As she launches her new collection with Playful Promises, the body positivity activist and model explains why inclusivity is so important in fashion – and what the cancellation of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show tells us about what women really want.
On the 21 November, lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret confirmed they would not be hosting their annual runway show in 2019. It’s fair to say the move was no surprise: in 2018, the show’s live broadcast attracted 3.3 million viewers when it aired in the US, a measly number compared to the more than 12 million US viewers who tuned in to the show’s best year in 2001. After 24 years of sparkling lingerie, high-budget productions and diamanté-incrusted wings, the annual show is no longer.
The story behind the event’s demise – which came after months of rumours and speculation – is a far less glittering affair. For years now, the brand has been criticised for its lack of diversity both on and off the runway, especially when it comes to the body types promoted by the brand during their shows, in their marketing campaigns and even by the sizes they stock (the largest size of underwear stocked by the brand at time of writing is a UK size 18/US 16).
And in 2018, the company’s then chief of marketing Ed Razek came under fire for suggesting that the company shouldn’t feature people he called “transsexuals” because the show was “a fantasy”, adding that “no one had any interest” in a plus-size show. For all its criticisms, Victoria’s Secret seemed resistant to change.
The cancellation of Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show perhaps tells us more about what women want nowadays than the brand itself. With the body positivity movement widening the narrow definition of “beauty” perpetuated by brands such as Victoria’s Secret and empowering women to love themselves (and all their so-called ‘flaws’), women are rejecting non-inclusive brands in favour of ranges that provide them with the diversity they want to see.
“It just explains that there’s not one style of beauty,” says Felicity Hayward, a plus-size fashion model and body positivity activist. “A lot of us have been campaigning on this message for a long time, and it’s actually so good to see [the show end]. Beauty should not be chosen by these people who want to have one ideal of beauty – that’s not how the world works.
“But there are massive waves happening,” Hayward continues. “I was so happy when I found out they’re not going to be [doing the show] anymore because it’s creating a sense of insecurity in young girls and creating this message that only one type of beauty is deemed as valuable and desirable – and that’s just not the case.”
In response to the ‘perfect body’ stereotype Hayward has campaigned against for so long, she’s released a collection which offers the diversity she, and many others, want to see. The range, launched in collaboration with lingerie brand Playful Promises, is doing just that offers a beautiful selection of lingerie in a range of sizes (there are 70 bra sizes on offer, all the way from A to K), modelled in a campaign cast directed by Hayward herself. In making the range, Hayward says, she wanted to ensure that all body sizes were represented – and that meant insisting the collection was not a ‘plus-size’ range.
“I wanted to create something where I felt like the biggest variety of women can all wear the same product,” she explains. “When I went into this collection I said that I had to ensure that happened – that it’s not a ‘plus-size’ collection. I said ‘I do not want to make a plus-size collection, I want to make a collection in the widest range of sizes that you can physically make.’”
Speaking about how all the pieces in the collection are named after inspirational women in her life – from her friend, Elly Mayday, who passed away from ovarian cancer earlier this year, to her grandmother, who turns 89 this week – Hayward explained how the collection’s story is based on a ‘girl gang’ mood.
“I wanted to make sure this collection had more of a story that’s like ‘these are my girls, my girl gang, and we can all wear it,” she says. “We’ve got the biggest range of sizes – no one I know of on the high street does a range of this size or with this range of product. Even Savage x Fenty – as much as I adore them – have a core range and plus size range that are slightly different, so you see something in core and you love it, but you don’t have the same delicate designs for plus sizes.”
With role models like Hayward leading the way and pushing for more diversity and inclusive ranges across the fashion industry, there’s still a lot of hope for the lingerie industry in a world post-Victoria’s Secret fashion show. It’s evident that representation – whether it be of women of different ethnicities, sizes, heights or physical abilities – is the way forward.
“I’ve seen a huge change since I started my career in 2012, when I could have named the collection of plus size models on one hand, and brands didn’t really do plus sizes, compared with 2019 when nearly every high street brand has a plus size collection,” Hayward says. “If you think of the likes of what I’ve done with Playful Promises and the Savage x Fenty show in New York – that show was incredible – and we just need more brands listening to this and seeing how well collections can do when you broaden your sizes.
“I just think every woman should be able to feel sexy, and desired, and beautiful within themselves.”
The Felicity Hayward x Playful Promises collaboration is available to shop online now.
Images: Getty, Felicity Hayward x Playful Promises