Yes, being “Posh Spice” in the best-selling female group of all time was a great leg up, but Victoria Beckham’s remarkable achievements in the cutthroat fashion world are testament to an asset far more interesting than legacy and luck
by Hunt Ethridge
Victoria Beckham has been synonymous with fashion and celebrity, of course, long before she married former professional soccer player David Beckham in 1999 and formed one of the most influential power couples on the planet. After answering a March of 1994 advertisement in the British weekly newspaper The Stage requesting women for a casting call who were “street smart, extroverted, ambitious, and able to sing and dance,” she landed a gig for the Spice Girls, a fivesome pop group that would, between 1994 and 2000, become the best selling female group of all time, selling over 80 million records.
Those looking for “Posh Spice” to apply her notable looks in other realms didn’t have to wait long. February of 2000 marked her first appearance as a model at London Fashion Week, and not long after, she was named British ambassador for Dolce and Gabbana, and designed a limited-edition line for Rock & Republic in 2004 (mainly jeans for the high end of the brand).
In June of 2007, the then 33-year-old Beckham launched dvb Denim collection at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, along with an eyewear line, and since has become one of the most important names in mid-priced couture. She has won multiple fashion awards along the way, including 2011’s Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, 2013’s Glamour Award for Woman of the Decade, and this year she received an Order of the British Empire decoration from Prince William for her service to the fashion industry.
Yet, after a decade as a Spice Girl, she was nearly dismissed in the couture world before even entering it. With a line of fragrances, sunglasses and denim already in her name, her announcement in 2008 to launch a line of 10 designer dresses was met with raised eyebrows and a barely concealed sense of effete disdain. In short, a great many assumed that this “spray-tanned pop star” would simply slap her name on someone else’s mediocre design and call it a day. Even this author, when reviewing her second collection in February of 2009, couldn’t quite hide his surprise.
“I gleefully set out to critically flay this ‘singer’-cumdesigner,” I wrote. “Alas, no can do. Looking through only her second collection, the words “By Jove, she’s got it!” kept running through my head. This collection is why women should dress women. There is nothing fancy or ostentatious about her design, just pure simplicity.” Since then, Beckham has only gotten better, and now her brand rakes in more than $44 million a year.
So how has this mother of four earned and maintained a role as one of fashion’s most influential names? With a combination of humility, intelligence, style and drive, though having a supremely famous husband (and likewise Order of the British Empire recipient) didn’t hurt either.
For her first collection in 2008, Beckham did what she knew; her dresses were all form fitting (many in sheath design), with black the staple color and using fabrics such as organza, silk gazar, and taffeta. What was surprising was the restraint shown in hem lengths (three to four inches below the knee) and that the focus was on cut and quality, not bling. Public reactions were typically marked by surprise, with Vogue and the New York Times saying, respectively, “The woman formerly known as Posh Spice has launched a dress collection, and, believe it or not, it’s one of the hottest things going in New York this week,” and “It was a very impressive, accomplished collection, with not a single dud.”
Her second collection was under even more scrutiny. Doubling the size of the line allowed freedom to move her hemline both up into flirty cocktail dresses and down into gorgeous, flowing floor-length. While holding onto that form-fitting silhouette, she added more color, as well as some peplum, which resurfaces frequently in current designs.
With the success of Beckham’s third line, she solidified status as “real” designer and not a flash in the pan. For the first time, she started to open up the silhouette, adding A-line dresses, which gave her clothes movement and even more fun. That third effort also marked the jump from fashion “line” to “house,” in part because of the advent of a line of handbags to compliment the clothing. In 2011, she picked up Glamour’s Award for Accessories Designer, and also launched her first diffusion line, VVB, aimed at a younger and more playful audience.
Tapping back into her pre-couture days, in 2012 Beckham added a line of sunglasses to the growing brand. Entering 2014, her design widened further still, and coincided with an expansion of personal style choices; while she used to be all about bodycon, as her success (and perhaps, confidence) grew, she allowed herself to look and dress more relaxed.
The autumn/winter 2015 collection softened the silhouette even more, and introduced draped, loose sweaters, some with rounded/bunched sleeves. As more women felt comfortable in the designs, her appeal, and bottom line, grew.
This year, with multiple lines, bags, shoes, a partnership with Estée Lauder, and an estimated net worth of $310 million (not including her husband), Beckham’s place in the high-end world of style is cemented, but the 43-year-old’s appetite for increased reach and base has yet to be sated. Just debuted in April, Victoria Beckham for Target aims for a new price point, but she insists that this in no way dilutes the other brands. The collection is huge, with over 200 pieces, and includes plus sizes, girls’, baby, and kids’ designs. Light years away from her first efforts, it’s also flowy, comfortable, and not form fitting.
“I was inspired to create the Target line when I was pregnant with [daughter] Harper, and since its launch, the category has evolved into an established lifestyle collection,” Beckham said. “With Harper turning five, I felt it was the perfect time to extend into a more accessible price point and open the range up to include childrenswear for the first time.”
As a crew that relishes constructive feedback, we credit Beckham particularly for not getting bogged down in what didn’t work, tabloid expectation, and static pop cycles, but instead being able to look to new horizons. In these efforts, she realized that fans simply liked her and her designs for themselves and not for the amount of skin or sexiness therein, and so she was able to relax her style and start offering something for the everywoman. Bravo!