Their first live webcast in 1999 drew an audience of 1.5 million.
Before we take a look behind the stunning success of the company’s annual fashion show let’s briefly review how Victoria’s Secret began and how it grew into a spectacular retailer of lingerie and sleepwear.
In the mid-seventies, a 30-year-old Stanford MBA named Roy Raymond walked into a department store to buy his wife a gift of lingerie and received a cool reception from the sales staff. They made him feel that like a deviant just for being there. This experience gave him a brilliant idea: create a retail store where men would feel okay when shopping.
Roy Raymond, the founder of Victoria’s Secret
With $80,000 from savings and loans he opened Victoria’s Secret in San Francisco and, within five years, it had annual sales of more than $4 million. But something was not working and by 1982 the company was near bankruptcy.
At this point, Leslie Wexner, who had opened The Limited in 1963, while still in his twenties, stumbled across a Victoria’s Secret store and quickly saw what was wrong. The business model focused on men – not women – so he created “a La Perla for the mass market” with the result that today Victoria’s Secret (that Wexner bought from Raymond for several million dollars) is now a billion-dollar company and the most popular apparel brand in the world.
Billionaire Leslie Wexner – the current owner of Victoria’s Secret
The tragic end to this story is that, by 1993 Roy Raymond had other business failures and was divorced with two teenage children. Feeling totally beaten, he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge at the age of forty-six.
He had a genius idea but the execution was flawed. Wexner made great changes and the rest is history.
VICTORIA’S SECRET TODAY
I became really interested in this subject when I came across a fascinating article in the May 2017 issue of Allure magazine titled The Making of an Angel written by Molly Young. The provocative opening blurb reads: How do you become that rarefied breed of Victoria’s Secret model that gets to wear the wings? It starts with a squeaky-clean past – or at least a believable likeness of one.”
Victoria’s Secret treats its models like A-list stars. Six of the ten highest-paid models in the world boast “Victoria’s Secret Angel” on their résumés. All ten have walked the runway. This is not an accident.
Taylor Hill, a model who was booked for the fashion show just over two years ago has now starred in campaigns for Miu Miu and Michael Kors, been the face of Lancôme, and walked in shows for Chanel, Alexander Wang, Versace and Balmain. She also has more than seven million followers on Instagram.
No other brand on earth could lift a model from obscurity to ubiquity in a matter of months. So how does this happen? The answer is: very, very deliberately and mostly because of Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret.
Gisele and Victoria’s Secret diamond-encrusted bra priced in the millions
There are three primary considerations when picking a model:
#1 Does she fit the brand? Meaning: sexy but not porny, lacy but not fussy. Must look like she’s having fun – clean, wholesome fun – more Gisele, less Kate Moss.
#2 She must appeal to women because 99% of Victoria’s Secret customers are women. Models are tested first on the brand’s website before ascending to Angel status (or not).
#3 Does she have the right personality for the job? Razek says, “Nobody gets drunk. Nobody stays out late at night. Nobody comes to work with a hangover.” What Victoria’s Secret really provides – more than training or tutelage – is exposure.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THESE ANGELS
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