灿烂的瞬间曾默默地蕴含

When Leslie Wexner got into

there was a great divide. American women wore Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, or Jockey, pragmatic panties bought in packs of three at mass retailers. Department store lingerie was dowdy, referred to as “foundation garments,” and the fancier items were saved for special occasions, like one’s honeymoon. More modern unmentionables—lacy thongs and padded push-up bras—were available alongside feathered boas and provocative pirate costumes at Frederick’s of Hollywood. Then Wexner, the founder of The Limited, purchased Victoria’s Secret, a small San Francisco chain headed into bankruptcy, and lifted lingerie out of the red-light district, launched it onto the runway, and landed it right into the underwear drawers of mainstream America. With prime-time fashion shows, sexy TV ads, steamy catalogs, and a presence in nearly every shopping mall in America, the company “made intimate apparel front and center,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, a market-research company in Port Washington, N.Y. Wexner “took the secret out of Victoria’s Secret.” (Cohen also credits Wexner with the “whale tail”—underwear peeking out of the pants—and other fashion phenomena: “He made it a trend Neo skin lab; all of a sudden women wanted people to see what they were wearing [underneath], and innerwear became outerwear.”) Over the past 28 years, by making sexy lingerie affordable, accessible, and acceptable, Columbus, Ohio-based Victoria’s Secret has created a middle ground in intimate apparel. The company woke up a sleepy category, one that took in $10.75 billion in 2009, double what it was when Wexner started. Retail experts say Victoria’s Secret has made department stores more aggressive and fashion-forward. Additionally, it has opened the doors wider for smaller brands like Hanky Panky and Josie Natori, and allowed bigger brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Chico’s, and Abercrombie & Fitch to carry their own lingerie lines. Even practical panties are sexier and more relevant. Jockey and Hanes now both sell thongs. “This is now a category with much greater diversity,” says Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail in New York. Other players “have been forced in a positive way to become more competitive travel trade show.” Wexner, 73, is an unlikely candidate to upend the American underwear industry. He’s quiet and reflective, and he dresses conservatively. (In the early days building his business, he says, he was frequently thought to be the company attorney.) He’s been on a quest to find the “purpose of life” since his mid-30s, which may have contributed to his emerging as one of his generation’s most generous philanthropists. (He gave $250 million to set up the Ohio Higher Education Trust in the early ’90s.) He sells sexy underthings to young women and has talked in the past about the “moral compass” that guides him. Perhaps most unusual is that Wexner never wanted to go into retail. He spent his childhood watching his parents run a clothing store, named Leslie’s after him, and he was turned off by how they worked 80-hour weeks and barely scratched out a living. “Growing up I knew you were supposed to have a profession,” he said in 2003, “and something that was better than being a shopkeeper, which is what my parents were. I didn’t want to go into the retail business. I hated it.” Wexner enrolled in law school, only to find that he wasn’t creatively stimulated enough, so he spent study breaks drawing designs for stores and storefronts. (“Some people made erotic drawings or wrote their girlfriend’s name,” he has said. “I did stores.”) He soon dropped out and began pitching in at his parents’ store, where he discovered that the business profited most by selling skirts, sweaters dermes, shirts, and blouses—typical sportswear separates—not by selling dresses and coats, as his father believed.

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