Underwear: The next big thing in smalls

Victoria's Secret, America's top lingerie brand, has just opened its flagship Bond Street store. Rebecca Gonsalves uncovers its mysteries

For a lingerie brand that has built a worldwide reputation by flaunting (and boosting and covering in rhinestones) the assets of some of the world's top models, the exterior of the new Victoria's Secret flagship store in London is somewhat demure. Perhaps its refined appearance is to assuage the fears of its neighbours – the designer boutiques and department stores that flank its Bond Street locale – which have already voiced concerns that the US import would lower the tone. Large windows may display the outlandish, not to mention skimpy, outfits from the brand's famous fashion shows, but the feathers and frou-frou frills are displayed on dummy-style mannequins rather than provocatively posed.

Once through the glass doors, however, the sense of feminine sensuality is ramped up over four vast floors topped by a penthouse of private fitting rooms for VIP customers. Throughout the 40,386 square foot space elaborate design elements – Murano glass chandeliers, a spiral staircase backlit by a two-storey high video screen playing footage from the brand's fashion shows – create a high-end experience for a high-street brand, with many styles costing less than £40.

As well as more permutations of brassieres than it is possible to imagine – lace, padded, wireless, plunge to name just four, plus matching knickers – the store will also sell fragrances and cosmetics, while the lower ground floor is dedicated to the Pink line. Pitched as a collegiate casuals range in the US, the heavily branded and embellished clothes are sure to be a hit with brand-savvy tweens and teens (with the help of their parents' hard-earned cash).

"Victoria's Secret nicely bridges the gap between the Marks & Spencer and the premium end of the market including the likes of Agent Provocateur and Rigby & Peller," says Victoria Gallagher, senior reporter for the fashion-business magazine Drapers. "Retailers at both ends of the lingerie market could be set to miss out on shoppers as Victoria's Secret offers UK consumers something we haven't seen much of on the high street: affordable luxury."

Originally devised in 1977 by Roy Raymond as an antidote to the intimidation and hostility he thought men experienced when buying underwear for their wives, by the Eighties Victoria's Secret was the biggest lingerie retailer in the United States. Today the brand has 1,000 stores in the US and delivers to homes one million copies of its mail-order catalogue eight times a year – that's a lot of undies. In 1995 the now-annual Victoria's Secret Angel fashion show was born, in which supermodels – past Angels include Giselle, Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio and Miranda Kerr – walk the catwalk in rhinestone and diamond-laden designs, paired with huge angel wings. A marketing tour de force, the pre-Christmas event is screened on American television before being uploaded to YouTube for worldwide fans (not all of them women, obvs) of the brand to salivate over. More than just a lingerie show, the 2011 spectacle cost a reported £7.5million to stage, including performances by Jay-Z and Kanye West, and has so far racked up nearly four million views on YouTube.

"Although the retailer has never graced our shores the scantily clad models are well known throughout the UK," says Gallagher. "For the first month or two Victoria's Secret is sure to enjoy a glut of custom as UK shoppers find out what it's all about, despite prices being higher. The real test will be early next year – when the mystery has been unveiled, I question whether UK consumers will continue to shop at the pricey American chain or trudge back for their M&S cotton staples."

Only time will tell, although the brand reports that business is booming at the Westfield Stratford store it opened to coincide with the Olympics.

Oh, and about that secret… there is no Victoria. Reports vary, but the namesake is said to be Queen Victoria for her prudish attitude although this legacy obviously doesn't extend to the designer's workshop.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'