Can a Spice Girl pull off French-girl chic? Victoria Beckham has won over fashion sceptics in New York and London, but for her first catwalk show in almost three years she upped the ante with a jump to the quintessential style capital.
“Paris is the ultimate dream,” said Beckham before a show staged in the honeyed stone cloisters of the baroque Val de Grace church. “It’s a pinch-me moment to be here.” Although the designer insisted she was more excited than nervous, this is a challenging time for her brand. A work-from-home zeitgeist has been an ill wind for a name which trades on jet-set glamour. Prices have had to come down in order to boost sales. And the celebrity circus around the Beckham name – invaluable for bringing allure and piquancy to a relatively small fashion label – had threatened to overshadow the show with rumours of a ‘feud’ between Beckham and her daughter-in-law.
The designer chose quiet glamour over catwalk fireworks for her Paris debut. Satin dresses were cut on the bias for a slinky walk, suspended on delicate spaghetti straps for drama, and fringed with silk tassels to kiss bare shoulders. Beckham believes that her customer wants what she herself wants: “A sexy dress that’s easy to wear. That’s what I like best, and I’m not going to agonise over it.” All was tasteful and serene in the front row, too, where the support of Beckham’s son and daughter-in-law, Brooklyn and Nicola Peltz Beckham, drew a line under gossip.
“A year ago, we weren’t in a position to do a show,” said Beckham. “We had to build a whole new team. As an independent brand, to have come through the pandemic and to be here, accepted by the French fashion community, feels like a big deal.” Marie Leblanc, who joined the brand as CEO in 2019, forecasts break-even for next year.
“It feels more modern not to bury myself under wardrobe now,” said Beckham. This is fashion week speak for the oldest of adages: sex sells. A body-conscious aesthetic now runs through the Victoria Beckham brand, from a lower-priced VB Body line of stretch, block-colour jersey dresses to the lingerie styling on the Paris fashion week catwalk, where love-heart shaped cutouts reveal flashes of bare skin or black latex.
Lara Barrio, previously at Salvatore Ferragamo, was recently appointed design director at the brand, but Beckham said she was “still there in the studio all the time. I work on the collection every step of the way. This look is what I want to wear.” For the show, she wore a black version of a green draped and slashed gown worn on the catwalk by Bella Hadid.
Although Beckham credits spending time in Miami “where women with all different body shapes love to show them off” with reigniting her love of eye-catching dresses, she did not embrace the move toward body diversity that has been a feature of much of fashion month. Backstage, the designer defended her decision to cast only sample-sized models by saying that a show “is all about creating that character for the season,” and insisted that the casting was “diverse and interesting” in other ways.