No one can accuse Victoria Beckham of being work shy. While most other “celebrity-designers” fell by the wayside, the former Spice Girl fought for years to be taken seriously in the fashion world, until her show became a respected highlight of London Fashion Week.
Now, in keeping with every other designer on the schedule, she has dispensed with a catwalk. Instead of 40 models, she has four, and then only on film. Instead of a stage, she made do with two rails of clothes. The 600-plus audience, with its celebrity adorned front -row? Reduced to consecutive groups of four fashion editors at a time, all wearing the monogrammed face masks that were provided at the entrance to the Victoria Miro art gallery in East London where the previews took place.
Was she disappointed not to have her moment of glory on the catwalk? There was a moment’s hesitation while she pondered the correct answer – this is an industry where the fashion show has always been upheld as the acme of a designer’s creative ambition. “No," she blurted, “this feels so much more personal and appropriate to what I do now”. She might have added no stress, no circus, no excess. Many of those left in the industry would agree.
Back in July, her company announced it was in redundancy consultations with around 18 per cent of its 120 strong team. In common with many other labels, it has also halved the number of its collections from four a year to two, in a move widely regarded as a return to sanity (there are far too many clothes produced worldwide). This is survival of the fittest.
Like all the designers I’ve spoken to over the past few days, Beckham is not retreating into sackcloth or athleisure, but has focused on the values her customers go to her for – in her case, smart knitwear, tailoring and dresses. “There were definitely challenges designing this, because the Italian factories were closed for some of that time. But I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to go to work. I had to be very strategic, because with a smaller business, every fabric we ordered, every sample we made, had to be really thought through. I really had to consider what my customers want to wear now”.
Fortunately, her customers tend to want what she wants. And what Beckham, who says she wore vintage denim, trainers and t-shirts throughout lockdown, craves now, “is some glamour, without going over the top”. Other items on her wishlist are heels (she was wearing some corkers with her high-waisted flared jeans). “They can be high or kitten heels, but no more flats for me”.
At her best, Beckham designs beautifully made, updated classics. She’s perfected a button-less, wide-lapelled blazer; has flared trousers down pat, and knows how to produce a floor-grazing slinky dress that somehow works when you’re barefoot at home, but could also create a bit of stir at a party (remember those?). These were all present in the new Spring/Summer collection, as were, for the first time, denim and some ultra high-end stringed vests (alright, they were woven tunics).
The dresses came in black or lemon silk or jersey, trimmed in lace. The blazers are ivory, as part of a stunning three-piece trouser suit that managed to convey the easiness of a tracksuit with the glamour of Studio 54, but also in a shade of hollandaise (Beckham said her colour descriptions had been influenced by her husband’s newfound love of cooking). “The aim is to blend reality with something to dream about," she added, pointing to a matching down jacket and longer waistcoat on her second rail, both in a can’t-miss-it leopard print. “I’m calling this petrol pump chic.”