Ed Razek, CMO of Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands, will step down from the role he has held since 1983. In an internal memo to staff, L Brands Chairman and CEO Leslie Wexner said Razek had informed him a few weeks ago about his desire to retire from the role this month.
Ed Wolf, SVP of Brand and Creative at L Brands, is set to serve as interim Head of Brand and Creative, reporting to Wexner, according to the memo. Bob Campbell, VP of Creative at Victoria’s Secret, is set to serve as interim Head of Creative at Victoria’s Secret.
Under Razek’s creative direction, the lingerie retailer built an overtly sexualized brand image that helped boost the company’s popularity throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Furthering the company’s pop culture influence, Victoria’s Secret first launched its popular Fashion Show in 1995, featuring models, called “Angels,” wearing and promoting lingerie on the runway.
But the marketing strategies that made Victoria’s Secret so big have arguably fallen out of fashion in recent years, with more shoppers preferring realistic over racy. Victoria’s Secret’s popularity — and market share — has taken a hit as lingerie brands such as American Eagle’s Aerie, ThirdLove, Lively, Adore Me and True&Co cater to a more diverse set of women’s sizing needs. Same-store sales were down 7% at Victoria’s Secret in Q1 2019, pulling this metric across all L Brands properties down 3%, even as Bath & Body Works saw a 7% jump.
Since December 2015, L Brands stock has plummeted more than 75%. After the 2018 holiday season, Victoria’s Secret revealed it was shuttering 53 of its 1,140+ stores in 2019.
Along with declining sales, ratings for the Fashion Show also dropped in recent years. Victoria’s Secret said earlier this year that it will no longer air the event on network television, and would focus on developing content and a new kind of event.
Razek recently was caught in a controversy related to criticism about the brand’s lack of inclusiveness toward a significant portion of women. Last year in an interview with Vogue, Razek said he didn’t think the Victoria’s Secret fashion show should include transgender models because it is supposed to be “a fantasy,” prompting a backlash on social media. He later issued an apology, saying that he “absolutely would cast a transgender model.”
In response, ThirdLove ran a full-page ad in The New York Times in November 2018, presented as “An Open Letter to Victoria’s Secret,” specifically calling out Razek for what they believed were “demeaning” comments he made about plus-size and transgender models.
Victoria’s Secret has since hired its first openly transgender model, Valentina Sampaio, for an advertising campaign.