Inflammatory comments on gender and size calls for redefining representation and inclusivity in the fashion industry

Amidst the excitement and fanfare of the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the luxury lingerie brand found itself being the subject of some sharp criticism. This culminated out of the insensitive comments about excluding transgender and plus-sized models made by Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of its parent company, L Brands.

Victoria's Secret executive, Ed Razak. Source: Ed Razak, via Facebook
Victoria’s Secret executive, Ed Razek. Source: Ed Razek, via Facebook

In an exclusive interview with Vogue, Razek responded to questions that pertained to including transgenders and plus-sized women to model Victoria’s Secret merchandise and strut across the glorious runway. The interview was published on 8 November, 2018, the day of the show. 

“Does the brand think about diversity? Yes. Do we offer larger sizes? Yes… Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should”, Razek said.

He justified his comment by explaining that the show is about ‘fantasy’, a 42-minute special that is the only one of its kind in the world. Further he remarked, “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”, which struck a nerve in many women, fans of the brand and alike. 

Razek took to twitter to publish a statement of apology, highlighting that he didnt mean for his comments to come off as anti-transgender or transphobic.

The fashion industry has witnessed a multitude of changes in the manner it operates, markets and promotes its ideas in this epoch that stresses highly on representation and inclusivity. It is also paving the way for an open mindedness on gender fluidity, where there is a continuing effort to redefine gender norms. Evidently, numerous posts and comments poured in from all forms of social media, reprimanding Razek and the brand for giving scope for sex-based discrimination. Subsequently, it was revealed that transgender model, Valentina Sampaio was turned down by the brand after auditioning for the show.

Pop singer Halsey, who performed at the show on Novemeber 8, 2018, expressed her contrasting views against Razek’s comment.

 

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“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity. Especially not one motivated by stereotype”, she asserted through an Instagram post.

Make-up guru and Youtuber Nikita Dragun, has made a name for herself as a prominent social media influencer who proudly identifies herself as transgender. She clapped back at Razek’s thoughts, by collaborating with LiveRichMedia on a short video where she’s seen walking across a room, adorned in white lingerie and a pair of angel wings, uncannily similar to those that are sported by Victoria’s Secret angels on the runway. She captioned it as ‘Dear Victoria’s Secret, you said trans women can’t sell the “fantasy” so here i am as a TRANS WOMAN selling the FANTASY!’, clearly establishing her stance.

Voice of Westminster reached out to young women who have cited Victoria’s Secret as a favourite brand of clothing for years. They had several juxtaposing viewpoints, conveying their thoughts in positive, and objective perspectives.

“It is disheartening to see how judgmental people can be when it comes to body shaming and just being different. He [Razek] compared real people to horses, which is downright unacceptable and speaks really bad about his personality and the brand he represents”, says 21-year-old Neha D’Sa, an aspiring designer from India.

Nicola, 36, says that inclusivity is a necessity in this day and age and that it might help eradicate ignorance toward gender fluid and transgender people.

“For children to see and feel seen, they need to be able to have role models and not feel alienated because society hasn’t represented them in mainstream media etc.”, she adds, implying that these forms of discrimination even in a commercial industry can especially impact the way a child’s perception on gender and representation is shaped from a young age.

On the other hand, Meghna Achar, 21, had a rather neutral opinion. While she is a firm supporter of inclusivity, she also believes that a designer has the right to decide who they want their works to be displayed on and through.

“But at the same time, the fashion industry, more so than ever, has always been a haven for gender fluid and the non-binary, and this whole issue seems like a step backward. And for those who believe fashion is art, their opinion might seem divided. Like me, I can’t take a side right now and I’m trying to read up more to know what side I can take.”

Many insist that by not including transgender people, we’re pulling to a pause on an outdated era and restricting the whole of the fashion industry to just pageants. This can get quite boring and the industry could potentially miss out on a great future for its economic growth. So, there is an increasing need to validate our attitudes towards these prospects and celebrate women, regardless of size, race and sexuality.

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