You’ve been bombarded by their ads, DVR’ed the annual fashion show (but just so you could watch Taylor!), and— whether for yourself or someone else—have probably procured a pair of neon panties there. But how much do you really know about the lingerie giant?
1. ITS FOUNDER WANTED TO MAKE THE LINGERIE-BUYING EXPERIENCE LESS … CREEPY.
Founder Roy Raymond was inspired to open up his own shop after an awkward department store experience. “When I tried to buy lingerie for my wife, I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns,” he explained. “I always had the feeling the department-store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder.” The very first Victoria’s Secret, devoted solely to selling lingerie in a more upscale (and male-friendly) atmosphere, opened in Palo Alto in 1977.
2. THERE WAS NO "VICTORIA."
Raymond picked the moniker because he felt it complemented the store’s chic, English-inspired interior, “replete with dark wood, oriental rugs, and silk drapery,” Slate’s Naomi Barr writes. “Outwardly refined, Victoria’s ‘secrets’ were hidden beneath.” Raymond and his wife, Gaye, would go on to open five more stores and launch a successful mail-order catalogue.
In keeping with its upscale, British-influenced image, the company used to list its address on catalogues as "no. 10 Margaret Street, London"—even though the company was actually headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
4. ITS CURRENT OWNER IS A BUSINESS LEGEND.
The chain was purchased for $1 million in 1982 by Leslie “Les” Wexner. A self-made, media-shy midwesterner, Wexner revolutionized the retail industry when he founded The Limited on the premise that stores built around just a couple of small-ticket items—in this case, basic shirts and pants—could make money. (Lots of it.) Wexner has since sold The Limited (and its little sister spinoff, Express), but his L Brands—the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, among others—raked in $11.45 billion last year. Wexner himself is worth more than $7 billion, making him the richest person in Ohio. (Sorry LeBron.)
5. L BRANDS MAY HAVE INFLUENCED APPLE.
One admirer of Wexner’s: Steve Jobs, who (according to Wexner, anyway) credited the Ohio native with inventing specialty retail.
6. IT DOMINATES THE MARKET …
No other lingerie brand even comes close to its success: Victoria's Secret is responsible for 40 percent of all intimate apparel sales, according to Business Insider, and operates 1060 stores in the U.S. alone.
7. … AND MAKES WAVES OVERSEAS.
Its recent expansion into the Middle East (via franchisees) hasn’t been without controversy. Earlier this year, Qatari officials banned the brand’s “Strawberries and Champagne” fragrance from a VS there, arguing that the reference to bubbly violated the “customs, traditions, and religious values” of the country.
8. SHOPLIFTERS LOVE IT.
VS stores are a frequent target of both petty thieves and large-scale shoplifting rings. From 2007 to 2014, shoplifters carried away nearly $20,000 worth of merchandise from a Fairfield, Conn. store; last fall, one Florida-based “entrepreneur” made $53,000 selling stolen Victoria’s Secret underwear. (In a 2007 story in The New York Times, Lieutenant Christine Petersen of the Jersey City PD remarked that she wasn’t surprised people were able to seize so much product: “Have you looked at Victoria’s Secret panties? There’s not much there.”)
9. ITS FANS CAN BECOME A LITTLE TOO INVESTED.
The company recently had to “divorce” one overly-enthusiastic devotee. Wisconsin resident Amy Thompson was served legal papers banning her from shopping at any Victoria’s Secret location after she allegedly made over $7000 in returns, attempted to use fraudulent coupons, resold almost $200,000 worth of merchandise, and threatened to “batter” a store clerk. (Thompson, for her part, denies the allegations and has filed a complaint with her state’s consumer protection agency.)
10. IT CHARGES MORE FOR BIGGER SIZES.
Its most recent scandal has nothing to do with tone-deaf ad campaigns or retouched photos. This summer, the company came under fire after one fashion editor noticed that shoppers with larger cup sizes pay up to $4 more for their bras than women who fit into sizes A-D.
11. IT'S A CAREER-MAKER.
Throughout the years, the company has helped a number of young models spread their wings (so to speak). In 2014, all but five of the 21 catwalkers included on Forbes’ list of richest models had at one point mugged for VS ads or strutted in the fashion show.
12. THERE ARE VICTORIA'S SECRET ANGELS FROM EVERY CONTINENT …
13. ITS FASHION SHOW IS A GLOBAL PHENOMENON.
The brand’s annual runway show, which debuted in 1995, now serves as the fashion world’s Super Bowl. Viewers tune in from more than 180 countries and territories around the world, and the spectacle is such a guaranteed ratings boon that CBS reportedly pays the company for the rights to air the oh-so-heavenly event.
14. THE BRAND TAKES BEDAZZLING TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.
The star of every VS Fashion Show: the fantasy bra. At last year’s event, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio wore matching pieces of lingerie worth $2 million—each. But that’s nothing compared to the bra Gisele Bundchen modeled in 2000. That year’s satin “Red Hot Fantasy Bra” was encrusted with more than 1300 diamonds and rubies. Its $15 million price tag was enough to secure its place in Guinness World Records history as the most expensive piece of lingerie ever created.