It’s up to the beholder whether Victoria’s Secret is sensual or seamy, titillating or tasteless.
So what’s the view from inside the rapidly growing $4 billion brand?
“We will always walk that fine line,” said Victoria’s Secret Direct president and chief executive officer Sharen Jester Turney. “We must stay on the edge…always defining what is next in terms of [our] core equities — sexy, sophisticated and being forever young.
“What was sexy a few years ago is different from what is sexy today, and it will evolve in the years ahead. Early marketing efforts depicted bony, harsh androgynous women in garter belts and stiletto heels,” she said. “But in the Nineties, feminism discovered pleasure. Women were allowed to be strong, serious and intellectual — and still wear really great lingerie.”
While the “core equities” are a constant, change at Victoria’s Secret, whether it’s cutting-edge or controversial, is critical to the agenda. As Turney sees it, strategies for the future include:
Adding third-party brands to the assortment and developing strategic partnerships. “Multiple ideas must come from multiple sources — internal design, external design and third parties. We will never get there if we rely on a single pathway,” Turney said.
Finding more ways to interact with customers online, which represents more than half of the VS Direct business. Personal shoppers and personalized fashion shows online are possibilities.
Interacting with customers via TV. “The tipping point for interactive TV is not far down the road,” Turney said.
Increasing product commercialization capacity by 300 to 500 percent.
Maintaining high-volume increases and double-digit margins through trading up and greater segmentation through subbrands such as Body by Victoria for modern and sophisticated looks; Angels, for a more romantic look, and Pink, for a younger spirit.
Developing alternative venues for the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, now considered a cultural phenomenon.
Turney also said the corporate mind-set is changing. “Today, with our mix of products and how we bring those products to market, we no longer think of ourselves as a retailer…we have evolved to be an upscale packaged goods company that controls its channels of distribution,” Turney said, echoing the words of Leslie H. Wexner, Limited Brands’ chairman and ceo.Turney cited Bath & Body Works’ new apothecary concept called C.O. Bigelow. The first Bigelow unit, considered a test, bowed in Easton Town Center, in Easton, Ohio, not far from Limited’s headquarters, and features such brands as Frédéric Fekkai, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Molton Brown, Murad, Nars and Acqua Di Parma.
Included in the evolution is the Victoria’s Secret holiday fashion show, which has long been an international marketing and media extravaganza, but this year is being staged on a more localized platform. Turney said it’s the “biggest, boldest holiday initiative yet,” with the first nationwide tour, billed as “Angels Across America” and featuring supermodels visiting major cities.
“We see this evolution in our fashion shows: from a hotel lobby, to a first-ever Web cast advertised during the Super Bowl, which resulted in a near-Internet meltdown, to an international platform in Cannes teaming with Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Films to produce a charity fashion show that netted Cinema Against AIDS a record $3 million in one night, to New York with an unprecedented one-hour nationally televised prime-time special with musical performances by Sting and Mary J. Blige reaching more than 12 million viewers.”
The theatrics contribute to the bottom line. “While most of our Direct apparel competitors deliver 5 to 8 percent operating margins, at Victoria’s Secret Direct, we achieve an operating margin in the high teens on $1 billion of sales.”
Turney said most people still think lingerie is the biggest category of business for Victoria’s Secret. However, lingerie and apparel each represent about a third of the volume. The final third is represented by shoes, beauty and swim. “Most people don’t realize that we have a more than $400 million apparel business,” she said.
Sales are growing most rapidly on the Web at about 40 percent this year, according to Turney.
But business isn’t a complete breeze. “There is a certain complexity associated with our size and scale,” Turney said. Among the challenges she cited were coordinating product launches so they have a single point of view in stores, catalogues, on the Web and in advertising.There’s also a drive to improve fit and quality, among other “behind the scenes” challenges. “We will continue to focus on the technical and functional layer of the brand,” Turney said.
“I mean, if we are telling sexy stories at Victoria’s Secret that do delight, excite and make you feel glamorous and sexy — but the bras don’t fit — we’ve got a real problem.”
Supermodel @helenachristensen teamed up with longtime friend and designer @camillastaerk on a joint @paredeyewear collaboration. The lineup features three styles and 11 offerings, all of which embody a vintage feel. Get all the details on how they celebrated the collab on WWD.com. #wwdaccessories #wwdeye (📷: @slovekinpics)
“It’s a hard industry to keep motivated, as well, so finding different subjects and people is what makes it worth it – when you’re like, oh, I’ve met great people, I feel like I’ve done something good, and I feel proud of having done this,” said French actress Stacy Martin on being grateful for the variety of roles she’s take on. Read @ktauer’s full interview with Martin on her her latest film “Godard Mon Amour.” #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
After showing in front of the Eiffel Tower for his last two women’s ready-to-wear collection, it looks like @anthonyvaccarello may be heading to the Big Apple. Sources say the designer will stage his next @ysl show in NYC on June 6. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
EXCLUSIVE: Two and half months after John Targon, cofounder and codesigner of Baja East, was hired as creative director of the contemporary division at Marc Jacobs, he has left the company, WWD has learned. Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, confirmed Targon’s departure in a statement: “John Targon is a talented designer and we appreciate the work he has done here. Ultimately working together did not make sense for the brand and we wish him the best.” Read the story by @jessiredale, link in bio. #wwdnews
@theluxurycollection is officially launching a collection, tapping Sofia Sanchez de Betak for the capsule. Over 30 styles will be featured in the Chufy x The Luxury Collection, debuting next month at Bergdorf Goodman, The Webster, FiveStory and more. De Betak, known as “@chufy,” drew inspiration for the collection from her trips to Japan in the past year #wwdfashion
@lhd, founder and CEO of @thewebster, has teamed up with @lebonmarcherivegauche for the European launch of her ready-to-wear line, LHD. The launch will come with an exclusive pop-up opening today that’s set to run through May 20. Located on the second floor, it carries her debut Miami-themed resort collection, launched in November as see-now-buy-now. #wwdfashion