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Victoria’s Secret Is Not Haute Couture

PARIS — This is in response to Business of Fashion’s recently published article, “Victoria’s Secret vs. Chanel: Which Blockbuster Show Has Better ROI?

We are long-time BoF readers. We subscribe to its newsletter and reference it daily. We respect it as a peer publication, and often use it as a industry guide. However, the aforementioned article was too startling to just read and continue on with our day. Thus, we are here to make an argument about the often-controversial conversation:

Victoria’s Secret is not haute couture.

BoF’s article analyses this week’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and Chanel’s Métiers d’Art, both occurring in Paris, against each other. It employs social media metrics, estimates fashion show investments based on past years’ investments, and references past years’ sales numbers to determine the return on investment. These are improper metrics to determine fashion house success.

Obviously, based on these factors, Victoria’s Secret is going to land ahead of Chanel. Victoria’s Secret has more than 10,000 employees. Chanel has 1,270 employees. Victoria’s Secret’s target market is the middle-class woman, ages 20-40. Chanel’s target market is the upper-class woman of any age living in New York, Paris, Beverly Hills, Miami, Madrid, Tokyo, and the like. Victoria’s Secret is publicly held; it has shareholders to please. Chanel is private.

If we so desire to compare the two by numbers, we suggest employing the following metrics:

  • MSRP: Victoria’s Secret must sell approximately 84 of its best-selling item, the Bombshell bra ($59.50 USD), in order to reach the MSRP of Chanel’s best-selling items, arguably the Chanel Suit (ready-to-wear jacket $4,000.00 USD, ready-to-wear skirt $4,000.00 USD, special order $30,000.00+ USD) or Little Black Dress (ready-to-wear $4,000.00 USD).
  • Annual Revenue: Chanel’s 2014 annual revenue was $7.5 billion USD. Victoria’s Secret’s was $7.2 billion USD.
  • Net Income: Chanel’s 2014 net income was $1.4 billion USD. Victoria’s Secret’s was $1.042 billion USD.

However, the debate is so much more than metrics. Haute couture is a culture, is history, is exquisitely handcrafted art. Chanel’s backstory is glamour combined with tragedy. Chanel items are masterworks and heirlooms. The Chanel jacket takes 70-80 hours to make. Chanel employs an elderly French woman who is uniquely talented in making the braiding for the jacket trims (We encourage you to watch Signe Chanel, a beautiful documentary about the making of a Chanel haute couture collection that includes this.) Women dream of one day having a 2.55 flap bag passed on. People aspire to be Coco Chanel and praise Karl Lagerfeld for maintaining the fashion house’s status years after Coco’s passing. Cara Delevigne opted to walk in Chanel’s Métiers d’Art over the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

This is to say that comparing the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to Chanel’s Métiers d’Art is like comparing apples to oranges. Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is made for the masses for television. On the other hand, few lucky ones are invited to Chanel’s Métiers d’Art. It is not televised on primetime television. If you are fortunate enough to get an invitation to a Chanel fashion show, you drop everything you are doing, get on a plane, train, or bus, and go.

At this point, you probably think we absolutely loathe Victoria’s Secret. We don’t at all. Do we tune into the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show every year? Yes. We very much enjoy the costumes and wings the models wear, and find them to be couture in their own way. Do we own Victoria’s Secret items? Of course. However, we also go out of mourway to find and watch haute couture shows, including Chanel’s Métiers d’Art (which you can find here, by the way.) The point being is that as passionate haute couture fanatic and zealous fashion designer advocates, we cannot sit, listen, and accept that people are comparing Victoria’s Secret to Chanel. They are in two different universes.

At the end of the day, Chanel is Chanel. Let’s please keep it that way.

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