The Victoria’s Secret Angels spruced up their wings and polished their halos for the brand’s annual fashion show at Manhattan’s Lexington Armory last Wednesday. The show was comprised of six themed segments entitled “British Invasion”, “Birds of Paradise”, “Parisian Nights”, “Shipwrecked”, “Snow Angels” and “PINK Network”, and attendees were treated to the musical prowess of Taylor Swift, Neon Jungle and Fall Out Boy.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is one of the most eagerly awaited shows in the fashion calendar, and for those in the industry, it has in recent years become a crucial piece of the jigsaw of festivities which pave the way to Christmas.
Now, we at Semple do not pretend to know all that there is to know about fashion, but we have a pretty solid understanding of its nuances and what fashion means to real people. And so, I was surprised to read in a Guardian blog this week that Jess Cartner-Morley, a fashion editor for 15 years, considers that this fashion show – perhaps more accurately termed fashion institution – has nothing to do with fashion.
On the surface, I can appreciate her point; arguably it is difficult to judge a new collection when there is so little of it to judge. However, her assertion that she has “seen all kinds of crazy accessories anointed a fashion must-have” but “massive fluffy angel wings” have never been one of them, strikes me as quite closed-minded.
After all, the black feather carnival headdresses worn by models for the presentation of Marc Jacobs’s final collection for Louis Vuitton last month will never become a trend in their own right, but the theme has something to say about the garments on exhibition. That is what fashion shows are for – to see the clothes in their glorious showcase mode before they are toned down and made retail-ready.
Fashion means different things to different people. Fashion is an art. It’s a job. It’s a religion. It is as much escapism as it is a feast for the eyes. Ultimately, fashion is an individual statement of expression for all of us.
Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”And she was right.
Fashion is not defined solely by our clothing choices, but is conveyed through the way we carry ourselves, our personalities and our views of the world. Fashion is aspirational. Not just in terms of cost, but in how it makes us feel. I don’t buy Vogue because I can afford the £3000 designer boots in their shoots, I buy Vogue because the woman in the boots has something to say.
The Victoria’s Secret show has always been about the models, but that does not make it any less about fashion. Since 1995, the most famous and sought-after models of the day have graced the runway – Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum and Gisele Bündchen – many of them a fashion brand in their own right. That is the VS brand.While the wings, capes, costumes and sparkle – not to mention the expense – on the Victoria’s Secret Catwalk might first be seen only as unnecessary pageantry, the designs make a bolder statement about femininity and what it is to be a woman, and the aura a woman wearing the VS brand emits.
What’s more, unlike the expression of individuality through neon jeans, how a woman’s underwear makes her feel is more closely guarded secret, but an equally powerful statement through fashion.
And so I agree with Jess Cartner-Morley that the Victoria’s Secret brand has “as much to do with women looking at other women, as it does with men looking at women” – part of fashion aspiration is to feel and look as beautiful, strong and lean. But to say the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has nothing to do with fashion is quite simply, wrong.
By Olivia Parish