Erin Heatherton, a current Victoria’s Secret Angel, wears the brand’s ‘Showstopper’ set. Photo: Victoria’s Secret
The first of the two planned Victoria’s Secret London stores opens this morning in east London’s Stratford, the home of the London 2012 Olympics. There’ll be no great fanfare, just a low-key opening and usual retail hours. Instead, the bells-and-whistles celebrations – said to include appearances by some of the brand’s ‘Angels’ (more on this later) – are reportedly being planned for the opening of the company’s UK flagship store on New Bond Street, which is rumoured to happen in two weeks time.
Today retail analysts have suggested that the brand’s entrance into the UK will refresh the country’s lingerie market.
Verdict Research, a leading retail analyst, believe that the US lingerie giant is perfectly positioned to supersede any existing British competition – such as La Senza – thanks to its already widespread brand awareness among UK consumers, as well as its innovative and fast cycle of product launches.
The research further suggests that while Victoria’s Secret is a very much a high street brand in the US, the company is clearly aiming for a more aspirational positioning in the UK by opening their flagship store on London’s designer label-laden New Bond Street. It’s a move similar to that of fellow all-American export Abercrombie & Fitch, who, somewhat controversially, placed their first UK store on London’s historic and tailoring-centred Savile Row in 2007 to great success.
Whilst Victoria’s Secret looks set to supplant the likes of mid-market lingerie retailers such as La Senza with ease, Verdict suggest that it is perhaps looking more to compete with higher-priced brands such as Elle Macpherson Intimates – the UK’s best-selling lingerie range – and Calvin Klein.
But what can we really expect from the store, in shopping terms?
Well, Victoria Secret’s reputation precedes it. Already, we know its trademark colour is pink, its bras boosting, and that it calls knickers ‘panties’ (a word which seems a slightly awkward addition to the British dialogue) – and we know all this thanks to the brand’s highly visible marketing strategies, most namely the ‘Angels’, a select group of beyond-beautiful spokeswomen, which currently includes supermodels Miranda Kerr, Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge and Candice Swanepoel, and has previously consisted of Gisele Bundchen, Stephanie Seymour and Heidi Klum.
It’s the Angels that allow the brand to straddle both high street and high fashion. They all maintain lucrative high-fashion catwalk, advertising and editorial careers which see them model for the likes of Chanel, Balenciaga and Dior, whilst also hawking VS’s latest pocket money-priced pieces and appearing in the brand’s annual catwalk show – a enormous event in which they take to the catwalk in one off pieces of VS lingerie whilst being serenaded by the likes of Kanye West and Jay-Z.
It’s also the Angels that sell us the dream – a dream in which we look just like them when we slip on one of their boob-boosting bras and bikini briefs. But, while we may not magically transform into Miranda Kerr, we will be able to get our hands on a huge array of boulder-holders, from the ‘Bombshell’ range to the ‘Showstopper’. All variations have one feature in common – they all aim to enhance cleavage, some even offering to give you a boost of two cup sizes. There’s an equally vast selection of ‘panties’ – from ‘Cheekies’, which – you guessed it – show off your other pair of cheeks, to ‘Hiphuggers’, which offer more substantial coverage.
But it’s not just underwear – there’s sleepwear, clothing, swimwear and beauty too. There’s even a limited edition scent, Victoria’s Secret London, which is a mix of violet leaves, mandarin and neroli flower, inspired by the ‘beauty and romance of the city’.
Romance is another aspect the brand aims to encourage, namely by creating an environment in which men can supposedly feel comfortable buying lingerie for their partner – after all, the whole concept of the brand originates from founder, Ray Raymond, experiencing embarrassment whilst trying to buy his wife underwear in a Californian department store back in 1977.
Whether or not Victoria’s Secret will encourage Britain’s shy, easily embarrassed men to buy more ‘panty’-based gifts remains to be seen, but it will at least add a little sparkle to our admittedly ailing lingerie options. At the moment there is little choice on the high street when it comes to buying fancier-than-everyday underwear – bar La Senza, the polyester wonderland – that isn’t in a begrudge-spending-it price range. Plus, we’re a sucker for an Angel.