Victoria Beckham’s transformation from pop celebrity and tabloid icon to the force behind a covetable fashion line is an extraordinary one. Indeed, when the Spice Girls burst onto the cultural landscape in 1996, it would have seemed unlikely that 20 years later she would be presiding over a label now fêted for its sleek, restrained lines.
But to hear Victoria Beckham tell it, she didn’t have ‘any grand expectations’ when making the transition from music to fashion. ‘I was just focused on creating clothes that I felt proud of and passionate about,’ says Beckham of launching her eponymous line in 2008. ‘The fact that the brand has since taken off in the way it has has been very humbling.’
Now, the label boasts its own handsome flagship store on London’s Dover Street, counts Net-A-Porter, Liberty and Barneys among its many stockists, and recorded a turnover of £34m in 2014.
But the signals that Beckham had an affinity for design were there at the start. She was the stylish Spice Girl who stood out amid her flashier bandmates. As her and her husband David’s fame grew, they embraced their roles as fashion plates with a mutual fondness for Gucci and Versace.
'I always knew that fashion was something I wanted to pursue,’ says Beckham. ‘After the Spice Girls, I had time to think about what I wanted to do next. I was raising a young family and supporting David in his career. But while I was doing that I was laying the foundations for my fashion business, working with brands and learning everything I could.’
After testing the waters by collaborating with denim label Rock & Republic in 2004, Beckham’s own denim line followed in 2007. She then unveiled her Victoria Beckham brand in September 2008, winning rave reviews. American Vogue predicted it would sell ‘not on the power of [Beckham’s] name but the sophistication of [the dresses’] cut and fit.’
While the designer’s first collections – created, like her current output, with a team based at her Battersea atelier – put the focus on corseted, constructed dresses that hugged the body, in recent seasons her designs have conveyed a more understated polish, with softened, relaxed lines. Her autumn 2016 collection, in a palette of navy and dark green with flashes of orange, spotlights slip dresses with bubble hems, oversized wool coats in houndstooth check, polo-necks in optical stripes, and pointy-toed, flat monk shoes.
‘I think, like a lot of women, my style has changed as I’ve got older and grown in confidence,’ says Beckham. ‘I’ve loosened up, I want to wear pieces that are easy and effortless. I dress for myself these days, I’m not trying to impress anyone else.’
And as a household name, the designer has seen the nature of being a celebrity undergo seismic changes in her 20-year career. Indeed, Beckham no longer has to turn to the media to tell her story. Now, her Instagram feed, peppered with images of her collections, her four children and famous husband, and goofy Snapchat selfies, provides her customers – and fans – with a peek into the world of brand Beckham. ‘I still find it incredible to think I can reach millions of people across the world at the touch of my finger,’ she says.
The designer has also managed to make a bold statement with the arresting Dover Street flagship. Beckham says that she chose to work with architect Farshid Moussavi on the space, which is housed in an imposing Georgian building, as she was drawn to the architect’s ‘inspiring’ and ‘fresh’ perspective.
Rendered in a palette of grey concrete, stainless steel and glass, with touches of pale gold and walnut to soften the lines, the store’s uncompromising mood is emblematic of Beckham’s own aesthetic evolution. ‘I wanted the retail spaces to be very distinctive, so I’m really thrilled that we were able to translate my design DNA into the store,’ she says. A second flagship has since been opened in Hong Kong, also designed by Moussavi.
The gallery-like London space has also quite literally taken on that purpose, playing host to a number of British artists’ works. ‘Art is a real source of inspiration for me,’ says Beckham. ‘It could be something as simple as a colour or a pattern, but it can often provide a fresh influence, or [an] idea that pushes you onwards when you’re embarking on the creative design process each season.’
Last year, British artist Eddie Peake created an installation for the store, daubing its unblemished white walls with blue acrylic paint. And for a party to mark the store’s first anniversary last September, Martin Creed created a custom installation of his Work No 2497: Half the air in a given space. Creed crammed the store’s entrance with scores of white balloons, so that guests had to wade through them to enter the party.
But despite earning recognition from the art and fashion worlds, Beckham isn’t resting on her laurels. She has now moved into beauty products, with a limited edition make-up collection with Estée Lauder that launched in September. The designer was particularly excited about dreaming up the packaging. ‘I went into the Estée Lauder archives and what we have created is inspired by their original 1950s packaging. If it’s in your handbag I want you to feel good about it,’ she says, describing the product design as ‘very cool, very sleek, luxurious and desirable’.
And while Beckham is enjoying this new challenge, she won’t stop there. ‘I’m looking forward to growing the brand even further – expanding into new markets, with new retail spaces. I’m very focused on building a label that’s going to be around for decades to come.’ Given that Beckham’s steely focus has already propelled her from pop product to a fashion authority, that wouldn’t be a surprise.
Victoria Beckham is one of our 20 Game-Changers. Read about the other 19 here
As featured in the October 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*211)