The New York Times' T Magazine recently featured a piece on Spice Girl-turned-designer, Victoria Beckham. T Mag's Sarah Lyall sets the stage literally ("closed-circuit cameras, the nondisclosure-agreement-wielding security guard, the Damien Hirst pictures") and figuratively ("the last few years, a new kind of renown has been creeping up on Victoria Beckham, an unfamiliar phenomenon in a Kardashian world where people are famous for just being famous. The renown that comes from having a serious job and being seriously good at it"). She also gives a brief overview of Beckham's designs: "A collection of beautifully made, elegant dresses that are chic and understated and ultra-flattering" and elaborated by saying that Beckham "knows her product intimately—they reflect her tastes: nothing busy, very few prints, color used sparingly, lots of calm clean grays, creams, navys, blacks."
In conclusion, Lyall states that Victoria Beckham "has established herself as a powerful force in the industry, proving again and again that she is far more than another celebrity slapping her name onto someone else’s product." And while this may be true, it must be considered against the fact that unlike most designers or creative directors, Beckham has had no formal training in fashion, something she has not hidden. Speaking to The Independent in November 2015, she said: “I have a different way of expressing myself because I haven't had that formal training.” She added: “I've learnt a lot, in the last seven years. I've learnt a lot very, very quickly. And I continue to learn.”
In a recent interview with the New York Times she described her design process: “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. We have fit models we work with, and we’ll either work the fit model or we’ll drape on a stand. I can draw, but badly. I think that’s O.K. No one’s expecting me to do it the normal way. And that’s a good thing.”
What can certainly be said of Beckham’s collection is that she has managed to do what few celebrities have done before: Turn out a high fashion collection. Writing for the Independent, Alexander Fury noted: “Beckham has elevated the celebrity line beyond a simple, simple-minded marketing exercise, like Gloria Vanderbilt's signature-stitched Seventies jeans. She's also avoided the pitfalls of celebrity-cum-fashion designers past, such as Jennifer Lopez's Sweetface, or the House of Deréon line launched with the support of Beyoncé Knowles. Neither made the transition to high-end. They were seen as cheap, the famous names a ploy to hike up prices. Contrast that with Beckham's brand: a coat from her current spring collection, similar to the white one worn by the designer in her much-parodied 73 Questions viral video for American Vogue's website, retails for £2,250. Her high-end handbags cost around the same, but depending on material can reach £18,000.”
It comes as little surprise – given her lack of formal design training and given the success of the collection – that Beckham has a lot of help. That help comes in the form of a design team, something that is completely commonplace for a creative director, someone who directs and often does not design. Per Fury, “What Beckham has learned to do is direct her team towards a goal she determines – she frequently talks in the collective, when discussing the process of constructing her collections. But her opinions seem single-minded, and decidedly hers. ‘I still put all of the clothes on myself,’ Beckham states. ‘I want to see how they feel. How do I look? Is it comfortable? Is it flattering? Basic things that I started with are still very important to me.’”
But why do women shop Beckham’s line when they could purchase other collections from most esteemed designers? It seems at least part of the reason stems from appealing design – something Beckham does not do (obviously) but something with which she maintains a real level of involvement. "Even if I wouldn't wear something myself, I think I know how women feel, how women want to look," she says. "I can really relate to women, I get on very well with women… Some women don't," she comments wryly, with a slight smile. "I want to empower women, make women feel the best version of themselves."