Victoria's Secret is a retail marketer of women's clothing and beauty products, but is most recognizable as a marketer of lingerie, mostly bras. Victoria's Secret had sales of more than US $2.4 billion through their 900 retail stores in the United States in 2005. All stores of Limited Brands are corporately owned. Victoria's Secret products are also available through the catalog business, Victoria's Secret Direct, with sales of approximately US $870 million.
Victoria's Secret was started in San Francisco in 1977 by Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus Roy Raymond, who felt embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in very public and awkward department store environment. He opened the first store at Stanford Shopping Center, and quickly followed it with a mail order catalog and 3 other stores. The stores were meant to create a comfortable environment for men, wood paneled walls, victorian details, and helpful sales staff. Instead of racks of bras and panties in every size, there were single styles, paired together, and mounted on the wall in frames. Men could browse for styles and then sales staff would help estimate the appropriate size, pulling from inventory in the back. In 1982, after 5 years of operations, Mr. Raymond sold the company to The Limited.
The company gained notoriety in the early 1990s after it began to use supermodels in its advertising and fashion shows. Some prominent models featured by Victoria's Secret include Rebecca Pincolini, Alessandra Ambrosio, Tyra Banks, Ana Beatriz Barros, Gisele Bündchen, Laetitia Casta, Bar Refaeli, Adriana Lima, Karolína Kurková, Frederique van der Wal, Heidi Klum, Oluchi Onweagba, Daniela Pestova, Marisa Miller, and Fernanda Tavares. Many other models appear in the catalog that appear as part of campaigns. The Victoria's Secret Angels are the spokespersons for Victoria's Secret. Past Angels include Tyra Banks, Gisele Bundchen, Laetitia Casta, Helena Christensen, Selita Ebanks, Yasmeen Ghauri, Izabel Goulart, Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova, Marisa Miller, Karen Mulder, Daniela Pestova, Maria Ines Rivero, Rebecca Romijn, & Stephanie Seymour, Banks made her final runway walk on Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2005 which marks the end of her modeling career. Current Contracted Victoria's Secret Angels include Alessandra Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr, Doutzen Kroes, Adriana Lima.
The company made history in 1999 with the first web broadcast of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show which drew 1.5 million viewers, with many others unable to view the show. The fashion show was advertised on the Super Bowl.
The fashion show is generally held in the New York Armory on Lexington Avenue. It contains mostly underwear and bras. The show has since evolved into a lavish event with elaborate costumed-lingerie, varying music and set design according to the different themes running within the show. The show attracts hundreds of celebrities and entertainers, with special performers and/or acts every year. The giant angel wings worn by the models, as well as other wings of various forms and sizes such as butterfly, peacock, or devil wings, are Victoria's Secret's fashion trademark. The fashion show is also a meeting of today's supermodels, who are always posing in the middle, after the final walk.
In 2004, the show was canceled after a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show broadcast by CBS caused Justin Timberlake to bare Janet Jackson's breast. In the past, most of the clothing exhibited was not available to the general public, but in 2005 the show was specifically redesigned to feature clothing available to the general public through the catalogue.
In July, 2004, company executives launched Pink, a lineup of loungewear, sleepwear, and intimate apparel geared towards college undergraduates. Alessandra Ambrosio was the line's first spokesperson. Pink models tour the country at college campuses. The company markets to youth through MySpace, Facebook, partnerships with MTV, and youth-oriented blogs. The brand has received world wide nomination for the best in the category performance year on year over the last 12 years. PINK sells many clothes, such as PINK branded sweat pants, and lingerie.