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The Business Behind Naomi Osaka and Victoria’s Secret

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The tennis superstar and Evolve co-founder is now the lingerie giant’s first individual collaborator in its 45-year history.

Tyra Banks. Adriana Lima. Heidi Klum.

For decades, Victoria’s Secret has gone about building the strongest label in lingerie on the backs of supermodels. The televised fashion shows, massive mall displays, and curated catalogs all aligned with archetypes of beauty, power, and perfection they both build and amplified.

Then in August 2021, an awakening happened.

Naomi Osaka Victoria's Secret
Photo by Brad Ogbanna

Announcing a change of course after slipping sales, VS realized that consumers related to real people more than top model contestants.

Values such as creativity, compassion, and inclusion spoke to the next generation in a way it never had.

In order to appeal to an evolving world, the company’s ambassadors had to as well.

When considering creative women of excellence and inclusion, one name rose to the top: Naomi Osaka.

“It was such an interesting time for VS because they were going through a big rebrand,” Stuart Duguid, Evolve co-founder and Osaka’s agent, told Boardroom in December.

“They were looking to work with not just supermodels but people with substance and a story behind them.”

Of substance, Osaka has plenty.

Aside from being a multi-millionaire due to her tennis talents, the Forbes favorite is both a boss and superhero to Generation Z in America and abroad.

The four-time Grand Slam winner and mother-to-be is a model like previous faces of Victoria’s Secret. On top of that, she’s an active fashion designer for brands such as Nike and Levi’s while also earning her stripes in the sports business world by co-founding her own agency, Evolve.

Adding another proper partner to her laundry list of carefully curated collaborators, Osaka looks to lead Victoria’s Secret — a 45-year-old institution worth over $3 billion — into a new era.

“When Naomi first met VS, she told them that she loved going to the stores as a kid with her mom but there was no one on the walls that looked like her,” said Stuart. “She found it very inaccessible. Now they’ve revamped that model and the business is headed in a different direction with different leadership.”

So, just how did this deal go down, and what does his lingerie line mean for Osaka and VS?

Boardroom spoke with the Evolve team at the Naomi Osaka x Victoria’s Secret shoot to grasp the bigger picture.

Paid in Full

These days on the internet, dozens of collaborations will debut on streetwear sites and high fashion platforms.

The difference between those endeavors and what Naomi Osaka has just landed with Victoria’s Secret? Her talented team at Evolve empowers her to partner in ways that not only elevate her own personal brand but benefit her in a manner that helped her earn $60 million in 2022 alone.

“This deal is a great example,” said Stuart. “This is all Naomi’s own collection of sleepwear. When we signed with Victoria’s Secret, it certainly was not to be a model, it was to be involved with design and have her own line with a royalty. It’s a business in itself and those are the type of things that get her excited.”

Naomi Osaka Victoria's Secret
Photo by Brad Ogbanna

With respect to the talent that’s worked with VS in the past, this is a far different set-up than the international juggernaut has ever partaken in before.

Structurally, Osaka is secure in receiving royalties for her involvement in the items that are already available online and will be featured in flagship stores not just across America but also all the way to China and the UK.

What makes the deal even sweeter is she’s the first female entity — an individual icon and not a brand in the company sense — to collaborate with VS as a designer.

It’s a red carpet that Victoria’s Secret has tucked for 45 years. That is until Osaka arrived.

“She loves fashion design,” Evolve’s Carly Duguid told Boardroom in December. “It’s her biggest thing.”

With the line, ranging from the blousy Boyfriend Dress Shirt to the silky Short Robe, Osaka is stamping her ethos over one of fashion’s most massive entities.

Models on the website, which include Osaka herself, vary in ethnicity and body type with sizing scaling from XS to XXL.

Though the sleepwear takes the cake in regard to Osaka’s own modeling efforts, the collection’s Forever Bra prominently features VS’s first-ever pad that can be fully recycled in a closed-loop system.

It’s an attention to detail that aligns with Osaka’s values and ultra-involved approach to collaborating and creating.

“We had meetings in London, Zooms, and Naomi has been super hands-on,” Carly said. “From prints, colors, silhouettes, and everything she wanted in this collection.”

This week’s launch with Victoria’s Secret is just another step for Osaka in her fashion ascent.

For those that know her well, it’s all aimed at a much loftier goal.

Runway Royalty

From clay to court, Osaka has established herself as an all-timer in tennis, turning pro at 16 and beating Serena Williams for her first WTA title at only 20.

In the boardroom, she’s equally accomplished, having founded Evolve in 2022. In only a matter of months, she’s signed talent like Nick Kyrgios and Ons Jabeur.

But what if we told you that neither tennis nor business is her biggest passion?

Naomi Osaka Victoria's Secret
Photo by Brad Ogbanna

“She’s always been big into sketching and designing,” Carly says. “I’ve always known that about her, but the world didn’t know until we started doing the collaborations.”

With both corporations and consumers, her individuality has connected.

“She has a very unique sense of style,” says Carly.

Over the course of her career, Osaka has leveraged her platform in professional tennis to take her talents to the world of the runway.

Enamored by all things apparel from streetwear to high fashion, the feeling has been mutual as an array of top companies have tapped her to design, model, and collaborate on collections and campaigns.

“Design is my true passion,” Osaka told Boadroom in 2022. “I think my strategy has always been to collaborate with the best designers in the world at the best brands — like Louis Vuitton, Levi’s, TAG Heuer, Nike — to learn as much as I can from those experiences.” 

So far, the education of Osaka and the backing of her team at Evolve have opened doors that have been shut for nearly half a century.

At Victoria’s Secret, not only is Naomi taking charge in leading a $3 billion business in a bold new direction, she’s taking home both a royalty for her design duties and endless instruction as to how to run a label at such high heights.

“I’ve really been a sponge and have tried to absorb a wealth of knowledge,” Osaka says. “At some point, it’s no secret that I’d like to design for my own brand.”

Seeing the billion-dollar brand Rihanna has built with Fenty and the recent appointment of Pharrell at Louis Vuitton, the sky is the limit in regard to Osaka’s ascent in the world of lingerie, luxury, and everything in between.

With Victoria’s Secret, she’s doing it her way and in a way the label never has before.

Quite a paradigm shift for a boss lady and designer who’s only 25.

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About The Author
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook is a Staff Writer covering culture, sports, and fashion for Boardroom. Prior to signing on, Ian spent a decade at Nice Kicks as a writer and editor. Over the course of his career, he's been published by the likes of Complex, Jordan Brand, GOAT, Cali BBQ Media, SoleSavy, and 19Nine. Ian spends all his free time hooping and he's heard on multiple occasions that Drake and Nas have read his work, so that's pretty tight.