Girls On A Mission – How Victoria Beckham Is Making Her Mark On The Fashion World
From Posh Spice to football ‘WAG’ to successful fashion entrepreneur, Victoria Beckham has certainly accomplished a lot in her 44 years. Beckham rose to fame in 1994 as one-fifth of the all-female pop group, the Spice Girls. She was considered the ‘classy one’, with her black dresses and sleek bob. She married footballer David Beckham in 1999 and the pair became internationally known as ‘Posh and Becks’. They were the ‘It’ couple, the fashion inspiration for men and women everywhere, and this fashion consisted of his and her ensembles, spikey hair, and lots of leather. During the mid-noughties, Beckham lead a pack of stylish ‘WAGS’ – which included Cheryl Cole (who was then dating left-back Ashley Cole), Coleen Rooney (then girlfriend, now wife of Wayne Rooney), and Abbey Clancy (who was in the early stages of her relationship with Peter Crouch). They caused a storm at major sporting events like the 2006 World Cup in Germany with their denim short-shorts, oversized sunglasses, oversized handbags and skimpy tops.
These days, she’s best known as being a powerful influencer in the fashion world.
Her Start In The Fashion Industry
Like a lot of celebrities, Beckham’s fashion career started with design partnerships (or a series of licensing agreements) with established brands such as Linda Farrow for eyewear, rock & republic for denim, Coty for fragrances, and Samantha Thavasa. In an interview with Business Of Fashion, Beckham recalled these collaborations, saying: ‘At the time, I wanted to design and the opportunities that came up to work with these people. They had the setup so I went in as a designer and I loved it.’ These deals were more about using her Beckham status and name than the products, but it opened her up to the industry and by 2008, she was ready to go it alone. She recalled: ‘When I was in a position to bring everything in-house and own everything myself and fund everything, I jumped at the chance. Yes, I was walking away from a lot of money cutting off these license deals, but I had learnt as much as I could learn and I knew I wanted to do things differently.’
Launching Her Beckham Empire
Backed with the Beckham millions, and financial and business support from long-time pal Simon Fuller, Beckham got to work on designing her first collection under her own brand. Melanie Clark, who had worked for the designer Roland Mouret, became Beckham’s head designer – and the British fashion icon has always been open about the way she works, given her lack of training. She explained to the New York Times: ‘I can draw, but badly. I think that’s OK. No one’s expecting me to do it the normal way. When I’m starting work on the collection, I just sit with my team and talk to them about what I like, what I find inspiring, what I’m desiring, what I want to wear, what I haven’t done before.’
‘Beautiful’, ‘desirable’, and ‘classy’ were the words reviewers used to describe her first collection – a range of 10 dresses -- in September 2008. Lucy Yeomans, editor-in-chief of Porter magazine, remembers the first presentation of Beckham’s collection: ‘What was most impressive from the word go was the way she tackled it. It would have been so easy for her to have capitalised on her celebrity and had a big show and filled the front row with famous friends, and she actually did it in an intelligent, low-key way. I don’t even think David or the family went to any of [her later catwalk] shows until much further down the line. She went in quite humbly: ‘’I’m just starting out, this is what I’m doing’’.’
Becoming A Powerful Style Icon
After years of being considered a ‘laughing stock’ and reportedly turned away from fashion shows, Beckham has become one of the biggest names in the game with a critically acclaimed business that now boasts 400 stores in over 50 countries internationally, and offices in both London and New York. Her label has grown from dresses to suits, coats, handbags, and sunglasses – the designer’s signature accessory. In 2011, she won Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, in 2017 she was made OBE for her services to the fashion industry, and she has been praised for her charity work and her work for animal rights – she recently confirmed she would be following in the footsteps of Chanel by cutting exotic animal skins from her fashion line from Fall 2019 onward.
When we look at celebrity collaborations with brands, most of them have short lifespans – buying a dress designed by a celebrity tends to be a novelty factor for the first collection or two but interest soon drops as it’s difficult to sustain interest based on fame alone. Beckham’s celebrity and financial security might have given her the platform she needed to enter the fashion world, but her fame didn’t give her the long-term sales success – her dedication to the industry and understanding of what women really want to wear have led her to becoming the accomplished designer she is now.
Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter, described Beckham’s success perfectly: ‘Victoria is a successful businesswoman who juggles a busy life with family. She has a true understanding of what women want to wear and what makes them feel good in their day-to-day lives. In terms of aesthetic, bestsellers tend to be the wearable wardrobe staples that are timeless in style – whether it’s a great cashmere knit or silk blouse.’
To go with her status as a style icon, Beckham has retired Posh Spice’s skimpy hemlines and tight catsuits, and is now focused on a steady look that matches her creations – this can be characterised as being chic but simplistic, with an emphasis on sharp tailoring, structured silhouettes, and oversized styles (but you’ll never catch her without her signature oversized sunglasses!).