More than two decades ago Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer at Victoria’s Secret’s parent company Limited Brands, got a phone call from his boss: the CEO Leslie “Les” Wexner.
The conversation 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. It 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 in 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 recognisable when compared with the large-scale runways we’ve come to expect today. Here is a complete timeline of how it went from a quiet event at the Plaza Hotel to a huge spectacle:
1995 – Plaza Hotel, New York City
The first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is held at the 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
The model Claudia Schiffer wears the first Fantasy Bra, dubbed the “Million Dollar Miracle Bra,” to a pre-event photo-shoot in Monaco. “We had to put her in an armoured 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 4 February, just before Valentine’s Day. Tyra Banks is the first woman of colour to wear the Fantasy Bra — dubbed the $3 million (about £2 million) “Diamond Dream Bra”.
1998 – Plaza Hotel, New York City
The wings make their debut 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.