“Out with the old, in with the new” seems to be Victoria’s Secret’s latest M.O. Shortly after hiring its first transgender model for a VS PINK campaign, the lingerie label’s parent company, L Brands, has announced that chief marketing officer Ed Razek is retiring. Razek entered the public eye last November for his controversial comments about “transsexuals,” stating that the brand does not consider trans women to be part of its “fantasy.” The comments drove a further wedge between Victoria’s Secret and its supposed customer base—it's previously come to light that the brand is struggling, presumably in part because its target women no longer subscribe to the company’s hypersexualized, male-gazey image.
The announcement also comes in the wake of the scandal surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, who considered himself a mentor to L Brands CEO Leslie H. Wexner. Epstein even reportedly attempted to position himself as a VS recruiter, using the brand’s name as a pretense to lure a model into his hotel room. As Victoria’s Secret seeks to distance itself from Epstein and land on the other side of the #MeToo movement (and the right side of history), the question becomes whether the underwear purveyor can update itself fast enough after years of regressive marketing. Its fashion show’s viewership has been on the decline since 2015, with last year’s numbers being the lowest in the broadcast’s history. This year, the company announced they would not be broadcasting (or even holding) the fashion show at all, citing rebranding efforts.
Wexner gave news of Razek’s retirement via an employee note, in which he commented on his colleague’s “passion and talent” in the industry. Razek joined the company in 1983, helping to launch the careers of Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks in an era that prized unattainable glamour and overt sexuality. While companies like Aerie shift towards more natural, less airbrushed looks and hop on the body-positive, anti-Photoshop countermovement, Victoria’s Secret has stayed behind to preserve the “fantasy.” As senior vice president Ed Wolf and vice president of creative Bob Campbell absorb Razek's responsibilities, it remains unclear how much the brand’s image will change with new leadership.
Wexner included a note from Razek in his employee memo.
“With the exception of Les, I’ve been with L Brands longer than anyone,” Razek stated in his farewell. “But all good things must and do, inevitably, come to an end.”