These days, Rihanna is known for far more than just her music career. The Super Bowl LVII halftime star is the founder of makeup brand Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, and the founder of size-inclusive lingerie, sleepwear and loungewear brand Savage X Fenty. Although she stepped down as the brand’s CEO this year, the "Work" singer is still eponymous with the line, and with spotlighting how brands such as Victoria’s Secret may have fallen out of touch.
Rihanna fans are pointing out that Victoria’s Secret's design for the brand's upcoming runway show looks quite similar to one used for Savage x Fenty's show. But what do we really know about the longstanding drama between Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show and Victoria’s Secret?
Why is everyone talking about Savage X Fenty and Victoria’s Secret?
Fans allege that VS copied the backdrop of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty 2019 fashion show for the brand’s upcoming runway show short film, The Victoria's Secret World Tour.
Both designs feature models standing beneath archways. Victoria's Secret design is pink, while Savage x Fenty's is gray-blue. The comments section of Victoria's Secret Instagram post, which revealed the backdrop, quickly lit up with commenters who pointed out the similarities.
“Victoria’s Secret on its Savage X Fenty era,” commented an Instagram user.
“We all know this is the set from Savage X Fenty first show back in 2019,” wrote another.
Reps for Victoria’s Secret, however, told The Cut, "The brand was inspired by the stunning architecture on set at the Corberó Space in Barcelona where the Tour was filmed."
What happened to the original Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show?
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which was once a fashion industry darling, exited stage left in 2019 amid record-low viewership, growing demands for size and casting inclusivity from consumers and accusations of sexual assault within Victoria's Secret and its parent company, L Brands, during the height of the #MeToo movement.
Following the cancellation of the show, the brand introduced a series of initiatives aimed at promoting inclusion, including getting rid of their "Angels" in favor of more diverse representatives.
In 2020, the New York Times dropped an exposé on the toxic corporate culture at Victoria's Secret. Over 100 models including Christy Turlington, Amber Valletta and Alyssa Miller co-signed a letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas urging the company to address its culture of "abuse."
Why might Victoria’s Secret be looking at Savage X Fenty?
After the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show ended in 2019, Savage X Fenty caused quite a splash with its first-ever runway debut. The 2019 Amazon Prime-streamable event featured models of all colors and genders, as well as bodies of all sizes.
And they were all “undeniably sexy,” Elle noted, adding, "Sorry, Angels, your time is up."
That anti-Victoria’s Secret vibe was felt by reporters in attendance, with Harper’s Bazaar noting the brand had "swooped in where Victoria's Secret failed, adopting a body-positive, size-inclusive approach to lingerie that celebrates and empowers a diverse spectrum of women." The Daily Beast called it a "celebration of female power."
The event was choreographed by dancer Parris Goebel, who had the models twerk and dance during the show. Rihanna told the Business of Fashion that she liked how Goebel "makes everything sexy despite society’s ideal of what sexy looks like. I don’t care about any skinny Victoria’s Secret model when I look at Parris. I want to be that woman on the inside. I want to feel that confident, I want to feel that bombastic… That is the Savage brand."
So how has Victoria’s Secret tried to keep up?
In June 2021, Victoria's Secret launched the VS Collective, a move designed to "shape the future" of the brand and demonstrate its commitment to inclusivity. The cohort included models Adut Akech, Paloma Elsesser and Valentina Sampaio, as well as athletes like skier Eileen Gu and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
"So often I felt myself on the outside looking in with brands in the beauty and fashion industry and I'm thrilled to be creating a space that sees the true spectrum of all women," Rapinoe shared.
In 2023, Emira D’Spain became the first Black trans woman to work with Victoria’s Secret.
"I'm a really big believer in change and growth," she told Yahoo as she explained her approach to the partnership. "I was like, I'm gonna make history and every other little brown and Black, person of color, trans person, queer person...honestly, there are so many categories of people that were going to see that that would be inspired or know that they could do something similar or even open their mind to it."