(Adds detail on Razek's retirement in pars 8 to 10)
By Rachel Savage
LONDON, Aug 6 (Openly) - Victoria's Secret has hired Valentina Sampaio as its first transgender model, her agent said on Tuesday, as the struggling lingerie brand seeks to modernise its image.
Daniel Robson at Premier Model Management in London, confirmed the Brazilian model had signed a contract with Victoria's Secret, but declined to comment further.
Sampaio posted a backstage Instagram photo of herself in a white dressing gown on a shoot this week, with the hashtags #diversity and #new #vspink #campaign, referring to Pink, the brand launched in 2002 aimed at younger women.
Victoria's Secret, famed for the jewel-encrusted bras and dazzling "angel" wings worn by supermodels at its annual fashion show, is battling falling sales as more women shift to cheaper bralettes and sports bras.
The high-profile lingerie retailer is rethinking its annual fashion show, after criticism that it is sexist and out of touch as network television viewing figures have slumped.
Victoria's Secret and L Brands did not respond to requests for comment on Sampaio's contract.
The decision to use a transgender model follows a backlash against comments by marketing chief of parent company L Brands, Ed Razek, in Vogue last year, when he said he would not use trans or plus-size models "because the show is a fantasy".
Razek announced his retirement this week in an undated email to staff, seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"There are few with Ed's passion and talent in this industry," L Brands' chief executive Les Wexner said in an accompanying note.
"But I have faith in our incredible teams, talent and product, and I look forward to the future as we grow and change."
Sampaio, who has appeared on magazine covers including Vogue Paris, Vogue Brasil and Elle Mexico, is one of a growing number of high-profile trans models, amid pressure for the fashion industry to become more diverse and inclusive.
Razek apologised on Twitter last year for his "insensitive" comment on trans models, saying, "We've had transgender models come to castings ... And like many others, they didn't make it."
"I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are," said a statement on Victoria's Secret's account.
(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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