The founder of an inclusive lingerie company is slamming Victoria’s Secret for an executive’s “shocking, derogatory” comments about women.
Heidi Zak, co-CEO of the lingerie startup ThirdLove, recently wrote an open letter to Victoria’s Secret, responding to some inflammatory comments made by Ed Razek, chief marketing officer for L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.
In a recent Vogue interview, Razek suggested that people aren’t interested in seeing plus-size models on the Victoria’s Secret runway.
“We attempted to do a television special for plus sizes (in 2000). No one had any interest in it, still don’t,” he said.
He also said that in his view, transgender women should not be cast in shows. (He has since apologized for that comment on Twitter, and clarified that he would be fine with casting transgender models.)
Razek also seemed to take a jab at ThirdLove, which specializes in making lingerie for women of all shapes and sizes.
“We’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love,” Razek said. “And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.”
Zak says she was "completely appalled" to read Razek's comments.
"What kind of leader and what kind of man would say such discriminatory things? Each time I’ve read it, it has made me more and more angry," she said in an email statement to TODAY Style. "As I read the article, I couldn't help but think of my 5-year-old daughter: How would she react to his statement ten years from now? How would she react when viewing a Victoria's Secret fashion show?"
So, she fired back with a full-page ad written as an open letter to Victoria’s Secret in The New York Times.
“How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements?” she wrote. “You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. … Your show may be a ‘fantasy’ but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country.
“Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles?” she added. “It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend.”
TODAY Style has reached out to Victoria’s Secret for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
Zak co-founded ThirdLove in 2013 and since then, the e-commerce brand has gained a loyal following for offering a wide range of lingerie sizes, including half-sizes for bras.
After Zak posted the open letter on Instagram, plenty of fans thanked her for her body-inclusive message, including some women who became ThirdLove customers after reading her letter.
“Thank you for speaking up on behalf of so many women who feel the same way about this!” one woman commented.
“Never heard of @thirdlove before this, but I’ll be placing an order this month,” another commenter wrote. “Thank you for this letter!”
“Was shopping for new undies,” another woman chimed in. “You just made a lifelong customer out of me.”
Zak says she chose to write an open letter because she wanted to respond to Razek's comments "directly and to demand more from Victoria's Secret."
"It’s the year 2018 and I believe women deserve to be treated and marketed to in a more authentic, realistic way," she told TODAY Style. "My hope is this year is the last one for the fashion show — that enough public pressure will be placed on VS to make some real and meaningful changes to their organization and to the messages they are sending to women everywhere."
Even before Razek’s controversial comments, Victoria’s Secret has faced criticism in recent years for failing to represent a diverse range of body types on the runway and in ad campaigns.
Zak says she created her company partly in response to that lack of inclusivity.
“ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” she wrote in her open letter. “This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm."
And she had one final word for Razek, responding to his apparent dig at her company’s name.
“As you said Ed, ‘We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love,’” she wrote. “We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last.”