For some of us, it’s about time
It shouldn’t have to take dwindling TV ratings and rising wokeness for the producers of the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show to realise that there is no more appeal in a staged and televised presentation that sells little else other than sex. But, apparently, those are the main reasons—along falling sales—that led to parent company L Brands (also owner of the less-hyped La Senza, as well as Bath & Body Works) announcing, on a quarterly earnings call, that the 2019 show would definitely be cancelled. The alert, of course, knew this months ago.
What took L Brands so long? Audience size believed to (once) number in the tens of millions and the many models who consider an appearance on the show as an Angel, not ASEAN’s Next Generation Leader, but a part of a constantly changing roster of women, who consider the title an honour and even a career high. For those fans who weren’t tuning into live streams of fashion week shows, Victoria’s Secret’s parade of the bevy of the bra-and-panty-clad was a real fashion show—“extravaganza” was how it was often described.
…the mardi gras for flashy underwear-as-outerwear excess was never toned down, only played up
The Victoria’s Secret event was never broadcast on any of our local channels—the sexiest show we’ll ever get is Michael Chiang’s Mixed Signals—yet its strong appeal at one time meant that sports bars were showing the show (past years’) on nights when there wasn’t a game that could encourage patrons to order an extra pitcher of beer. That it was the live-action version of FHM magazine (closed in Singapore in 2015) for NS boys (and army regulars alike) only augment their standing as a “girlie show”.
After 24 years of high-profile existence, the Victoria’s Secret presentations were still largely pageant-for-entertainment, with virtually no change to its over-the-top tackiness and objectifying scantiness. Sure, in later years, they added not-quite-Coachella performances by the likes of Shawn Mendes and the Chainsmokers, but the mardi gras for flashy and campy underwear-as-outerwear excess was never toned down, only played up.
China’s Liu Wen, even with a good-girl image and a lucrative Estee Lauder contract, was eager to strut down the Victoria’s Secret runway in 2016
It has been suggested that the Victoria’s Secret shows were the fantasies of heterosexual bosses conceived for other heterosexual males—an FTV cruise liner on a catwalk. Donald Trump, reportedly, was a fixture at the staging. That many models love to appear on the show suggested a possible complicity in their choice. The show is an expression of feminism in an era when, contrary to #metoo, ogling was no longer offensive. It was even emancipation from the convention that women’s underclothes should remain, well, under.
Adriana Lima said to The Telegraph in 2011, “Actually, the Victoria’s Secret show is the highlight of my life.” Many of the models called the experience “amazing”, so much so that Kendal Jenner told Popsugar that at her debut in 2015, she “did (cry) a little bit (during) my first fitting. I had tears.” So known was the desirability of the Victoria’s Secret show to top-tier models that E! New wrote yesterday, “Sorry Angels, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is now cancelled”, calling it “the end of an era”.
Much criticism had been leveled at the show (the press announced the cancellation with palpable glee), but inadequate was the acknowledgement that it had, in fact, influenced many others too, including a copy-cat staging in Chengdu, China in 2015. The shows were expensive to put together—reportedly, USD20 million were used in the 2016 production. However, few look-a-likes came close to its OTT, feathered-angel-wings lavishness. If there’s a Victoria’s Secret fashion show legacy, it was the massive good it had done for society by putting the Playboy Mansion on stage.
Photo: Getty Images