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Checking Out: Albert Gilkey

Victoria’s Secret’s SVP of Design and Visual is leading a campaign to change its message and “uplift” its customer base — with a hug

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Checking Out:  Albert Gilkey
Albert Gilkey
The Campaign Manager

What’s it like dealing with perhaps one of the most widely known and recognized brands?
It’s very exciting. The customer has changed, society has changed, retailing has changed, and Victoria’s Secret is committed to changing with it. We’ve transformed our message, our stores, our branding, our products – everything – to meet our customers’ needs.

Then again, you’ve worked with perhaps the greatest roster of brands in your career.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked for companies that understood their brands and were committed to them. Barneys knew how to put on a show. Our watchwords were taste-love-humor. The cleverness, the cheekiness. But also, it was done very cost-effectively.

At Armani Exchange, nobody was more protective of the brand he had built than Giorgio. We were opening stores at scale, creating experiences that had to translate across many stores. I had to learn to communicate to the stores the story we wanted to tell consistently and across the country.

When I went to Coach, it was a $1 billion handbag company. When I left 10 years later, it was a $4 billion business, an all-gender lifestyle brand, a New York brand with a rich history. That was the story we were telling – great brand, great products. I like to say it was combining the magic and the logic.

And then, of course, came Victoria’s Secret. The most intriguing, most challenging brand of them all.

Checking Out:  Albert Gilkey 📷 Musthafa Photography

It’s been a busy year of campaign launches, hasn’t it?
Whew! It began late last year with our first Store of the Future. Brighter, more inviting, more open. In the spring, our Love Cloud campaign of new bras and panties. In August, our Icon campaign featured some of our celebrated Angels, like Gisele Bündchen, Naomi Campbell and Adriana Lima.

There was My Wings, My Way, a new runway campaign with a completely diverse group of models. And then, of course, was ‘The Tour ‘23,’ which told our story in a completely different way. And most recently, we launched our adaptive products for women with disabilities in October. The overall message is that we’re here for all women: inclusive, diverse, welcoming.

Sort of like a big group hug.
[laughs] Exactly! Like a group hug. I love that.

Why the most intriguing and challenging?
We had to reexamine the brand and we started a journey to become something else – something more. Today, we celebrate being more welcoming and inclusive and the customer now gets that message through everything we’re doing.

How did this all start for you?
I grew up in St. Louis. My mother used to take me to the mall, and I found it to be magical. There was a thing about malls in those days: They were optimistic, fun, exciting and always changing. My mother was in marketing and public relations and very interested in fashion. She ingrained in me that how you presented yourself – your brand – was critical.

What brought you to New York?
The same thing that brings every young Midwestern American to New York. The magic! I went to FIT, and a design professor there said always to be curious, no matter where it takes you. Always see, hear, and be open to new ideas, new ways of experiencing and doing things, anything. This city is the perfect proving ground for that.

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