Photography by Getty Images

We’re not sure who asked for this, but we’re (very) cautiously optimistic.

It looks like the Angels are back in action — Victoria’s Secret Angels, that is. On May 15, after a five-year hiatus, lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret announced the return of their annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2024 this fall.

The retailer shared a video on Instagram of a model texting the news in a “VS Angels” group chat. “We’ve read the comments and heard you. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is ✨ BACK ✨ and will reflect who we are today, plus everything you know and love — the glamour, runway, wings, musical entertainment, and more!,” the post read. “Stay tuned…it only gets more iconic from here.”

So far, the energy in the comment section has been fairly positive, with social media users sharing their excitement with replies like “This brings me so much joy you have no idea.” Others were slightly more cautious, with one user begging the brand to not “mess up again.”

Once the go-to underwear brand of teens-with-allowance and young women everywhere, VS fell from grace after multiple controversies, executive scandals and just a general feeling of public malaise with the whole “super skinny model” thing.

Now, after several years of semi-quiet reputation rehab, Victoria’s Secret seems to be ready to make a bigger comeback then ever. But what have they been up to in the past few years? And will this comeback *actually* be different? Everything you need to know, below.

First of all, what actually happened to Victoria’s Secret?

Initially launched in 1977 as the store “where men could feel comfortable shopping for lingerie,” per The New York Times,  despite stocking garments for women, the brand built its legacy on catering to the male gaze. This typically meant that in its heyday, VS inundated shoppers in-store and on the runway with images of thin, mostly white models as the body “ideal” that all women should be striving towards.

The brand made a big splash every year with their annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that took place in cool locales, like Shanghai and NCY. The VS Fashion Show featured models (known as “Angels”) strutting down the runway wearing the brand’s signature angel wings and bopping to the live tunes of an It singer of the moment (past performers included The Weeknd, Rihanna, Harry Styles, Canadian boy Shawn Mendes, or Kelsea Ballerini). For many models, being selected as a VS Angel was a career-defining, and often career-making, moment.

While this formula worked for decades, in the late-2010s there was a shift. There was increasingly widespread recognition of the lack of body diversity and size inclusivity within VS as more inclusive brands launched, like Canadian brand Knix in 2013 and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty in 2018. This led to more customer dissatisfaction and a marked drop in Victoria’s Secret overall popularity, and in 2019, the annual fashion show was officially cancelled.

And it pretty much just went downhill from there. That same year, the brand’s longtime chief marketing officer Ed Razek left the company after receiving backlash for refusing to hire plus-size or transgender models. In 2020, an investigation by The New York Times found that the company fostered a misogynistic culture of sexism, sizeism and ageism, promoted by the brand’s former owner, Leslie Wexner (Wexner was also found to have had close ties with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, so…not a good look). In the same year, L Brands, the company that owned Victoria’s Secret, sold 55 per cent of the business to private-equity firm Sycamore Brands.

Does Victoria’s Secret still have IRL stores?

If you’re wondering whether or not VS has brick-and-mortar locations after all that controversy, you wouldn’t be alone. The brand quietly shuttered some of its Canadian stores in 2020. As of February 2020, VS had closed around 55 stores across North America. But as Rob Walker, senior vice president and partner with Colliers International, told Retail Insider that same year, that was only about five per cent of its stores. Currently there are still in-person retail stores across the country, you may just have to take a bit of a look to find one.

So, does this mean Victoria’s Secret’s controversy is behind them?

Yes, and no. Since the height of its scandal era, the company has done *a lot* to rebrand as female-focused and empowering, to varying degrees of success. In 2021, VS announced they were officially getting rid of their Victoria’s Secret Angels and instead swapping in the VS Collective, described as “advocates” for the brand. This included celebs like Hailey Bieber, Priyanka Chopra, Paloma Elsesser and tennis star Naomi Osaka.

In a November 2021 interview with WWD, Osaka shared her insight on the changes within the brand and her understanding of the vision for the so-called collective, telling the outlet: “I remember going into [Victoria’s Secret] stores when I was a kid and wondering why none of the women on the wall looked like me. Now, as a collective, we can inspire the next generation from all different backgrounds, cultures and sizes. That represents such progress to me.”

Is the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2024 going to be different than before?

The hope is that, yes, it will be. Because what was working for VS in the 1990s and early aughts definitely won’t work now. While the brand is tight-lipped so far on what exactly this new version of their runway show look like, there have been clues about the direction they might take. In 2023, the brand returned to a micro version of its OG runway show with the Victoria’s Secret World Tour. Airing on Prime and taking a cue from other brands like Savage x Fenty, the documentary focused on the VS20, a a group of global creatives who designed looks for VS’s runway models.

“This film is the ultimate expression of the Victoria’s Secret brand transformation,” Raúl Martinez, executive vice president and head creative director of Victoria’s Secret, told WWD at the time. “…We are so honoured to offer our platform and have it explored through the lens and artistry of global creatives who celebrate the individuality of women’s stories and perspectives.”

We’re crossing our fingers that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2024 show follows suit by showcasing different sizes and perspectives. We’re optimistically dusting off our wings.

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