So how did Victoria Beckham turn a few dresses into a £34 million fashion business?
Her mainline label started eight years ago with just 10 dresses. Today, she’s making revenue of £34 million – putting her on track to be the breadwinner in Brand Beckham. What’s the secret to her success?
In a season in which independent fashion businesses are struggling and the demands placed upon creative directors are said to have contributed to high profile resignations at the houses of Dior, Lanvin and Alexander Wang, as well as the closure this month of Jonathan Saunders’ fashion label, Victoria Beckham’s fashion company has turned over £34m, increasing its turnover by £9m from the previous year. How is she kicking the trend?
Her eight-year-old label now employs 150 people at studios in London, an office in New York and a gargantuan three-floor store on Dover Street in London. In 2016 a store will open in Hong Kong. She shows her mainline collection, Victoria Beckham, at New York fashion week and a secondary less expensive line, Victoria, Victoria Beckham (or VVB), which she personally talks through to selected press by appointment.
Named Entrepreneur of the Year by Management Today magazine in 2014, her business has also won her two British Fashion Award and a nomination for designer of the year at this year’s ceremony, where she and husband David Beckham sat at the same table as the industry power-houses Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour (oh to be a fly on that table cloth). Anyone who discounted her fashion line as a vanity project has been steadily proven wrong.
Beckham’s initial post-Spice Girls foray into fashion began with denim and sunglasses licensing deals that traded on her old love affair with bling and humour (initially the jeans had embroidered crowns on the back, harking back to the days when she was Queen of Beckingham Palace), but soon Beckham and her team foresaw that a more discreet approach may serve them better to both win over the fashion industry and take a slice of the luxury fashion pile.
One of Beckham’s greatest and unacknowledged talents is that she has had the humility to listen and learn. As she told The Telegraph last month, “There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, and I learn from that and better myself. I’m not expecting anyone to be sycophantic in any way, I never expected that.”
When the crowns came off, the denim line began to be quietly acknowledged by fashion editors as a quality proposition. Then the bags launched – seriously luxurious, jet-set affairs – and it was clear that she was onto something. By the time she introduced her first ready-to-wear line – a collection of 10 dresses personally (and humbly) presented by Beckham to fashion editors in New York, buyers and press were already taking her seriously.
The dresses – admittedly produced in tiny numbers – sold out. Buyers wanted more and the line grew accordingly into the two full collections she has now. From the beginning she has worked with Melanie Clark, her head of collections, introduced to her by Roland Mouret, and Tracy Lowe, head of sourcing. “I have a great team of people who work with me. I’m not doing this on my own,” she said. “It’s not about me as a celebrity. The product is good. The quality is good. The sell-through is good.”
Anita Barr, Harvey Nichols’ buying director, backed that up telling The Telegraph, “We’ve experienced a huge appetite for the label season after season, and the growth for both her mainline and the Victoria, Victoria Beckham diffusion line isn’t slowing down. The cuts of her pieces suit a number of shapes and sizes and this has made her label one of the most desirable in the business.”
However, it does the business no harm at all to have Beckham as the face of the brand. With the amount of press interest that surrounds her, and a fan club that has grown up with her over the course of almost two decades, she is a 360 degree walking, talking advertising hoarding. Even before she was a designer and a fashion ‘insider’ what she wore caused endless debate. As her style has evolved, developing from WAG to body-con sophisticate and more recently to flat-shoe wearing, slouchy trousered minimalist, her wardrobe has continued to be a talking point. Victoria Beckham wears it well – and these days she sells it well too.