VS will make it or be marked as an attempt that came too little, too late. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt, especially since some elements of their rebrand do feel like massive change.
Rebrands are more than just a name change or a visual redesign. They represent moments of deep reflection, a refocusing of values, and a re-imagination of ideas. At this current cultural flashpoint, a rebrand is the recognition that to remain unchanged doesn't make you a heritage brand — it leaves you behind.