For years the fashion industry has gone in and out of trends but never strayed too far from a tall, cis, thin, White, eurocentric structure. From skinny to gaunt , white to olive , cis to cis passing — it wasn’t until the last 5 years that the fashion industry has substantially shifted in a way that has made the runway, the casting rooms, and the campaigns more body and gender diverse atmosphere. Just recently we’ve seen a collective uprising and call from models, influencers, and even brands to include body types that differ from those of a eurocentric aesthetic. But Victoria’s Secret has not gotten the memo.
Right after the taping of this year’s annual Victoria’s Secret runway show on November 8, Victoria’s Secret Producer, Monica Mitro, along with Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, both chatted by Vogue.com for what is probably one of their most ignorant and controversial interviews to date. Razek, who decided that he not only had the guts, but the right to publicly discriminate against trans and plus-size models, explained in full confidence on why he would never include these two major components of the fashion industry into the infamous Victoria’s Secret fashion show.
When asked about whether the show will evolve and take a note from the Instagram generation, Rezek replied in part: “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader.”
This my friends is what we call transphobia and fatphobia at its finest. Razek is not only ignorantly disconnected from the idea that trans and plus-size models are amongst the women that are fantasized about — but he is also blinded to the monetary gain companies have made by being inclusive to this community of people.
As a black trans and plus size model in the fashion industry, there is already so much difficulty demanding respect and a spot in the room of major fashion brands, let alone on their runways. These repulsive remarks and instances of othering have been contributors to the harmful and often violent ideas that Trans Women aren’t at all women and that plus size women aren’t deserving of praise and desire. We are hearing and seeing nothing new from Victoria’s Secret and their “boys club“ system. In fact, the company is reveling in the hierarchical structure of our society, putting eurocentric women above everyone else, and creating harmful and unattainable standards of what it means to be a “fantasy.” Please note, that it wasn’t until two years ago that a black model (Maria Borges) was able to proudly wear her hair natural in the fashion show.
The Vogue.com interview continued and so did Rezek’s ignorance, when he stated: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”
It is impossible and naive to not see the rise and overwhelming amount of support and success of brands being more inclusive to plus and curve bodies. It is a movement that has taken the fashion industry by storm and closer to becoming the standard that many fashion brands will need to embrace to survive. If Victoria’s Secret can’t see where this boat is sailing — lacking the capability and smarts to jump on what is going to be a huge revision in this industry — I believe they will become a figment of the past. Lingerie in its design and targeted consumers has been changing rapidly, as more people — different from the narrow standard of beauty — demand to be seen in a sexy and beautiful light. I myself have been the first in many campaigns (Universal Standard, Chromat, and Phluid) ,wearing fitted garments, sexy bathing suits, and lingerie , representing both the Trans and Plus Size communities , usually at the same time, always with pride.
Victoria’s Secret, whether we want to believe or not, stands in a position of power as most corporate power houses do in any industry. The brand’s influence, though harmful, has made major impact on fashion and entertainment for years — they have been the blueprint of lingerie, underwear, sex appeal culture, and “business goals” for many startups in women’s apparel space since the 80’s. So when strict and narrow parameters are set by these power houses like Victoria’s Secret, the industry tends to follow, disenfranchising anyone who doesn’t succumb to or fit the eurocentric beauty standard. This narrative is experiencing a monumental change.
We have come to a fashion moment where we are ready to throw out that old lace and cut off those damn wings. In this moment more than ever, as consumers, we must put our money in the companies that not only uplift and support us, but market to us with beautiful and dignifying images of people that look like us. It is also our responsibility that we continue to make the fashion brands that we love more inclusive and hold them accountable if they are lacking the representation we so desperately need and deserve. We need to understand that we control the monetary life support of these corporations, we have the power to starve them dry if they are not meeting with the demands of their consumers. WE HOLD POWER.
Many trans and plus size models, including myself, have hit the ears of the the people in wake of these vile comments made by Ed Razek. Since the end of last week and the taping of the Victoria’s Secret runway show, folks of the now growing and progressively inclusive modeling industry have banded together — via op-eds and social media, as well as uplifting each other and bringing to the forefront new faces and companies that have aided in the rising of the Victoria Secret-less fashion industry. In addition, there have been trans and plus model shoutouts on IG post and IG Stories, and public dragging of Victoria’s Secret in major publications. The progressive folks in the community have made it their mission to transform this industry into a place where we will all be welcomed and celebrated for our differences and not forced to conform.
I repeat: It is time to cut off the wings.