Victoria’s Secret has a problem with the past and a problem with the future and that leaves the present in a muddle of controversy. Jeffrey Epstein is supposed to be history at Victoria’s Secret—and at its parent company, L Brands Inc., for that matter—but he’s that skeleton that keeps rattling around the closet to remind everyone that he once was an all-too-lively part of the business. Epstein had a two-decade-long reign as close confidant, financial manager, and right hand to the corporation’s chief executive officer, Leslie Wexner. He even had the CEO’s power of attorney at one time.
Although Epstein was not an employee at the stores, he influenced the way the company operated and one of his good buddies was Ed Razek, Chief of Marketing at the time. They partied together at Epstein’s New York Mansion where Radek was first to comment to anyone who would listen that Epstein hired the best models in the business.
But Epstein’s relationship with L Brands, and Wexler ended in2007, about a year and one-half after the financier was accused of sexual misconduct. He pleaded guilty to one charge and spent just 13 months in jail with work release privileges. That penalty was widely derided as exceedingly lenient and, after sex trafficking charges against Epstein were resurrected in July, fresh outrage over the 2007 plea deal led to the resignation of U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who’d been attorney general in Miami in charge of the prosecution. Epstein is now sitting in a Manhattan jail awaiting trial—and perhaps fresh revelations of salacious secrets. Last week he was found injured in his cell and put on suicide watch.
MC2 is a modeling agency owned by Jean Luc Brunel. Bruel has been accused of bringing in “models” as young as 12 years old for sexual purposes for friends and Epstein was one of those friends. Victoria’s Secret continued to work with MC2 models, even after Wexler severed ties with Epstein, and the models appeared in the catalog in2014 and 2015, even as late as 2018. The CEO of MC2 wrote a letter to Brunel, citing worries from Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Saks and other top clients about Brunel’s relationship with Epstein. No mention was made of Victoria’s Secret. L Brands hired an attorney to probe into the relationship with LBrands and Epstein Epstein is the ghost of the past and his reputation has left a black mark on a store that is already in trouble and has been. Since 2015 they have lost over $20 billion.
Razek takes his job very seriously and has been seen speaking to the models before the runway shows as if he were a coach sending the team out on the field. He would tell them how lucky they were to be chosen as “Angels” for the Victoria’s Secret. But times changed and the focus on a woman being tall and thin as the only acceptable look is very outdated. Many of the fashion retailers as early as 15 years ago started using models wearing larger sizes, considering 67 percent of the women in the US are size 14 or larger, this was a much more realistic approach to fashion. But with a man dominated business such as Victoria’s Secret they hung on to their perception of the ideal woman, and completely ignored reality that the focus was no longer on all women being tall and of some unattainable weight.
This is not the first time sex has been used in the retail business to sell clothing but it was never blatantly in your face like V.S. For the first time in 23 years the Runway Show was pulled from the schedule on TV, after it was decided this was not the venue for this type of show. This last spring 2 women were added to the staff but it is too little too late. VS’s Razek was heard to make some demeaning comments about plus size and transgender individuals and this caused the resignation of the then president who was a woman. The fact that Radek can’t get away from his idea of the ideal woman will mean the downfall of the company in the near future. When everyone is trying to go two steps forward Radek makes 3 steps backward.
I wondered why the quality of the items was so poor and now I know, when you are losing that kind of money you are not looking for quality in the merchandise. VS has stooped to the Frederick’s of Hollywood look. They will close 53 stores this year alone which is 3 times the usual, soon they will be closing all of them, they are no longer a money maker.
Thank you Bloomberg Business Week