Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen and others perform at the end of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on November 9, 2005 in New York.  (Photo: Timothy A. Cleary / AFP via Getty Images)

Angels and Demons’ director interview

Believe it or not, Matt Tyrnauer, director of Hulu’s new three-part documentary, Victoria’s Secret: Angels and DemonsWere unfamiliar with one of the company’s most powerful branding tools when they took on the project.

“I can say that I may have been the last person in the Western Hemisphere who didn’t even know about Angels,” Tyrnauer tells Yahoo Entertainment. “When I started this, I really started looking at all the details of the story and the brand, I was kind of haunted by the fact that I didn’t know about the Victoria’s Secret Angels. Clearly, I was their target. The customer didn’t. And when I started looking at the whole, highly impactful marketing brand that, you know, everyone knows, I had two reactions… maybe I need to get out a little more. But, this I was just amazed at how completely stupid and very successful – perhaps one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever – seemed like it had no right to succeed. “

Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen and others perform at the end of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on November 9, 2005 in New York.  (Photo: Timothy A. Cleary / AFP via Getty Images)

Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen and others perform at the end of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on November 9, 2005 in New York. (Photo: Timothy A. Cleary / AFP via Getty Images)

In fact, Angels were, as Thursday’s Hulu documentary points out, a big deal for two decades, starting in the late ’90s. The online broadcast of her fashion show crashed the brand’s site in 1999. In later years, when it aired in primetime, millions watched Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, and the world’s biggest models wearing giant feathers — and not much else — on the catwalk. Big stars including Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Selena Gomez performed with him. And the stores were filled with customers buying bras, panties, and more all year long.

Supermodel Heidi Klum walks the runway at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on November 13, 2003 in New York City.  (Photo: Frank Michelotta/Getty Images)

Supermodel Heidi Klum walks the runway at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on November 13, 2003 in New York City. (Photo: Frank Michelotta/Getty Images)

During its heyday, the brand and its CEO, Les Wexner, had a great influence on culture, especially since the store was part of a retail empire that included other popular mall staples such as Bath and Body Works, Express, and Abercrombie & Fitch. the latter of which was the subject of an ineffective doctor, White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, that Netflix released in April. It followed that store’s flagship years, paralleling Victoria’s Secret, and the way the brand long excluded people who weren’t super thin and mostly white.

“It’s interesting, I think, for people to find out that [Abercrombie and Fitch is] The same – or the same – was the parent company as Victoria’s Secret,” Tyrnauer says, “so the scale of the branding and marketing venture that grew out of L Brands, which is based in small old Columbus, Ohio, is notable and its enormous had effect. Until that happened on the culture, and those are companion stories.”

jeffrey epstein factor

At Victoria’s Secret, there were many problems, starting with the fact that everything—the catalogues, the fashion shows, all of it—was a man-made fantasy of how a woman would look in lingerie, not to please the women who wore it. instead of the garment designed for it. Behind the scenes, there was a dark culture in which people were bullied, sexually harassed or body-shamed. (The brand’s parent company issued a statement expressing “regret” in 2020, and has since withdrawn.) Perhaps most concerning, the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had an affair with Wexner, who in 1982 started the company in the U.S. and helped popularize the idea. Fast-fashion as we know it.

“One thing we do know, as Les Wexner said it on record, is that Jeffrey Epstein was their wealth manager for many years,” Tyrnauer says. “And we know it was a financially complicated relationship because of the scale of the enterprise.”

Les Wexner speaks at the 2016 Fragrance Foundation Awards on June 7, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for the Fragrance Foundation)

Les Wexner speaks at the 2016 Fragrance Foundation Awards on June 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for the Fragrance Foundation)

The documentary raises questions about why Epstein, a convicted sex offender awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges, was so involved in the company when he was found dead in a prison cell in August 2019. Not only was he close to Wexner, but doctor’s people say he kept telling people he worked for the company.

Jeffrey Epstein pictured in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement photo.  (Photo: Reuters/Florida Department of Law Enforcement/Handout via Reuters)

Jeffrey Epstein pictured in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement photo. (Photo: Reuters/Florida Department of Law Enforcement/Handout via Reuters)

Wexner, who in 2019 publicly accused Epstein of misappropriating millions of dollars of his personal finances, declined multiple requests to sit to interview Tyrnauer’s team. However, he has always stated that he was unaware of Epstein’s actions. Amid the revelations of his association with Epstein and declining sales, he resigned as CEO of Victoria’s Secret in 2020.

‘A different company’

The new management of the company has rebranded in 2021 with the removal of Angels. Early indicators are promising. “It is our vision to become the world’s leading advocate for women,” the company’s website reads today, adding images of its current ambassadors to the VS Collective, which include athletes Naomi Osaka and Megan Rapinoe, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas and model Hailey. Bieber is involved. and Bella Hadid. “For us, advocacy means making sure you are heard, seen and represented in everything we do.”

As the documentary hits Hulu on Thursday, the company made another statement.

This is in line with what today’s customers see at other retailers, and a complete change from the culture the company had resisted for so long.

“If they had made their axis finer and earlier, they might have survived, because they were so good at surfing the zeitgeist for decades,” Tyrnauer says. “But I think that’s part of the story. I mean, it’s big capitalism … and marketing as fashion. Victoria’s Secret wasn’t really a fashion brand. It was a smaller brand that made one.” Had used the web of high fashion for the aspirational world. And it did it very well for decades. Why they couldn’t pivot is the question.”

Tyrnauer, who also directed Valentino: The Last Emperor, and his team of about 20 people worked for two years to uncover the story. He came to a vague conclusion about what happened.

“We live in a world that is now dominated by social media, and it’s anesthetizing facts, which are in large part to manipulate us, so we’ll buy things. Hence the Victoria’s Secret story of Consensus Building One of them,” Tyrnauer says. “It was great at doing that. It was great for us to surf the culture and marketing and appeal to our aspirational urges. I see it as the 1.0 of Instagram and Amazon. And I think that’s seeing that.” Very instructive how the past was prelude to our present moment, which is, in many ways, more tangled and sticky and potentially much more harmful, as social media invades our lives 24/7. You have to go to the shopping mall. Deciding to drive and walk in the aisles would be to participate in an anesthetizing form of capitalism, but I think it was prelude to the situation we find ourselves in today.”

Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons Currently streaming on Hulu.

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