Date: c. 1980s
Origin: United States
Brand: Victoria’s Secret
A coordinating slip and robe in pale pink silk, trimmed with machine appliquéd leavers lace trim. Both garments have relatively simple, unfitted cuts. The ensemble comes with a booklet describing the benefits of silk fibres, and cementing the luxurious branding that Victoria’s Secret had carefully cultivated during the 1980s, succinctly summarised by the tagline: ‘A shop dedicated to providing the finest lingerie in the world’.
Victoria’s Secret was founded in 1977 by Roy and Gaye Raymond in San Francisco; Roy was motivated to start the label and retailer by his own negative experiences trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in department stores, which made him feel ‘an unwelcome intruder’. The initial brand goal was to create an environment in which men would feel comfortable shopping for lingerie.
The brand became renowned for its mail order catalogues: by 1982, over half of sales were attributed to mail order. That year the brand was sold to Leslie Wexner, who revamped the sales model and moved the focus away from selling to male customers. Product styling was supposed too capture sexiness whilst remaining tasteful, and capturing a luxurious European aesthetic whilst retaining a mid-market price range. Over the 1980s the brand rapidly expanded its number of stores, rising from just 4 in 1982 to 100 in 1986.
By the 1990s, the brand’s aesthetic and marketing focus had shifted again: in the early 1990s Victoria’s Secret began the practice of hiring renowned models for its campaigns. In 1997, the ‘Angels’ line was launched, with commercials featuring models such as Helena Christensen and Tyra Banks. The success of these commercials cemented the term ‘Angel’ as a brand spokesperson, a practice that the brand continues to use to this day.
In 1995 the brand introduced its televised spectacle, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. By 2011, the budget for the show had risen to $12 million, a steep rise from the initial $120,000 budget. In recent years the show has struggled with viewership: 2013’s viewing figures totalled around 9.7million, yet the 2018 show attracted only 3.27 million, one of the lowest figures to date.
By 2006, the brand accounted for around a third of all lingerie purchases in the US; although it remains a major powerhouse in the intimate apparel industry today, the brand has been struggling in recent years. By 2016 the company had discontinued its print catalogues and was starting to see drops in sales. Falling sales have continued to plague the company, and have resulted in a number of brand stores being closed.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska