Australian supermodel Robyn Lawley believes enough is enough. Victoria’s Secret dominance of women’s sexuality by defining what and who is sexy must end. Lawley is calling on women to boycott the brand, as well as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which is filming on Thursday.
Launching a petition on Change.org with the hashtag #WeAreAllAngels, Lawley challenges women to vote with their wallets and their eyes. It is time for Victoria’s Secret to wake up to the fact that there isn’t just one image of sexy.
“ Let’s help change Victoria’s Secret to be more diverse and inclusive of body shapes and sizes on their runways! Victoria Secret have dominated the space for almost 30 years by telling women there is only one kind of body beautiful,” Lawley wrote in her petition.
The petition is also supported by Third Love, a body-positive underwear brand. “It is incredibly heartbreaking that Victoria’s Secret has been telling women there is only one kind of beautiful for 30 years,” Heidi Zak, co-founder and CEO of Thirdlove shared with me.
“Women should expect more from the brands they support. If Victoria’s Secret can’t celebrate the beauty of all women’s bodies, then it’s time for us to step in and step up,” Zak added.
Zak and ThirdLove are putting their money where their heart is by donating bras to women in need when other women show their support on social media. “We wanted to use this moment to make a positive impact, so we are donating one bra to I Support the Girls for every use of the hashtag #WeAreAllAngels,” Zak said.
“I Support the Girls distributes gently used bras to women in need across the country, and we are humbled to be able to support this organization with this partnership,” she added.
A lot of money is riding on this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the company’s flagship marketing effort to drive customers to the brand. It is having serious trouble in that regard. Victoria’s Secret sales were off 5% in 2017, declining from $7.8 billion in 2016 to $7.4 billion.
Even more telling is the dramatic decline in viewership of Victoria’s Secret annual televised fashion show. After reaching a high of 9.1 million viewers in 2014, only 5 million people watched last year. ABC hopes to hold onto another 5 million again this year, while Lawley hopes another year of dramatic declines in viewers will finally put Victoria’s Secret on notice.
If Victoria’s Secret doesn’t get the message from Lawley’s grassroots campaign, maybe the investment community and stakeholders in the business will communicate it. Many women reject the image of feminine beauty and sexiness the company continues to propagate.
“As women I want us all to join together and say I AM enough, I AM beautiful, I AM unique and I WANT to see my body shape represented in your shows or I vow to never buy your product again!” Lawley wrote.
While L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, promises the brand is “focused on improving performance by staying close to our customer,” and “delivering brand-accretive marketing to grow the customer base,” Lawley’s brand-shaming petition calls its hypocrisy out.
Only one type of body, a living “Barbie” doll who’s super thin with oversized breasts, is worthy of being called a Victoria’s Secret angel. The remaining 99% don’t fit, like Lawley who is 6’2” and an Australian 14/16 size.
The tide is turning, however, as the rest of the fashion industry increasingly is embracing the shape of real women. The industry describes Lawley as a “plus size” model, but she rejects that label, preferring the term “curvy.” She was the first non-conforming, curvy model to be featured in the famed Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit edition in 2015, and has been featured on the covers of Vogue Italia, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.
Lawley is good enough for Victoria’s Secret to sell to, but not good enough to be a Victoria’s Secret angel. “They have my size in their shops, so if they stock my size and make money on my size, why not put it on the catwalk?” she asked in a podcast interview with Mia Freeman called No Filter.
Lawley credits Rihanna’s recent Savage x Fenty fashion show as inspiring her to ask other women to join the protest. That show featured an all-inclusive cast of scantily clad models, including two pregnant models.
Rihanna was quoted by Vogue saying, “I think it’s a shame women have to feel insecure or self-conscious about how their bodies look. They’ve been taught by society that only one thing works.”
Lawley would say that Victoria’s Secret is one of the chief offenders.“The Savage x Fenty show was “such a breath of fresh air,” Lawley said. “How much of a good impact could it have on young girls, if Victoria’s Secret did the same.”
It’s for the girls
It is time for Victoria’s Secret to stop body shaming women and start celebrating her in all her many different sizes, colors and ages. Victoria’s Secret’s future hangs in the balance. “They could easily do it and have such a big impact. Girls would fall back in love with this brand,” Lawley said, thinking about the negative influences the Victoria’s Secret’s images have on young girls, like her daughter.
ThirdLove’s Zak is also thinking of the young girls. “Since having my own daughter, I’ve been constantly aware of the unrealistic beauty standards brands like Victoria’s Secret’s have upheld. When we met with Robyn, who is a mother herself, we realized that we couldn’t sit by and let this be the world that our daughters grow up in. We knew we had to do something,” she said.
Victoria’s Secret has an amazing opportunity to turn its business around if it focused on making women feel good about the shape they are in, instead of making them feel like they very literally don’t measure up. And this will have a positive impact on the brand not just today, but in the future.
Changes doesn’t come easily but time for change is long overdue. Victoria’s Secret remains caught in a time warp and it has refused to respond to the #WeAreAllAngels. Maybe 2019 will be the year. Victoria’s Secret stakeholders better hope so.