The Sociological Art World of Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show

By Ekaterina Minchenkova

Hello, my name is Ekaterina Minchenkova, I am an Honors College student, and one of my units there was Sociology. Basically, in that unit we were talking about art and our main question was “How do we understand art?”. From sociological perspective we defined art as a complex structure of art collaborators-people who are involved in creating and producing an artwork, art conventions-standards within the art world, art resources-materials and personnel, which are necessary to provide an art piece, art distribution-the process of spreading the works within and outside of the art world, and aesthetic judgment- evaluating and considering an artwork as bad or good. We were using these criteria for several art worlds, Fashion, Pop Music, Film/Television, Modern Art. In my thesis paper I decided to be concentrated on Fashion World, particularly I chose Victoria’s Secret, which was so interesting for me, and I hope you will find it fascinating as well!

An Art World is a complicated system, when people collaborate in order to create an artwork. There are many types of artwork, including fashion have their own shows, such as the Victoria’s Secret Show. According to sociologist Becker the Art World is divided into groups such as collaborators-all people who are taking part in creation a work of art and their involvements in doing so; conventions- rules and standards within the Art World; resources-all materials, which are necessary for creating an artwork; distribution- the ways and methods of spreading the artwork to the audience within and outside the Art World, and judgement-the opinions of viewers about the artwork.  I am going to examine the Victoria’s Secret Show as a part of the art world, look at each component separately and see whether or not is a strong connection between them.

The Victoria’s Secret Show is a huge production, which implies more than a 20$ million-dollar input, and is considered as the one of the priciest fashion shows in history, because of the designers, the sponsors, the top models, the pop singers… Many people collaborate on designing such as Brian Atwood makes shoes, Eddie Borge provides and creates jewelry, and the team of designers makes famous styles. Also, the Victoria’s Secret show is sponsored to be supported financially by Swarovski, as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane were in the past. (Friedman, 2015) Speaking of the models of Victoria’s Secret, there are only the best of the best, the most famous and, of course, the most highly paid “angels” there, listed in Forbes, Kendall Jenner, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Irina Shayk, and so on. They are not the type of models, who sacrifice time, going to free castings and paying model agencies in the hope to be a part of high fashion world. Since Victoria’s Secret is so popular brand all over the world, people expect perfection from them, so without collaboration it is impossible to create. If one collaborator refuses to assist it will affect the revenue of the brand.

highlights-from-victoria-secret-fashion-show-2013-05

Undoubtedly, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is different from what we can see in regular fashion weeks. Loose hair, fluttery lashes, elaborate lingerie ensembles, luxury, glitter…This is a brief description of the Victoria’s Secret Show. It is special, everyone within and outside the fashion industry is waiting for the performance. The Victoria’s Secret Show has changed the perspectives about how the fashion show should look like. Angels are free to walk on the runway how they want. They smile, wave, dance, as there are no rules. They demonstrate not only looks, but rather their perfect bodies. Moreover, there is a live music from the most popular singers right in the center of the runway. In 2016 we could see buzzy performances from Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and The Weeknd. Without the uniqueness of the show the ratings would go down, so to the show this is important to keep audience excited. Without the audience’s attention, the brand will lose money.

Speaking of resources, models do not just demonstrate regular bras and panties. There is a limited collection of about 2-3 million dollars. Last year, angel Jasmine Tookes wore a Fantasy Bra, which consisted of 9,000 diamonds, emeralds, and other gemstones. It took about 700 hours to craft and was valued at $3 million. Meanwhile, model Lily Donaldson’s wing-adorned look featured over 2,500 stones. Throw in 43 pairs of wings, the world’s sparkiest stage, and tons of security, and you have one monster of a money bucket fashion show. (Silverstein, 2016) 82 complete looks were presented on the runway by the star crew of 51 models in 2016 Victoria’s Secret Show. 37 makeup artists led by Tom Pecheux and 31 hairstylists on the team led by Sarah Potempa were in charge to get the job done. (Chia, 2016) All this hardest work and preparations were done for just an hour of show, isn’t it too much? So many people want to be associated with the name of the show to create a good reputation within fashion world, therefore it creates unlimited opportunities for the show and for individuals as well.

Victoria’s Secret has solid multiple distribution, which includes training with the models during unique videos posted on Victoria’s Secret’s YouTube channel, featuring videos, photos, contests and a countdown clock online, and setting the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on VT to reach a global audience of nearly 800 million people in over 190 countries. Overall, Victoria’s Secret spends millions on advertising and promoting, even sending catalogs to customers’ homes, which costs about $220 million annually. Nevertheless, the fact that Victoria’s Secret is not developed and promoted as good as in North America shows some weaknesses in distribution system. Therefore, they should take an approach to international expansion, developing the brand in diverse locations.

Despite the huge popularity of Victoria’s Secret Show all over the world, there is still some criticisms and failures from people’s opinions and what they demand. Along with this, fashion magazines can help to build the popularity of a fashion. The show has a huge body-diversity issue. Angels embody the perfection of a woman’s body, but this obviously does not represent the vast majority of women. So, viewers start feeling badly about themselves while watching the show. Moreover, the Victoria’s Secret Show portrays the way which women’s bodies and sexuality are used to sell objects and make profit. This method of advertising destroys values and perspectives.

2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show - Show

The Victoria’s Secret Show is an hour commercial with a main purpose of making customers buy their brand. So, no doubt that it is spectacular show, which consists of a bucket of the most famous models and the fancy looks, it is like a fairy tale. However, there are some problems as a wasteful use of resources, overestimation of importance of the show, weakness of representing the majority of women’s body proportions and loss of moral values. A way to improve the show could simply be adding plus-size models and creates collections for all shapes and sizes. A way to see if this idea would work Victoria’s Secret should make surveys to see what people think about it.

Taking everything into consideration, the Victoria’s Secret Show is an important part of the Art World with multiple components and structures, working together, as a single organism to make an incredible performance, which is seen by millions of people around the world. The Victoria’s Secret Show would be impossible without collaborators, its conventions, resources, distribution system and people’s opinions.

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