Editor's Note: This story was updated after publication with a statement from Victoria's Secret.
Victoria’s Secret has hit a new low. Following the expansion of its teen brand, PINK, the lingerie retailer has rolled out a new campaign, “Bright Young Things,” reportedly geared toward an even younger tween demographic.
The new collection of beachwear, billed as “Spring Break Must-Haves,” includes lace bandeaus, triangle halter-top bikinis, and towels emblazoned with flirty phrases like “Call Me” and “Kiss Me.” The models for the new range are noticeably younger than those of the regular Victoria’s Secret brand.
Up until now, the company has made no secret of its interest in targeting a younger audience.
“When somebody's 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be?" Victoria’s Secret CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer said at a conference in January, according to Business Insider. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that's part of the magic of what we do at PINK.”
While a line for tweens may seem like a natural step for the brand, “Bright Young Things” has already been received as the latest example of teenagers being sexualized in the fashion industry. Readers have taken to Victoria’s Secret’s Facebook page to express their disapproval. Cali T. Rossen, an ambassador at Save the Children of Tibet, wrote, “Please do not create sexually suggestive underwear for teens or even college girls!!! It’s just not appropiriate [sic]. Would you want your daughters to wear them???" Debbie Lowre McFarland, a jewelry consultant, pled for the brand to stop targeting young children: “You make it very difficult to raise wholesome children when porn is on your television ads and the promotional materials that come in the mail,” she wrote. “I implore you to not take things even further and make things even more difficult for us parents who want to allow our children to be children. I beg of you, please do not come after our children with your alluring, sexy ads with the new line for middle school children.” There’s even an online petition circulating that urges Victoria’s Secret CEO Lori Greeley to halt production of the line.
On Tuesday, Victoria's Secret released a statement responding to the criticism, saying, "Despite recent rumors, we have no plans to introduce a collection for younger women. “Bright Young Things” was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition.” Also as of Tuesday, a page on the Victoria's Secret website that had featured the "Bright Young Things" merchandise appeared to have been removed.
This isn't the first time the younger set has been the subject of a fashion scandal. Marc Jacobs raised eyebrows in 2011 when a perfume ad for the brand featured then-17-year-old Dakota Fanning with a flower between her legs, and, this past fall, Chanel made headlines when Karl Lagerfeld cast 15-year-old Ondria Hardin as the new face of the brand’s spring campaign. And who could forget Thylane Loubry Blondeau, the 10-year-old model who struck some very suggestive poses in French Vogue?
Victoria's Secret may not be the only industry giant inflicting maturity on prepubescent girls, but it is certainly perpetuating the problem.