News recently broke that David and Victoria Beckham pay around £22,000 a day in tax. Despite most people’s initial thoughts, this mega tax bill isn’t down to the ex-footballer’s earnings. In fact, it’s Victoria’s fashion empire that is now responsible for the couple’s mega fortune.
Their company, Beckham Brand Holdings Ltd, earned just over £47 million in 2015. Victoria made £36.9 million of it. So how did a former Spice Girl known for her love of tight little dresses and sky high stilettos make it in the notoriously stand-offish fashion industry?
Let’s go right back to the beginning. After a spate of brand partnerships and a place in the hearts of the nation as the stylish Spice, Victoria announced she would be launching a fashion line under her own name. September of 2008 signalled her first ever fashion show which featured a small collection of corseted dresses. The SS09 collection, which took place in New York and has done ever since, was even described as “surprisingly modest” by one critic.
Fast forward a few seasons later and Victoria’s form-fitting aesthetic was still going strong. However, a big shift in style began to occur at the end of 2010. The designer’s SS11 collection practically all but removed cinched-in waists from the catwalk, instead favouring a much more relaxed silhouette.
Victoria’s personal style began to change in a similar way. The slim-fitting dresses that became her post-show bow uniform transformed into oversized trousers and tailored shirts. It seemed like the designer was becoming her own best advertisement as women jumped on this ultra-modern way of dressing.
Victoria’s strong opinion underpins every collection. She openly admits to having no formal design training, telling The New York Times: “I can draw, but badly.” However, the designer insists that every item of clothing that appears with her name is entirely her vision. “No one’s expecting me to do it the normal way. 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.”
With plenty of well-off shoppers clamouring for £1500 dresses, Victoria began to widen her scope. Her aim of appealing to more than just high-end clientele was realised in September 2011 when she launched a diffusion line entitled Victoria, Victoria Beckham. Infusing the same DNA as her mainline (which had grown to become smart tailored looks) with a more youthful spirit, the prices which range from around £200 to £500 were much more purse-friendly.
At the same time, she launched a denim line; yet another way to lure in the masses. This, along with a successful handbag range that first started in 2010, enabled Victoria to win Brand of the Year at the 2011 British Fashion Awards, beating off the likes of huge names including Tom Ford, Stella McCartney and Burberry.
The industry had clearly accepted the designer into their much-coveted fold. But had women? Victoria’s thin frame and penchant for plastic surgery may not have appealed at first but her loosening up and openness in talking about cosmetic alterations caused customers to feel an affinity with the multi-millionaire.
“I’ve said right from the beginning it’s very important clothes are flattering. I want a woman to look and feel like the best version of herself,” she told The Telegraph. And there lies her magic appeal. Each and every one of her designs elevate a woman to her best potential – whether that’s through donning exquisite tailoring or trying out a new complimentary shade.
It’s something she’s passionate about doing for every woman – no matter your income – which goes some way to explaining her soon-to-be-released collaboration with US retailer Target. The 200-piece affordable collection will provide a stylish update to anyone’s wardrobe and with most pieces costing under £40, it won’t break the bank. Launching on 9 April, Victoria has been extra savvy in including plus-sized pieces along with a childrenswear range.
Speaking on her new market, Victoria commented: “I can reach so many more women through working with Target. These are women that I haven’t been able to reach out to in the past, and I always say that I want to empower women and make women look like the best versions of themselves. That shouldn’t be only people who can afford to spend a certain amount of money.”
It’s this attitude that has garnered her worldwide acclaim. After doubling her sales to £30 million in 2014, the Victoria Beckham brand can now afford to offer something for every price point. From jeans to sunglasses and even a beauty collection with Estée Lauder, Victoria has conquered the entire market.
Her refusal to stray from New York is also a clever business move. Despite incessant criticism that a British designer should show in London, Victoria has made it clear that showing early in the fashion calendar (New York Fashion Week is the first week in fashion month) is important for sales.
At a time when a lot of big-name brands are moving away from New York to Los Angeles or even Paris, it’s also critical that Victoria sticks to her State-side strategy. Her show has become one of the must-sees at NYFW, attracting Anna Wintour along with the entire Beckham clan. Now, she may be one of the only designers worth seeing in the city, giving even more attention to the brand’s seasonal collections.
As a designer that has only ever wanted to be taken seriously, this is a true blessing. People may label Victoria with the term ‘celebrity designer’ but she has never relied on her name. Yes, it initially drew in big editors but her talent and drive has made them stay.
In fact, look back on every one of her shows and you will find zero celebrity appearances. This is no accident as Victoria revealed to The Guardian: “I have always tried to focus attention at the show on the collection. That’s why other than David and the kids I have never had celebrities at the show. I want the focus to be on the product.”
That product has enabled her to grow exponentially over the past couple of years. In 2014, she opened her first London store on the affluent Dover Street and last year, Hong Kong became the first location outside of the UK for the Victoria Beckham label.
She now employs over 150 people at offices in both London and New York. Her atelier has expanded to such a degree that she is able to experiment with new fabrics such as the crushed velvet seen on the SS17 runway.
A major achievement came at the end of 2016 when the New Year’s Honours list revealed Victoria would be receiving an OBE for her contribution to the fashion industry. With the designer now worth £250 million, it seems her fortune can only continue going one way.