Darren Barnet Talks Victoria’s Secret, Men’s Lingerie and the Future – WWD

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Darren Barnet is wearing Pink.

In fact, the “Never Have I Ever” star and brand ambassador says he’s a huge fan of Pink’s gender-neutral assortment. 

Darren Barnet in Pink’s gender-neutral collection.

Courtesy Photo

“Honestly, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the line itself,” Barnet told WWD over the phone. “It really is stuff that I wear all the time; it’s stuff that’s very comparable to stuff that I’ve worn in my own style and my own collection. I wear it around the house. I have worn it, literally, on a [red] carpet before and taken pictures with it. I just did a photo shoot in a magazine with it. I’ve traveled with it; I wear it on the plane.”

Right now that travel includes a trip to the Dominican Republic, where the rising star is shooting his latest film, after which he’ll fly off to his next movie locale. “And potentially another show,” Barnet explained. “I’m super busy right now.”

Darren Barnet Pink Victoria's Secret

Actor and Pink brand ambassador Darren Barnet in pieces from Pink’s gender-neutral collection.

Courtesy Photo

This past spring he did, however, find time to become a Pink brand ambassador — the innerwear and loungewear brand’s first male ambassador — as it launched a new gender-neutral collection. 

As part of the partnership, Barnet served as a judge on this year’s selection committee for the fourth annual Pink With Purpose Project alongside fellow brand ambassadors model Remi Bader and R&B duo Chloe x Halle. The initiative awards $25,000 grants to 10 young people, between the ages of 18 and 28, to help them finance local projects and causes. The latest batch of winners, which the brand will reveal Tuesday, were all women. But Pink representatives said the scholarship is open to both women and men. 

Darren Barnet Pink Victoria's Secret

Actor and brand ambassador Darren Barnet, far right, poses with the recipients of the fourth annual Pink With Purpose Project scholarship.

Courtesy Photo

“The Pink With Purpose Project was a really fulfilling experience for me,” Barnet said. “Seeing the genuine smiles and joy on the girls’ faces when they won this grant to fuel a project that they found to be, you know, going with all the Pink guidelines of inclusivity and community, was really rewarding for me.”

So is empowering women, something that both Pink’s parent company Victoria’s Secret & Co. and the actor have said is important to them. In the case of the former, Victoria’s Secret has spent the last few years trying to rebrand itself as an “advocate for women,” in the midst of declining sales, the #MeToo Movement and consumers’ desire for more inclusive products and marketing materials. Victoria’s Secret has responded by adding plus-sizes, transgender and disabled models to its lineup, eliminated the near-perfect Angels and its annual fashion show, launched a gender-neutral tween brand called Happy Nation and formed the VS Collective, among other things. 

So far the reactions have been mixed. While the firm met Wall Street’s expectations last quarter, some consumers are not buying the lingerie giant’s makeover. 

Most recently, TikTok creator Jax’s song “Victoria’s Secret” caused a viral backlash. So much so that Pink chief executive officer Amy Hauk issued an apology to consumers on Instagram. 

“We make no excuse for the past,” Hauk wrote on the platform. “And we’re committed to regaining your trust. Our transformation is a journey, and every day we are working hard to advocate for all women.” 

Barnet meanwhile, said his passion for female empowerment stemmed from growing up around so many strong women, namely his mother, two sisters and grandmother. 

“I was never raised in a place where I didn’t see women empowered; women to me have always been the most powerful force,” he said. “[But] the older I got, the more I got into the workforce, whatever business that was in, I would see how lopsided it could be. [Still] I always knew the power that women carry within themselves, being raised by very powerful women. I think the world is definitely shifting right now. So I love the shift. I pray it keeps shifting and I think Pink has a strong leg in that fight.” 

The actor added that Victoria’s Secret’s transformation has “been a positive change in the right direction. And I think the incentive is there and I’m excited to see what is more to come.” 

Darren Barnet Pink Victoria's Secret

Darren Barnet in pieces from Pink’s gender-neutral collection. Pink is owned by Victoria’s Secret & Co.

Courtesy Photo

While Barnet admitted that he “wasn’t very educated on the brand” when Pink first approached him (“I kind of took it as, it was a girl’s line,” he said), his perspective has since shifted.  

“When Pink came to me, initially, I was like, ‘What does this mean?’” he explained. “But then I saw that they were doing a gender-free line. It kind of opened up my eyes to [the brand] a lot more. So, I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan [before the partnership]. I knew it was a very popular and, you know, a very widespread brand. But, yeah, when Pink came to me it kind of opened up a whole new world in my eyes in terms of what it was. 

“It’s interesting that clothes are clothes and what you’re told to wear is definitely a construct of your environment and what you grow up with, and, you know, I think you should just wear what makes you comfortable and not be judged or judge others upon that,” Barnett continued. “I’m a pretty open-minded person.”

That includes the recent growth in the men’s lingerie category. The actor said he’d “have to see it before” he could decide if he’d wear it. “But if I saw something and it looked comfortable, you know, and I thought it was cool, then yeah,” Barnet said.

He’s also open to future fashion collaborations, if the fit is right. 

“I’m just getting my toes wet,” Barnet said. “And I think it’s been awesome doing that with Pink, because it’s been such an easy and fluid and amazing process. So, yeah, the answer is yes. If it is something organic to me; if it’s something I can get behind, then for sure.”

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