Six weeks before it’s set to burst onto TV and tablet screens around the world, the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is already proving to be much different than its predecessors.
Don’t worry, the parade of lanky models will still be there, sporting dozens of flamboyant costumes to the obliging applause of carefully hand-picked audience members. What’s changed is everything leading up to the big reveal itself, which airs at 10 p.m. EST on Dec. 5 on CBS-TV.
The 2016 VS Fashion Show has been shrouded in a silence that is entirely uncharacteristic of the lingerie retailer, which typically uses the event to stoke a massive and unrelenting global publicity machine that lasts all fall. This year, Victoria’s Secret has been downright … secretive.
The company’s behavior has confounded the fashion press, which at this time of year is usually busy churning out glossy photo spreads of VS Angels and repetitive articles on the models’ diets, fitness regimens and fashion preferences. The multi-million-dollar annual Fantasy Bra has usually racked up a few million free media mentions by now.
In previous years, the company announced details of its holiday TV special in the week after Labor Day, following it up with a continuous flow of promotional events, backstage sneak-peeks and social media teases to excite viewers and amp up expectations. Fans typically got privileged access to models’ casting calls, garment fittings and details on the themed segments from the show and the costumes being prepared for them.
But so far, all of that is conspicuously absent this year. Although model casting and fittings were held over the past two weeks in New York, no press were invited and even the social media accounts of participating models were strangely silent on the subject.
Finally today, in a five-sentence press release issued just before noon, Victoria’s Secret confirmed the 2016 show will be held in Paris and broadcast on Dec. 5 — but almost nothing else. Musical guests, which are usually current A-list chart toppers, have not been announced and so far the company has said nothing about the Fantasy Bra — or even whether there will be one.
Perhaps most significantly, Victoria’s Secret has kept both the location and filming date of show a closely guarded secret. It finally revealed the location later today in the first of a series of behind-the-scenes videos — it will be held under the opulent glass dome of the Grand Palais at the Champs-Élysées, and will feature a record-setting 75 or more models. The production date still hasn’t been announced, though it is rumoured to be Nov. 30.
The 21st edition of the hour-long promotional spectacle will be only the third time Victoria’s Secret has taken its show offshore, after travelling to London in 2014 and Cannes in 2000. And this year, the company has plenty of good reasons to keep details of the production under wraps until the last possible moment:
But all these security worries are just one aspect of why the 2016 show is such a make-or-break occasion for Victoria’s Secret, and why the company is so determined to control the media narrative surrounding the show.
Produced at a cost of well over $10-million, the VS Fashion Show has seen its television ratings plummet in recent years, and last year it was viewed by only 6.6 million people in North America — down 32 per cent from 2014. The company boasted last year that the show is seen by 500 million people worldwide but that number, which likely includes social media streaming and TV reruns, is virtually impossible to verify. One thing, though, is certain: in a year that has seen Victoria’s Secret undergo some major changes — like dumping its swimwear line and home shopping catalogue — to retain market share and bolster its slumping stock value, it needs to deliver a big, splashy, original extravaganza on Dec. 5 to revive the show and kick off the all-important holiday shopping season.
Moving the show to Paris may be risky and logistically complicated, but it provides an unparalleled opportunity for Victoria’s Secret to infuse the brand with some chic European flair and laissez-faire sexuality — not to mention a little couture credibility from simply rubbing shoulders in the in the global epicentre of both fashion and lingerie.
Lingerie aficionados will probably view the VS Paris show as the fashion equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle — after all, the last thing Paris needs is more faux French underwear from low-priced offshore brands — but the upside for Victoria’s Secret is potentially huge. With their eyes on international expansion (including continental Europe where it has minimal presence), if Victoria’s Secret can conquer Paris, the world will be at its feet.