Jan Singer, CEO of Victoria’s Secret lingerie division, is resigning from her position as the sales for the lingerie company continue to plummet. And shares of L Brands, its parent company, are also on the decline as it faces backlash for its white, male chief marketing officer’s diversity fail.
The CEO of L Brands is Les Wexner, and his direct reports are predominantly white men.
In comparison, on average, 30 percent of the CEO and direct reports level at the DiversityInc Top 10 and Hall of Fame companies are women, while 24.2 percent are racially diverse (11.2 percent Black, 8 percent Latino and 5 percent Asian). L Brands did not participate in DiversityInc’s 2018 Top 50 competition.
Last week, L Brand’s Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek sparked outrage with his archaic diversity perspective on casting models for the Victoria Secret annual runway show: “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,” Razek told Vogue magazine.
He added that inviting plus-size models to participate the show isn’t something Victoria’s Secret plans to do in the future, since “no one had any interest in it” when they pursued the idea in 2000.
“I think we address the way the market is shifting on a constant basis. If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have,” Razek said.
“We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”
Razek continued, “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Wells Fargo (No. 14 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) analysts wrote in a research note earlier this month that Victoria Secret’s fashion show is “no longer resonating with consumers whose attitude has shifted toward more natural looks and relatable beauty.”
The company’s biggest competitors, such as Rihanna’s Savage by Fenty, actively strive to be inclusive to all women by featuring diverse models and body types in all ads and fashion shows.
There’s currently a petition calling for Razek to step down immediately.
“We are disappointed by the recent comments about trans and plus-size models made by Ed Razek, CMO of L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company,” Model Alliance said, in a statement.
“Such comments create a hostile work environment for people who do not conform to Victoria’s Secret’s mold one that enforces an idea of female beauty that is predominantly white, cisgender, young and thin.”
In addition to Victoria Secret’s lack of diversity in the runway, there’s been racial incidents in its stores. In June, Jovita Jones Cage, a Black woman, returned a bra with a receipt to Victoria’s Secret in Tennessee because the security tag had not been removed.
An employee later called the police, and Jones was approached, cuffed with no explanation, escorted out and told she was banned from shopping there.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives start at the top. And experts say Victoria Secret’s insistence on traditional marketing and a lack of diversity has turned consumers away.