Can Victoria’s Secret recover from its founder’s past relationship with Jeffrey Epstein?
Victoria’s Secret has seen its share of the lingerie market slip in recent years as the retailer has faced criticism for its hyper-sexualized marketing and merchandising during a period in time when a growing number of women are demanding an end to gender discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse in their professional and personal lives.
Now, Victoria’s Secret is being urged by a group of more than 100 “Angels” who have modeled for the company to use its influence and power to curb such practices they say have been carried out in its name in the past.
In the letter to Victoria’ Secret CEO John Mehas, the group wrote:
“In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation. From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”
The signatories of the letter to the retailer are members of RESPECT, an anti-sexual harassment program designed by and for models.
“Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norms of what’s acceptable and what’s not in fashion. If Victoria’s Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward.”
Mr. Wexner, the founder of Victoria’s Secret, has faced numerous questions about his past relationship with Mr. Epstein, who is currently facing charges of child sex trafficking. Mr. Epstein, who at one time managed the personal finances of Mr. Wexner, is alleged to have misappropriated $46 million from the L Brands CEO and his family.
In a letter to his charitable Wexner Founder Community, the L Brands CEO expressed embarrassment of having been deceived by Mr. Epstein. “I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path,” Mr. Wexner wrote.
Victoria’s Secret has maintained that the personal and business relationship between the two men never had anything to do with its business.
- Open Letter to Victoria’s Secret – The RESPECT Program
- Wexner: Epstein stole tens of millions – The Columbus Dispatch
- Jeffrey Epstein ‘misappropriated vast sums of money from me,’ Les Wexner says – CNBC
- Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who is friends with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, explained – Vox
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you respond to the RESPECT letter if you were the CEO of Victoria’s Secret? What else must Victoria’s Secret do now to get past the current bad press surrounding the company and widespread view that it is out of step with the times?