Written by Leah Dolan, CNN

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The cultural phenomenon that was pre-2020 Victoria’s Secret, with its televised lingerie catwalks and salacious TV adverts, could also be at occasions exhausting to fathom in a post-#MeToo world. What was as soon as a multi-million-dollar fantasy of womanhood — solely svelte, athletic fashions in lace-trimmed thongs or diamante push-up bras, every framed by a pair of 12-foot-high angel wings — rapidly grew to become a parody so gauche it is exhausting to think about it was ever taken critically. However “Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons,” a brand new Hulu documentary out right this moment, explores precisely why and the way it was.

Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, the three-part sequence traces the rise and fall of one of the crucial profitable retail firms in america and world wide, mapping out the social context that allowed the model to thrive — and the cultural shift that introduced it to its knees.

“Intercourse as a type of feminine empowerment was one thing that was being explored in the most well-liked narratives on the time,” Tyrnauer mentioned in a cellphone interview. “Then Victoria’s Secret as we as soon as knew it obtained caught on this cultural earthquake, and mainly drowned within the tsunami. That does not occur too usually, which I feel made this value taking a look at.”

The documentary unearths troubling links between Victoria's Secret and Jeffrey Epstein.

The documentary finds troubling hyperlinks between Victoria’s Secret and Jeffrey Epstein. Credit score: Hulu

Through the late Nineties and early aughts, Victoria’s Secret rode a wave of sexuality-as-empowerment feminism endorsed by a spread of media — from “Intercourse and the Metropolis” to Calvin Klein’s seminal 1995 marketing campaign together with a scantily clad Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss.

However the megabrand’s eventual demise — following years of controversy — got here to a head in 2019, shortly after Victoria’s Secret chief advertising officer Ed Razek instructed Vogue he did not consider “transsexuals” belonged on the model’s runways “as a result of the present is a fantasy.” The explosive interview, during which Razek additionally mentioned there was no public curiosity in a plus-size Victoria’s Secret catwalk, sparked public outrage and mannequin mutiny. However there’s extra to the story than a poor inside tradition and outmoded leaders.

Cultural earthquake

“Angels and Demons” chronicles a sequence of blunders that finally led to the corporate’s reckoning, together with Victoria’s Secret’s foray into the junior market through its tween-girl model, Pink. Utilizing the identical hypersexual strategy that had helped construct its girls’s model, Victoria’s Secret started together with Pink segments in its primary catwalk present, that includes 20-something fashions sporting erotic schoolgirl or candy-themed outfits as they walked catwalks strewn with larger-than-life lollipops and kids’s toys.

“It appears so mistaken once you see it with hindsight, and but, it simply kind of went proper alongside on its merry method,” Tyrnauer mentioned.


Even teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, who was 18 on the time and had already accrued two platinum promoting albums, was employed to carry out on the runway — solidifying the attraction for underage viewers. “My sister’s kids had been so excited,” mentioned former Pink mannequin Dorothea Barth Jörgensen, who walked alongside Bieber in 2012, within the documentary. “They usually had been 10 and 12 on the time so I feel they positively hit the goal.”

The documentary consists of interviews with former workers and executives, together with two previous CEOs, in addition to casting administrators and former Angels — fashions who as soon as represented the model. Many mirrored on the corporate having a proto-Instagram affect on girls that propagated unrealistic physique requirements, in addition to a rampant tradition of retouching that meant even the exalted Angels struggled to maintain up the fantasy.

Tyrnauer paints an image of company-wide misogyny and sexual misconduct; former govt Sharleen Ernest recalled Victoria’s Secret’s seemingly impenetrable wall of male leaders, together with Razek and chairman and former CEO Les Wexner, who she alleged had been identified to close down any try at creating the model’s slim definition of attractive and explicitly forbade enlargement into maternity or shapewear.

Chairman and former CEO Les Wexner stepped down from the brand in 2020.

Chairman and former CEO Les Wexner stepped down from the model in 2020. Credit score: Hulu

“We had been simply following this bombshell, unattainable, single imaginative and prescient of how males see girls,” Ernest mentioned within the documentary.

Alongside the examination of Victoria’s Secret as a culture-making model, “Angels and Demons” additionally delves into the corporate’s hyperlinks to the late Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier charged in 2019 with intercourse trafficking underage women. Based on the documentary, Epstein had been a detailed enterprise associate and private pal of Wexner’s and allegedly used the model’s cache to fulfill younger girls below the false pretense of recruiting for exhibits and campaigns. The sequence consists of an interview with Alicia Arden, a girl who mentioned she believed she was interviewing for a job as a Victoria’s Secret catalog mannequin in 1997 however was as an alternative assaulted by Epstein at a lodge in California.

Wexner’s legal professional issued an announcement to the filmmakers saying that Wexner “confronted Epstein and was clear it was a violation of Firm coverage for him to counsel he was in any method related to Victoria’s Secret and that Epstein was forbidden from ever doing so once more.”

Some former models and employees speak to a culture of misogyny and sexual misconduct.

Some former fashions and workers converse to a tradition of misogyny and sexual misconduct. Credit score: Hulu

A ‘collective’ rebirth

It is a story that’s removed from over. In 2020, Wexner stepped down, promoting additionally his majority stake within the firm. One 12 months later Victoria’s Secret introduced its full rebrand — as a brand new, inclusive “VS Collective” fronted by girls like Megan Rapinoe, Eileen Gu and Paloma Elsesser. “Angels and Demons” explores whether or not these efforts can spark a turnaround.

Tyrnauer was granted entry to outdated inside advertising messaging in addition to emails from the brand new staff main the rebrand. “The brand new firm appears to be operating as far the opposite course from the outdated Victoria’s Secret,” he mentioned. “They gave us unprecedented entry to their archive.”

“It isn’t my place to be optimistic for them,” Tyrnauer mentioned, “however presenting themselves as a new child is an attention-grabbing a part of the story as properly. The attention-grabbing a part of it’s how late they got here to it, as a result of they’d been so good at browsing the zeitgeist and exploiting main cultural traits to make billions of {dollars} for therefore a few years.”

Add to queue: An unseen aspect to style

Watch: “White Scorching: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” (2022)

Very like Tyranuer’s sequence, this Netflix documentary dissects a cultural phenomenon of mass-market style: Abercrombie & Fitch. A titan of the Nineties and early aughts, the model’s lewd advertising technique comes below hearth within the movie, which additionally explores the corporate’s troubled historical past of sexual misconduct allegations and accusations that it discriminated in opposition to Black, Asian American and Hispanic workers.

Watch: “Scouting for Ladies: Style’s Darkest Secret” (2022)

This documentary launched in June — at the moment solely accessible within the UK through Sky and Now TV — lifts the curtain on one of many world’s most ostensibly glamorous careers: modeling. The three-part sequence, which builds on a Guardian investigation by journalist Lucy Osborne, particulars the exploitation younger girls within the business usually face and options heart-wrenching testimonies from former fashions who suffered abuse by the hands of highly effective company executives and CEOs.

Pay attention: Evil by Design (2021-2022)

Hosted by CBC investigative journalist Timothy Sawa, this podcast tells the story of Peter Nygard, the Finnish-Canadian fast-fashion mogul with a world retail empire who’s accused of a number of counts of sexual abuse by greater than 80 girls.

Learn: “Style Has Deserted Human Style” by Amanda Mull (2022)

Writing for The Atlantic, journalist Amanda Mull dives deep into how digital developments are altering not simply how we store, however what we purchase. A number of fast-fashion giants are catching on to classy trend-measuring algorithms to remove the guesswork in what shoppers wish to buy. Is the bodily designer prone to turning into extinct?

Learn: “Anna” by Amy Odell (2022)

Odell’s biography of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour manages to provide readers a uncommon glimpse into the early lifetime of the business juggernaut. Together with intimate letters written by Wintour’s father and accounts from early collaborators and shut associates, the ebook gives a posh and beforehand unseen file of one of the crucial highly effective and mysterious girls in style.

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