ThirdLove Publishes a Scathing Open Letter to Victoria’s Secret in a New York Times Ad

Start-up called out CMO Ed Razek's recent controversial comments

Razek appeared to made a not-so-subtle knock at ThirdLove, one of Victoria’s Secret’s buzziest competitors. ThirdLove
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Victoria’s Secret’s longtime CMO, Ed Razek—known to many as the man at the helm of the brand’s annual fashion show—remains in hot water since earlier this month, following comments he made about transgender and plus-size models in a Vogue interview.

Razek also appeared to made a not-so-subtle knock at ThirdLove, one of Victoria’s Secret’s buzziest competitors. In the interview, he said that Victoria’s Secret’s competitors “carp” at the brand for its annual fashion show “because we’re the leader” in the space. He then made a not-so-subtle reference to ThirdLove: “But we’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.”

Now, ThirdLove is responding. The direct-to-consumer lingerie brand, which launched five years ago, took out a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s New York Times to address Razek’s comments with an open letter by founder Heidi Zak.

Zak responded directly to Razek’s comment about Victoria’s Secret not being a customer’s “third love”: “We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: We may not have been a woman’s first love, but we will be her last.”

The top of the ad read “An Open Letter to Victoria’s Secret” in a pink typeface reminiscent of the hue for which Victoria’s Secret is known. Below, Zak detailed why she was “appalled” by Razek’s remarks, highlighting that his brand’s marketing is driven by the male gaze.

“You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women,” wrote Zak. “But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a ’42-minute entertainment special.’ Your show may be a ‘fantasy,’ but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents and serve their country.”

ThirdLove is hardly the only new lingerie business that has popped up in the market over the past few years. The vast majority of these brands—like Lively and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty line—have focused on a women-first ethos and size inclusivity. Zak also called out this difference between the brands, criticizing Victoria’s Secret for perpetuating “outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles.”

“ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret,” she wrote. “We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm.”

Zak continued: “It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy—let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend.”

Razek has since apologized for his remarks. Last week, it was announced that Victoria’s Secret’s CEO, Jan Singer, is leaving the company.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the brand marketing editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.