Nov 29, 2016
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Seven things about Victoria's Secret you were too afraid to ask

Nov 29, 2016

The US lingerie giant Victoria's Secret is holding its hugely hyped annual fashion show in Paris for the first time Wednesday.

The brand has already flown in its "angels" -- including supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner -- in what it called the "world's most glamorous airplane" for the star-studded event at which Lady Gaga will perform.

Brazilian model Adriana Lima wearing the brand's jewel-encrusted "Fantasy Bra" at the 2008 Victoria's Secret show, held in Miami, FL. - ©AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Here is everything you need to know about the blingiest event on the underwear calendar:

- Victoria who? -

Victoria's Secret may be a household name in the US, but it is almost totally unknown in France, the country that invented lingerie. It has only one small shop at Paris Orly airport. Having a long tradition of high-quality sexy underwear, French women have so far been sceptical of its claims to make "the world's best bras and sexiest lingerie".

- Who are the angels? -

Each year the brand assembles some of the most glamorous lingerie models for its show, with Lily Aldridge, Alessandra Ambrosio and Martha Hunt often featuring in its cast of "angels". This year supermodels the Hadid sisters and Jenner -- Kim Kardashian's half-sister -- will join "veterans" on the catwalk, Adriana Lima, Josephine Skriver, Lily Donaldson and the aptly-named Joan Smalls.

- What's the secret? -

Victoria's Secret has nothing to do with Queen Victoria's famously voluminous silk knickers. No "Victoria" ever existed, although the brand's name is a play on Victorian prudishness. It was the brainchild of Californian Roy Raymond who was so embarrassed about trying to buy lingerie for his wife that he set up a mail order company to save his blushes. He sold it in 1982 to its present owner Les Wexner for $1 million, who sprinkled his stardust and upped prices. The rest is history, with sales hitting $7.6 billion last year.

While his old business boomed, Raymond had less luck and killed himself in 1993.

- Making a show -

Victoria's Secret marketing centres on an annual star-studded fashion show and musical extravaganza. Now in its 21st year, it will be shown in 190 countries from December 5.

Alongside its winged "angels" modelling its colourful lingerie, the centrepiece of the show -- which cost $20 million in 2014 -- is a concert featuring major music stars. This year's headliners are Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and the Canadian electro star The Weeknd.

But the highlight of the night remains the unveiling of the year's jewel-encrusted "fantasy bra". This year's is set with emeralds and diamonds and costs $3 million.

- The perfect body -

The brand has regularly faced criticism for presenting women with an unrealistic body imagine. In 2014 it caused a social media storm with its slogan "The perfect Body" for its new line of Body bras. Faced with the anger, it changed the slogan to "The Body for every body". This year former "angel" Erin Heatherton denounced the pressure to stay ultra-slim and said she would no longer model for the brand.

Sports trainer to the stars Valerie Orsoni told AFP that some of Victoria's Secret models "have fantastic genes but few are what you would call healthily toned". The San Francisco-based coach said she suspected that to stay thin before shows many models use juice-based diets.

- Military preparation -

To win their wings, Victoria's Secret models have to suffer. Casting starts months before the show, and this year the brand has hyped up the build-up on social media with the hashtag #trainlikeanangel, showing models working out to get in shape for the catwalk.

Orsoni said it was a very clever piece of "marketing to make us believe they are just like us". The campaign is also about promoting the brand's new sportswear line, which has replaced its swimsuit range.

- Why Paris -

Market leader in the US with nearly 1,000 shops, the brand is still a minnow in the lucrative European market. Industry analyst Yves Marin of consultants Wavestone said choosing Paris as it venue shows "they want to invest in the continent because apart from Britain, they are not really present in Europe."

And their timing could not be better. "It's a great brand and commercial lenders are looking for new brands," he said.

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