Behind-the-scenes, first-hand accounts about everything from the mysterious 2004 show that never aired to the infamous Ariana Grande meme.
More than two decades ago, Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer at the Victoria’s Secret parent company, Limited Brands, got a call from his boss, CEO Leslie “Les” Wexner.
The call was casual enough, but it led to a seismic shift in both fashion and TV.
“I remember it clearly—I was driving down the road when Les called,” Razek says. “He said, ‘We’re a fashion company; we should have a fashion show.’ [Limited Brands] had a number of divisions at the time, and I thought, maybe we could do it for Victoria’s Secret.”
That was in 1994, and the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was born the following year. The show has become one of the most-anticipated fashion events of the year, with top musical acts angling to perform, a who’s who of models strutting down the runway, and millions of people tuning it to watch
“We didn’t know a lot about putting on a show, and the show we put on didn’t attract a lot of models the first year because everybody had the same question: ‘Well, what is it? Why are you doing it? What is it going to look like?'”
Those early catwalks are barely recognizable when compared to the mega-spectacles we’ve come to expect today. Here’s a complete timeline of how it went from a quiet event at the Plaza Hotel to a blowout event watched by millions:
1995 – New York City
The first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is held at New York City’s Plaza Hotel. “I think we had two cameras—one for long shots and one for close-ups,” Razek says. “We weren’t happy with the first show, but we woke up the next morning and it was worldwide news,” Razek remembers. “And a major network had called it the lingerie event of the century. When we saw that, it was like, there might be something here. Let’s try another one!”
1996 – Plaza Hotel, New York City
Model Claudia Schiffer wears the first-ever Fantasy Bra, dubbed the “Million Dollar Miracle Bra,” to a pre-event photoshoot in Monaco. “We had to put her in an armored car, and when it pulled up to the Hotel De Paris, two armed guards came out before she did and the world went crazy,” Razek says.
1997 – Plaza Hotel, New York City
Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen and Rebecca Romijn walk the runway in romantic negligees. The event took place on February 4, just before Valentine’s Day. Tyra Banks is the first woman of color to wear the Fantasy Bra on the runway—dubbed the $3 million “Diamond Dream Bra.”
1998 – Plaza Hotel, New York City
The wings make their first appearance on the runway. They’re a nod to the name of a line of lingerie the brand carried called the “Angel” collection—a concept created by Wexner himself.
1999 – Cipriani Wall Street, New York City
The company partners with Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com and IBM to stream the show online for the first time. A commercial airs during the first break of that year’s Super Bowl to announce the event, and, according to Razek, more than a million people immediately logged online after seeing the ad to look for the show—which wasn’t airing for another week. When it finally happened, two million people tuned in. “It left a lot to be desired: It was about the size of two postage stamps in the middle of your computer screen,” Razek says. “Steve Jobs called it one of the 10 seminal events in the history of the Internet. I was too ignorant to understand what a big deal it was at the time.” Heidi Klum and Gisele Bündchen made their debuts.
2000 – Cannes, France
The show streams online live from the Cannes Film Festival, where it helps raise money for the Cinema Against AIDS charity. Because of the time difference, the event airs during the day in the states. “The Treasury Secretary estimated it could cost American business a billion dollars from lost productivity,” Razek says.
2001 – Bryant Park, New York City
The show airs on television for the first time. “We set up a number of meetings in L.A. to essentially pitch a television special, which we had never done before,” Razek recalls. “And we did the first meeting at 9 a.m. with ABC and at 9:03 she said, ‘I’ll take it!’ And I said, ‘Oh, thank you, that’s very kind of you.’ And she said, ‘No, I’m serious, I’ll take it.'”
Adriana Lima walks in her second show for the brand. Of this one being televised, Lima tells ELLE.com: “I was very nervous. We knew what a big deal it was for the brand and for our careers. I had been working for a few years at that point and I was becoming more recognizable in the fashion world, but this helped me become more recognizable with people outside of it and with mainstream media.”
2002 – Lexington Avenue Armory, New York City
After ABC rebrands itself to become more family friendly, the show moves to CBS, where it’s aired ever since. Destiny’s Child performs, and Bündchen gets harassed on stage by PETA protestors. “I’m the biggest animal lover in the world,” Bündchen told CNN backstage after the show. “I was just doing my job. I’m a model. I don’t even wear fur. They just want attention.”
2003 – Lexington Avenue Armory, New York City
The show is held at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City and Sting, Mary J. Blige, and Eve perform.
The broadcast of the show didn’t air, and Victoria’s Secret never offered an official explanation—although people speculated that Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at that year’s Super Bowl was the reason.
That was precisely why the broadcast was called off, according to Razek. “Everybody got very cautious — including us,” he says. “Not that we were doing anything salacious.”
Instead the brand hosted “Angels Across America,” in which they drove models Bündchen, Banks, Klum, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio in a bus to New York City, Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles to meet fans. “‘Angels Across America’ was very fun,” Lima says. “I got to meet and connect with people from all over the country. So many people came out to meet us, give us gifts, tell us they admired us and wanted to grow up to be just like us. It was a very humbling experience.”
2005 – Lexington Avenue Armory, New York City
Banks announced her official retirement from modeling, with that year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion show as her last strut down the catwalk.
2006 – Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles
New Victoria’s Secret brand PINK made its runway debut, and Justin Timberlake performed “Sexy Back.” It was also Bündchen’s final show. “I remember the girls being so glowing, the wings, and the glitter on the catwalk,” current Angel Elsa Hosk tells ELLE.com. “It was all so incredible.”
2007 – Kodak Theater, Los Angeles
The Spice Girls perform on American TV for the first time since the band’s split. Kanye West was scheduled to perform, but cancels due to the death of his mother. Will.I.Am performs in his place. “Because of the show’s major production values at this point, musical acts in the world actively want to do the show,” Razek says.
The current roster of Angels is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, just outside of the Kodak Theater (today called the Dolby Theatre), where this year’s show is held.
Source by elle…