Victoria’s Secret was dreamed up by a Stanford grad tired of awkwardly shopping for underwear for his wife in the late ’70s. Today, it’s the brand syonomous with sexy worldwide. Its roster of Angels commands some of the biggest salaries in the fashion industry, and its fashion show garners global attention — and millions of viewers. So, just how did a small bra shop founded in Northern California become the world’s most recognized lingerie brand? It’s all inside. Read on to study up on Victoria’s real secrets. From the company stats to the record-setting fantasty bras, it’s all here.
Victoria’s Secret was founded by Stanford MBA alumn Roy Raymond in 1977, who wanted a place he could shop for lingerie for his wife without feeling embarrassed. With $80,000 of savings and loans from family, Raymond opened the first Victoria’s Secret store in a Palo Alto, CA, mall.
By 1982, Raymond had opened three more stores in San Francisco and created the VS catalog, which brought in annual sales of more than $4 million. Raymond is credited with modernizing lingerie shopping and helping to make it mainstream.
The name Victoria’s Secret was crafted by Raymond to evoke the propriety associated with Victorian-era women, while “secrets” referenced the part of themselves and their wardrobes that they kept hidden.
In 1982 Leslie Wexner, the man who grew the Limited sportswear business, bought the VS stores and catalog for $1 million. He saw the potential to grow VS, modeling it after European lingerie companies where women viewed beautiful underthings as an essential. His plan worked — women shopped, though men were just as interested in the catalog. By 1995, he had grown VS to a $1.9 billion company with 670 stores nationally.
Though the show wasn’t televised till much later, the first VS Fashion Show as we know it was presented in 1995 at the Plaza Hotel in NYC, with Stephanie Seymour and Veronica Webb leading the catwalk.
By 1999, the show became a webcast, and by 2001, it landed on network television with major musical acts to accompany the runway. Highlights over the years include performances from the Spice Girls, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Bruno Mars, and beyond.
Even more coveted than a spot on the runway is the honor of wearing the Fantasy Bra during the show. Claudia Schiffer wore the first Fantasy Bra, the Million Dollar Miracle Bra, valued at $1 million in 1996.
Gisele Bündchen wore the most expensive Fantasy Bra in history in 2000, valued at a whopping $15 million.
In 2014, for the first time ever, Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima debuted two fantasy bras, named the Dream Angels Fantasy Bras, each valued at $2 million.
The Victoria’s Secret Angels were presented with a star on the Walk of Fame to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the brand in 2007.
After performing twice in both the 2014 and 2013 VS Fashion Shows, Taylor Swift has been crowned an “honorary Angel” by her Victoria’s Secret girl squad.
Landing a spot in the VS Fashion show can help make your career, as evidenced by past and present Angels like Gisele Bündchen, Miranda Kerr, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio, who’ve landed on the Forbes list of highest paid models since their respective turns on the VS catwalk.
Today, the VS Fashion show is a spectacle that costs an estimated $12 million to put on, and though no tickets are sold to the public, thanks to its spot on network TV, it is the most watched fashion event of the year.