Having turned to French experts to overhaul her struggling business, Victoria Beckham is seeking the highest validation of the fashion world with her first runway show in Paris on Friday.
The former Spice Girl, 48 — who has been away from the catwalk for two years — joins Paris Fashion Week after a long stint presenting her clothes in New York and a brief dalliance with London.
Her sophisticated office and evening wear has been a surprise hit with fashionistas ever since her debut show in 2008, confounding those who expected her to be another celebrity dilettante.
But despite having 250 global outlets selling her clothes, 30 million followers on Instagram and one of the most famous husbands in the world, Beckham’s company has always struggled to turn a profit.
In a bid to turn things around, she has recruited top French talent: her chairman is Ralph Toledano, ex-president of the French Federation for Haute Couture and Fashion, and her CEO is Marie Leblanc de Reynies, former lead buyer at Paris shopping mecca Printemps.
“Victoria is not from the fashion world. She threw herself into the business and at a certain point, she needed to structure, organise and bring some order to the house, which is what we’ve been doing for the past four years,” Toledano told AFP.
Chic evening wear was always going to struggle during the pandemic, and reports this summer showed the label had £54 million in debt, and had to cut prices and staff to stay afloat.
But a successful cosmetics line, launched in 2019, has helped trim losses, and the team hopes to break even in the coming months.
Beckham has called her personal fame a “double-edged sword” for the business.
“Are other brands under the scrutiny that mine is under every time we file (results)? Absolutely not,” she told Vogue.
“But how many other brands have the luxury of getting the attention when they want it?”
– ‘A lot of expectation’ –
Her team is upbeat: “We’ve defined a strategy, combined two pret-a-porter lines, found the right price-point… now it’s time to enter the big league,” said Toledano.
That means Paris — throwing Beckham into the loftiest and most scrutinised of fashion weeks.
“She’s a bit intimidated, she’s someone very humble,” said Toledano.
“There’s a lot of expectation. For someone who entered fashion without training, there’s a hope that Paris will be a sort of crowning moment,” he added.
Paris Fashion Week is a way for Beckham to validate her status “as a designer and not just a celebrity,” said Benjamin Simmenauer, a professor at the French Institute of Fashion.
London and New York are more focused on the commercial side of the business, as well as “audacious young designers”, while Paris “has a more creative and historical” side, Simmenauer told AFP.
It was a chance for her to shed the last of her image as an ex-Spice Girl, he added.
“Presenting in Paris is proof that she is truly dedicated to the project, not just…