Story at a glance
- Lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has come under fire for taking no action despite multiple reports and complaints of sexual harassment.
- The New York Times reports that executives Les Wexner and Ed Razek were complicit in fostering an abusive and misogynistic culture.
- Multiple models share stories of retaliation after denied advances and inappropriate comments and touching.
A bombshell New York Times investigation published last Friday chronicles the widespread allegations of sexual harassment and abuse perpetuated by the executives at the lingerie label Victoria’s Secret.
The investigation centers on two men in particular: Ed Razek, a lead executive with Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, which also owns brands like Bath & Body Works, and Leslie Wexner, the founder and chief executive of L Brands itself.
The allegations center on Razek’s behavior — examples of him blacklisting models for rebuffing his inappropriate advances, making crude remarks about working models and even touching them inappropriately ahead of the storied yet failing Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Razek is known in the industry as being the primary executive in charge of casting models for Victoria’s Secret campaigns and fashion shows. He is also instrumental in selecting the brand’s professional “Angels” — models who represent the brand and attain lucrative contracts as well as major star power. The roster of former Victoria’s Secret Angels include Gisele Bündchen, Adriana Lima and Naomi Campbell.
Eventually, Razek’s influence was seen as synonymous with that of Wexner’s. Cynthia Fedus-Fields, a former chief executive at Victoria’s Secret who oversaw catalog operations, told the newspaper that Razek had enough power that “he spoke for Les,” and was often seen as his proxy. He was finally removed when he made blatant body-shaming and transphobic remarks about casting diverse models.
Wexner entered the picture when The Times revealed that more than a dozen complaints about Razek had been reported to H.R., and despite executives reportedly alerting him to Razek’s behavior, allegedly nothing was done.
Compounding the alleged culture of misogyny and abuse were Wexner’s ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking minors. Multiple L Brands executives came forward and told The Times that Wexner had also been told of Epstein’s ploy to pose as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret as a way to lure young girls.
Per those three sources, Wexner never took any action in that situation either.
Tammy Roberts Myers, a spokeswoman for L Brands, told reporters that “We [the company] regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”
Razek has denied all accusations against him, saying the alleged actions were “misconstrued or taken out of context.”
The Victoria’s Secret brand has been in hot water financially, recording quarterly losses and cancelling the 2020 Fashion Show for the first time in two decades.