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Victoria’s Secret is no stranger to controversy, and now they’re getting even more negative attention from parents who think the company has crossed the line with its latest styles and marketing ploy.

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The brand’s PINK line was created for college-aged customers, but its newest campaign is accused of trying to appeal to even younger shoppers. The “Bright Young Things” slogan was used to promote PINK’s Spring Break collection, which included underwear printed with phrases like “Wild,” “Call Me,” and “Feeling Lucky?” alongside the brand’s signature brightly colored sweatpants, hoodies, t-shirts, and tank tops. Many parents mistook the newest styles as an entirely separate line made for middle school-aged girls.

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The chief financial officer and executive vice president of Limited Brands, Victoria’s Secret‘s parent company, may have contributed to this misunderstanding. Stuart Burgdoerfer was recently quoted as saying, “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK.”

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Diana Cherry, a Seattle mother of three daughters and one son, started the online petition that asked Victoria’s Secret to pull the “Bright Young Things” campaign from its website and stores. She states in the petition, “Sexualization of girls by marketers has been found to contribute to depression, eating disorders, and early sexual activity – and this new ad campaign is a glaring example of a culture forcing girls to grow up too fast.” Cherry doesn’t want brands to tell her daughters what it means to be sexy or to convince her son that girls have to dress a certain way. The petition currently has over 3,000 signatures and a Facebook page was created to support parents who agree with Cherry’s argument.

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Evan Dolive, a father of a 3-year-old girl from Texas, also wrote an open letter to Victoria’s Secret about how the company and its designs send the wrong message to all young girls. He stated, “I don’t want my daughter to ever think that her self-worth and acceptance by others is based on the choice of her undergarments. I don’t want my daughter to ever think that to be popular or even attractive she has to have emblazon words on her bottom.”

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Victoria’s Secret responded to the petition and to all the Facebook comments with an official statement on their own Facebook page. The company insists they have no plan to introduce a new collection for pre-college women. They confirmed that “Bright Young Things” was simply a slogan they came up with to promote their Spring Break line.

Despite this assertion, Victoria’s Secret may still have pulled the styles in question. Product pages for the panties link back to the brand’s homepage, but it’s unclear if the company made any major changes to appease all the angry parents.

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What is also unclear is what made these parents link Burgdoerfer’s quote directly to styles from the Spring Break line, as there’s no indication that he was speaking about these styles in particular. Plus, they weren’t being marketed any differently than all the brand’s previous styles, so why would parents assume the newest collection wasn’t for the same group of women the rest of the brand’s collections were for? The petition and harsh comments on Facebook seem like an extreme overreaction. All the outrage has stemmed from a big misunderstanding.

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Even if the company planned to introduce a new line of apparel and undergarments aimed at younger customers, should Victoria’s Secret feel obligated to only sell products that will keep parents happy, or should they be allowed to sell what they think will be most profitable?

What do you think – should parents be responsible for keeping their kids away from Victoria’s Secret, or should the brand censor itself to avoid influencing youngsters that might see the styles its selling?

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