Ali Tate Cutler- Victoria's Secret model

Victoria’s Secret is backtracking

L Brands former chief marketing officer Ed Razek’s comments last fall that no one had any interest in seeing plus-size or transgender models have proven untrue. 

In fact, the backlash created from his comments led the company to hire Valentina Sampaio — its first transgender model — over the summer. Now, Victoria’s Secret is adding a plus-size model to its payroll. 

Starting this month, size 14 model Ali Tate Cutler will be among the many Angels featured in the Bluebella for Victoria’s Secret campaign. 

Victoria's Secret model Ali Tate Cutler

Ali Tate Cutler is one of many models that will be featured in Victoria’s Secret’s Bluebella for Victoria’s Secret campaign.  Courtesy

“We are thrilled to be working with Ali on the VS x Bluebella campaign,” a spokesperson for Victoria’s Secret told WWD. 

London-based Bluebella’s designs are now available at victoriassecret.com and select stores Stateside. The collection will also be available in a handful of U.K. stores starting Oct. 11. 

“I believe I’m the first size 14 to work on @VictoriasSecret,” Cutler wrote in a recent Instagram post.

To which one fan replied, “Finally!!!!”

“Regardless, I’m pretty stoked to work with a brand I idolized when I was a teen,” Cutler continued. “Great step in the right direction for bodies.” 

Ali Tate Cutler Victoria's Secret

Ali Tate Cutler is Victoria’s Secret’s first plus-size model.  Courtesy

Scrutiny for Victoria’s Secret continues to stack up amid the #MeToo and body positivity movements. The company has been accused of failing to adapt to changing consumer preferences⁠ — notably for not using models of different shapes and sizes.  

“The feedback that we get from the social component of the business and the #MeToos and some of all of that sort of blended all together, we’re going to be responding to,” John Mehas, chief executive officer of the lingerie brand said during L Brands’ planned Investor Update Day in Columbus, Ohio, in September. “There’s a big belief in the company that we need to evolve. We need to be led by her, for her. And we are taking a step back to take a step forward in a more holistic way, both from a culture, value, perception [and] outwardly visible point of view. And I think you’ll see that over the next few months.”

The exact details, however, were unclear. 

In May, L Brands chairman and chief executive officer Leslie Wexner said the company, which includes Pink and Bath & Body Works in the portfolio, was “rethinking” the annual fashion show and that network television may no longer be the right fit for the annual spectacle. 

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2018

Devon Windsor in the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in New York.  Andrew H. Walker/WWD

Many speculated that meant the fashion show would move to a streaming service. But Angels began coming forward saying that the show was simply canceled. Mehas said during the Investor Update Day that Victoria’s Secret is still evaluating the future of the fashion show and the company’s overall marketing. 

Meanwhile, Rihanna decided to throw her own lingerie runway show during February’s New York Fashion Week, complete with Victoria’s Secret Angels alum and a noticeably more diverse lineup of models. Fans praised the singer-actress, turned fashion entrepreneur for her use of real women. 

That was bad news for Victoria’s Secret. Because while the lingerie giant is still the market share leader in women’s intimates apparel in both the U.S. and globally, revenues and profits have been declining at Victoria’s Secret since 2017. 

“Women are more supportive of other women today and want to support a company that feels like it’s being more inclusive and less judgmental,” said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist. “Victoria’s Secret has long been associated with figuring out how women will look to men in their lingerie.”  

Wexner’s ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein didn’t do much to sway public opinion in favor of Victoria’s Secret either. Neither has the convenience of online shopping. Victoria’s Secret, and its roughly 1,143 store fleet, has long been associated with mall shopping. 

Bluebella for Victoria's Secret

The new Bluebella for Victoria’s Secret campaign.  Courtesy

Now, the company’s attempts to include different types of models might be seen as too little too late — and too slow coming. Especially since, not just Rihanna, but a number of other brands — like American Eagle OutfittersAerie, ThirdLove, Wacoal and Adore Me — have used models of different sizes, shapes and ages for some time. 

It also might be hard to change public perception of Victoria’s Secret and sister brand Pink in the eyes of consumers, many of whom associate the lingerie brands with ultra thin, young women. So far, the brand’s executives have done little to change this. 

In addition to Razek’s comments, Amy Hauk, chief executive officer of Pink, told investors and media alike during last month Investor Update Day that the brands are focused on a woman’s derriere. 

“It’s all about the butt,” said Hauk. “I know a lot of 50-year-old women that want to be 20. I have yet to meet a 20-year-old woman that wants to be 50.”

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