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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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February 23, 2024

Nobody’s entitled to inclusivity: Why Victoria’s Secret’s rebranding was a horrible business decision

In+recent+years%2C+the+fashion+industry+has+been+pushing+towards+inclusivity+and+representation+of+all+bodies.+With+this+movement%2C+however%2C+performative+inclusivity+%E2%80%94+superficial+changes+made+to+brands+that+don%E2%80%99t+genuinely+combat+inequity+%E2%80%94+has+risen.
In recent years, the fashion industry has been pushing towards inclusivity and representation of all bodies. With this movement, however, performative inclusivity — superficial changes made to brands that don’t genuinely combat inequity — has risen.

On Sept. 26, 2023, Victoria’s Secret released its revamped Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Hulu. After a two-year hiatus, the multi-billion dollar brand’s show took an unprecedented route — an inclusive one.  

Victoria’s Secret is notable for hiring conventionally attractive models. Since the brand’s fashion show first aired in 1995, the models referred to as the “Angels,” were known for their near unrealistic and often unhealthy physiques. Though the Angels’ body types don’t represent women, their “perfect” shape appealed to Victoria’s Secret consumers and fueled the brand’s success.

In recent years, the fashion industry has been pushing towards inclusivity and representation of all bodies. With this movement, however, performative inclusivity — superficial changes made to brands that don’t genuinely combat inequity — has risen. In their latest show, Victoria’s Secret hired new designers whose creations didn’t match the previous aesthetics, and the stark changes caused an uprising on social media. 

Consumers have noticed the performative inclusion, but not all the responses have been positive. This abrupt marketing change is a dishonest representation of the company’s values. 

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Though some might get the two mixed up, it’s important to denote that exclusivity and discrimination are not the same things — exclusivity is defined as a restriction to a particular person, group or area, while discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different people, especially on the grounds of ethnicity, age, sex or disability. Exclusivity can exist without being discriminatory so long as companies provide other opportunities to those not included.

To create a defined customer base, companies in the clothing industry often restrict their products to a targeted audience. However, intentionally marketing to a specific group of people doesn’t inherently nurture discriminatory practices against all other groups. 

In the past ten years, the clothing brand Brandy Melville has taken the world of teenage girl’s fashion by storm. Known for its “one size fits all” motto, the brand is constantly criticized for its one size, which effectively accommodates only sizes 0-2. Despite this restriction, Brandy Melville remains one of the most teenage-targeted clothing brands, a direct product of the company’s exclusivity. 

When Victoria’s Secret attempted to be inclusive, they replaced the original “Angels” and turned their show into a designer showcase movie. However, while other brands like Aerie and Savage X Fenty are built upon inclusive ideals, Victoria’s Secret isn’t. Such inclusive companies have realized continued success; they centered their brands around including all consumers, so their audience sticks around. Victoria’s Secret, however, failed to cater to what their specific audience wanted, which attracted negative attention online. Straying away from their previous practices is starting to confuse and repel customers. 

“Known design houses shouldn’t feel the need to widen their customer base because they already have an established reputation and are going to have returning customers either way,” junior Gabriela Minai said. “A more ‘inclusive’ image that strays too far from their traditional look may even discourage returning customers.” 

Some argue that all forms of exclusivity are harmful and push the idea that certain people don’t deserve representation. The original Victoria’s Secret fashion show might even lead viewers to believe they should strive to achieve these unrealistic body types. However, Victoria’s Secret still offers most sizes, ranging from XXS to XXL. The brand isn’t trying to limit the people who access their clothes, they’re only exclusive to the people they choose to portray the brand. 

People should embrace the idea of exclusivity; just because something isn’t realistic for everyone doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. There should be opportunities for everyone to participate in their passions. However, the opportunities meant to be more exclusive shouldn’t be altered to seem more inclusive.

“Established and well-known brands, especially designers, will draw an audience regardless of how inclusive their brand seems,” Minai said. “The exclusivity only builds on their prestige towards the audience and makes their products more untouchable.”

Victoria’s Secret intended for their shows to be a “fantasy,” and they’re selling that idea by including models who have unachievable and unrealistic body types, but the brand never intended to use these models to exclude people who don’t fit this standard. When Victoria’s Secret eliminated exclusivity, it eliminated the ingredient of the show — the fact that not everyone could achieve the position. 

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About the Contributor
Aya Chami, Opinion Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join the Black and White? To give myself a creative outlet and to inform my school community about current issues What is your favorite song of all time? Cameras / Good Ones Go - Drake

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