LONDON — With a flourish of feathers and a shower of gold — not to mention miles of toned limbs — Victoria’s Secret staged its biggest show ever at the vast Earls Court exhibition center here Tuesday night. Some 3,400 guests watched models including Candice Swanepoel, Karlie Kloss, Alessandra Ambrosio and Lily Aldridge ham it up and strut on stage in all their winged glory.
“It’s just like the old days. The models actually dance and move,” said Yasmin Le Bon, recalling Kenzo and John Galliano shows when models pulled shapes and showed how the clothes could move. “You couldn’t stop Iman from spinning around during those Kenzo shows.”
Roland Mouret was awestruck. “They were the best bums and the best legs,” he said, referring to the models’ tanned, athletic figures.
It wasn’t only models’ bodies — and the elaborate, theatrical confections in which they were clad — but the entire spectacle that kept the audience clapping and cheering.
There were live performances by Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran and Hozier. While they sang, the models twirled, Barbie-like, in lacy peignoirs; loped down the catwalk in huge feathery capes and jackets — like giant peacocks or Native American chieftains — and popped their fingers into peace signs as they posed for the cameras in garter belts, corsets and filmy underwear.
Then there were the wings: They came dusted with feathers, sculpted in gold, iridescent, butterflylike, Tinkerbell-ish, and dragonfly-shaped. Some were even architectural masterpieces.
“It’s supposed to be fun, and it’s perfectly appropriate to get off your rich English butts, stand up and enjoy the show,” said Ed Razek, president and chief marketing officer, brand and creative services at Limited Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent, before the show began.
Backstage, the models swanned around in — what else? — matching baby-pink satin robes and spent the early part of Tuesday afternoon having their hair and makeup prepped for the two runway shows. Makeup artist Dick Page said his team was doing very little to change the girls’ natural look. “You don’t book a whole set of gorgeous girls and then change them,” he said, likening the 47 models to “a genetically gifted group of children.”
That said, nobody’s perfect.
“They’re teenagers some of them,” Page added. “So they do have the occasional breakout. We’re lucky in the sense that we’re not stuck in the middle of a whole batch of other shows, so they don’t have the stress of coming late from fittings or other shows, or running through London, and having their make-up taken on and off ten times a day. That’s what really breaks the skin down. They’re a bit more rested — apart from the fact that they all got flown in on the plane yesterday as a special delivery.”
The 30 makeup artists prepped models’ skin with moisturizer, then worked red pigment by the German professional brand Kryolan on their cheeks. “If you put it on first, it makes you immediately look better, more healthy and alive, and then you just do a selective bit of foundation if you need to,” said Page.
Eyes were defined using Shiseido shimmering eye creams: Makeup artists used sable as the base, layering on a mix of black and very dark brown. They also used a little eyeliner and mascara. False eyelashes did not enter the equation. “Not if I can help it,” said Page. “I’m sure there are going to be some girls who sneak off and do things, but I can’t catch everyone.”
Hair extensions were another matter.
They were applied liberally to most heads. Lead hair stylist Akki said they were there to give “body and sexiness.” He used Victoria’s Secret Mega-Lift mousse on hair before drying and curling it with wands. Curls were pinned up and allowed to set before being loosened with fingers. Serum was applied at the ends for shine.
“Aki, how many? I’m scared,” joked Kloss as yet another strip of hair was glued into her own.
Sophia Neophitou, the London magazine editor, stylist and the collection’s creative director, said this year’s show had lots of British touches, including shoes by Sophia Webster and jewelry from Shaun Leane.
Nicholas Kirkwood also created shoes for the event. Two intricate, hand-embroidered styles will launch post-show exclusively at his London flagship on Mount Street and at nicholaskirkwood.com.
The Pink line was designed by Nasir Mazhar, a British designer known for his urban take on sportswear. “He has created a tracksuit in organza,” said Neophitou. “So it looks really sporty, but it’s actually really glamorous.”
While the show itself, which will be broadcast in the U.S. on Dec. 9 on CBS, was mostly fun and frills — not to mention hand-painted vinyl skirts, clouds of silk taffeta, “cheekster” shorts and bejeweled bras — a string of charities stands to benefit. More than 200 guests paid upwards of $25,000 for a pair of tickets to the show, in aid of charities including the American Cancer Society, Pelotonia, and Gabriel’s Angels.
The London show, where guests included Kirkwood, Leane, Joely Richardson, Nick Rhodes, Tamara Beckwith, Abbey Clancy, Mel B and Zara Martin, is understood to be the most expensive runway production ever put on by the brand. Principals from Victoria’s Secret declined to comment, however.
Asked whether there will be another London show in 2015, a spokeswoman said, “No decision has been made yet. The planning for next year’s show starts tomorrow.”
After the lights went down on the catwalk, and as guests tucked into a buffet dinner, models emerged in gowns, ready to party.
Asked about her holiday plans, Lily Aldridge said she likes to cook — although her family’s choice of dish is unconventional, at least in her home state of Tennessee. “For some reason, my husband [Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill] and I have a tradition of cooking spaghetti — just a big, hearty spaghetti. Somehow, that became our tradition and I love it.”
It’s no wonder she turns to pasta in her downtime: The models famously diet and train like athletes for months prior to the event; their bodies were a refreshing sight in a city that has witnessed its share of ultraskinny models.
“They had curves and they looked strong and healthy,” said singer Ellie Goulding. “My friends and I all wear Victoria’s Secret. It’s affordable, but most importantly, it looks great and gives you a good shape.”