As I mentioned on Rarely Wears Lipstick last month, Victoria’s Secret opened its doors to the UK in July. I wanted to review one of the stores but, after reading some bloggers’ experiences and seeing their photos of the flagship store, I was well aware that it’s probably not my kind of thing. So, in the interest of balance, I asked a few of my friends to review it alongside my slightly less ranty burlesque alter-ego. Two Americans and two Brits: we are sceptic, fan, enthusiast and… intrigued. So, what did we think?
The Long Time Buyer – Kinki no Neko
Having lived most of my life in the States, Victoria’s Secret has never been a special occurrence for me. That is, until I lived in London. Needless to say, when they made their grand appearance here, I had to check it out for myself, and see how it compared with the US equivalent. To put it mildly, this VS is a bit more over the top. I discovered from talking with the lady in the VIP area (another London Bond Street speciality) that this is the only VS in the world that owns the building, and could therefore go hog wild with the decorating.
Many things remained the same; the store carried all the same styles and fashions in an array of bright colours. The attendants peppered the store with their tape measures, ready to assist and/or shoe-horn their way in. The dressing rooms were posh. The one unsurprisingly different thing was the price. What currently makes the difference for me is the lack of online presence. When in the States I could shop online and save 50% off the already cheaper US storefront prices, here there is no option. The prices seem absurd for the product, and I feel they are likely to lose footing in the mainstream as a result.
The Former Lover – Dharma Grrl
In the US I was a dedicated Victoria’s Secret customer who bought online and even had a store credit card. Having been away for five years, I’ve obviously had to shift my lingerie-buying habits to UK sellers. When I heard about Victoria’s Secret entering the UK market, I was both intrigued and sceptical. Why sceptical, you might ask? VS used to do my bra size measurements. After a few years of being in London, several of my friends told me they thought I was wearing the wrong size. I got re-sized recently and discovered that I had indeed been wearing entirely the wrong size all along. Since buying my new size my back problems have improved significantly; it has been such an improvement. With this in mind, I was particularly interested to have the London VS re-measure me.
A woman who worked at the incredibly glitzy New Bond Street shop (four floors with by far the most expensive Victoria’s Secret lingerie I’ve ever seen, including catwalk costumes decorating the place) measured me fully-clothed in the middle of the shop. She gave me the same measurements I’d been given by VS as a teen, and all the bras I subsequently tried in that size were far too small for me. I tried on the size recently recommended by a UK lingerie shop and voila – it fit properly! Otherwise my impressions of the shop, while aesthetically pleasing, were that the quality did not justify the prices and the very modern styles would not appeal to vintage fashionistas. VS’s quality and product diversity will need to improve to compete with UK-based lingerie sellers, not to mention their ability to take accurate measurements. In the meantime, I’ll happily stick with What Katie Did.
The Utter Sceptic – Miss Lolly Pops
The Bond Street flagship store, with its blacked out windows and shiny staircase, looks like a cross between a sex shop and Stringfellow’s. It’s kinda how I would imagine an Essex nightclub to look like if it were trying to be “classy”. The store is themed: sexy stuff on the ground floor (including perfume), teen stuff downstairs (too hideous for me to even enter), and more casual stuff upstairs (including VS sweat pants and pyjamas). Rather than going for seasonal collections, they seem to be simply producing every bra style in All The Colours. This resulted in far too much choice and therefore quite a headache for indecisive old me. Perhaps that was due to the perfume though! Credit where credit’s due, their complete and utter dedication to the moulded plunge bra has to be seen to be believed. However, £50 for something that looks like it came from La Senza is asking a bit much. Sadly, I had to leave before I even encountered the reported hideously bad fitting service. My senses were somewhat… overwhelmed!
The Glamour Puss – Honey Schnapps
Victoria’s Secret on Bond Street is a massive Barbie palace opposite Fenwick’s (allegedly upset by their new brash American neighbours). Through the main entrance, you enter a shiny corridor lined with pink chandeliers adorned with bow pendants. The main staircase is a mega glass structure with a huge video backdrop of Victoria’s Secret shows. The staff are approachable and smile a lot, there are displays of fantasy costumes worn by ‘Angel’ models, a VIP room, even the lift button lights up pink and there are toilets so you never have to leave the palace!
My favourite range is Very Sexy on the shiny black ground floor. Blinged up push-up bras and thongs in loud colours and nightwear such as sheer leopard gowns – my kitsch heaven. Other ranges include the sporty Love collection (blinged up hoodies!) on the pastel-coloured Lower Ground, and the everyday Always Sexy (they love that word!) on the bright pink 1st floor. If you’re looking for grown-up sophistication then Victoria’s Secret isn’t for you. It’s girly, flirty and brash which explains the high number of teenage customers. If a Disney princess wanted lingerie for a sexy night in, she’d got to Victoria’s Secret on Bond Street.