Like many men, Roy Raymond felt uncomfortable shopping for underwear for his wife. So he took his business savvy — as a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California — and created a place where he would feel comfortable shopping. With a $40,000 bank loan and $40,000 borrowed from relatives, he opened Victoria’s Secret in the Stanford Shopping Center in 1977. In its first year, the company earned $500,000. His concept of bringing lingerie to the masses was so successful that by 1982, when Raymond sold the company, his five stores and 42-page mail-order catalog were grossing $6 million a year. Though Raymond’s story ends tragically — he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge to commit suicide four years later — his brainchild boomed to even greater success. Thanks to Raymond’s ingenuity, women — and their husbands — can enjoy the increased cultural acceptance of shopping for undies. Today the company has over 1,000 stores in the U.S. and many more worldwide. Beyond that, the models, known as Angels — who walk in big-budget, televised fashion shows and deliver sultry poses in the pages of the catalog — have become such a part of pop culture, no one seems to notice how unusual it is to have stars like Heidi Klum and Gisele Bundchen hawking bras that sell for less than $100.
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