With sales faltering, its fashion show canceled and consumers migrating to body positive brands such as Savage x Fenty, a new report by the New York Times came to add another nail in Victoria’s Secret coffin.
More than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models interviewed by the newspaper have accused former Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek of sexual harassment. Razek, who was key in choosing which models appeared in the brand’s fashion show, frequently tried to kiss and touch the models without their consent. Inappropriate comments such as “lose the panties” were also reported.
According to the New York Times, Victoria’s Secret founder and Chief Executive Leslie Wexner was alerted several times about Razek’s inappropriate behavior, but nothing was done. Those interviewed said Razek was so close to the company’s CEO that he was often perceived as his “proxy”, leaving many employees with the impression that he was “invincible”. Models who complained about Razek’s advances were often retaliated against, with one model saying she was never hired by the brand again after saying no to the CMO.
What’s more, the sources say misogyny is “ingrained” in the company’s culture, with Wexner himself often making derogatory jokes about women. “The abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal,” said Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee, to the newspaper.
Razek left Victoria’s Secret in August 2019, after finding himself in hot water for saying the brand would never cast a transgender model in its show and that the public has “no interest” in seeing plus-size models on the runway. Victoria’s Secret ran a campaign with transgender model Valentina Sampaio shortly after Razek’s departure.
Wexner is also planning to retire soon, possibly even selling the American lingerie brand, according to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal. The rumors about his planned departure came amidst reports of his ties with accused sex offender Jeffrey Epistein, who managed Wexner’s wealth for over twenty years.
In a statement sent to the New York Times, Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands did not dispute any of the newspaper’s claims, saying it regrets any instance where it did not achieve its corporate governance, workplace and compliance practices. Razek denied any wrongdoing. “The accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context”, he wrote in an email to the newspaper.
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