Wang found it interesting that the Victoria's Secret model wearing the "Sexy Little Geisha" was not Asian, but white. A few years ago, the company drew fire for a fashion show segment in which black models wore body paint and African-themed wraps.
Cornell University's Minh-Ha Pham, an academic whose research focuses on the convergences of race, gender, fashion and social media, said it was significant that the model was obviously white.
The image was a version of racial drag that has a long history in the United States, said Pham, curator of the blog Of Another Fashion. "Playing Oriental" can be traced back to 1900s Vaudeville stages, where playing out fantasies of racial exoticism (as a way of dealing with racial anxieties) was a wildly popular cultural activity.
"That Victoria's Secret produced such a line based on racial drag makes a kind of sense in that lingerie is so much about fantasy and fetish," Pham said. "Playing Oriental is clearly a part of that wheelhouse."
Pham found Victoria's Secret not to be very fashion-forward.
"I mean, is there anything worse than a stale fetish?" asked Pham. "This has been my gripe about racial provocations in fashion. They're often so boring."
What struck Wang when she looked at the photo was that it went against Victoria's Secret's brand of modern clothes for modern women.
For the time being anyway, Victoria's Secret is not a brand that speaks to Wang.