Between hiring its very first transgender model, controversy over what constitutes sexy, and dropping sales figures, Bloomberg reports that Victoria's Secret is losing one of its top executives. Ed Razek, who many credit as the man to bring angel wings, big-name models with beach waves, and the infamous over-the-top annual fashion show to the masses, is leaving parent company L Brands Inc.
Chief Executive Officer Les Wexner distributed an internal memo on Monday with the news, writing that it was a tough decision to let one of the company's most staunch supporters go. For those outside the company, however, the move was a long time coming. Razek has been criticized for saying that transgender and plus-size models had no place in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, because the whole affair was supposed to be "a fantasy." A week after his comments (and subsequent apology), CEO Jan Singer resigned, even though many critics called for Razek's resignation instead.
"With the exception of Les, I've been with L Brands longer than anyone,” Razek said in a note to employees. "It was a tough conversation to have because, as some of you must know, we have shared so much together for so many years." He added that he'd wanted to retire for some time now.
"Victoria’s Secret still holds 24% of the $13.1 billion U.S. women’s underwear market," Bloomberg reports, using data culled from Coresight Research. While that may seem like a huge piece of the market, the brand is losing ground to companies touting body-positive messaging, such as ThirdLove, True&Co, and American Eagle's Aerie. Back in February, Bloomberg noted that Victoria's Secret planned on closing 50 stores this year.
Razek didn't just champion the fashion show, which made its debut in 1995. By promoting what many see as an extremely narrow view of what is sexy, he and the company he worked for pushed super-thin models, rhinestone-encrusted lingerie, and push-up bras to the masses. That didn't always resonate with shoppers, who proved their point by not shopping at the retail giant. Financial analyst Randal Konik described the situation to Business of Fashion, calling it "game over" for the brand, saying that the combination of "massive traffic declines, zero pricing power, and market share losses" marked the beginning of the end for Victoria's Secret.
For the time being, Ed Wolf, a senior vice president at L Brands, and Victoria's Secret's Bob Campbell will be tasked with bringing the brand back to its former glory now that Razek has left his position. In the light of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein making headlines (he was closely connected to Razek), it looks like the company has a long, long way to go.