Sunday, September 9, 2012

Victoria Beckham : The Big Apple Calling

Dancing on top of a London taxicab, singing her heart out, Victoria Beckham reverted to her Spice Girl days in the rock and pop ending to the Summer Olympics.

But the next day, “Posh Spice,” as she was once dubbed, returned to her day job: building the brand Victoria Beckham as a credible and commercial fashion company.

On Sunday, Ms. Beckham is scheduled to show her new collection as a pillar — albeit a very slender one of New York Fashion Week.

And, as if that were not enough for a mother of four and wife of the international soccer star David Beckham, on Tuesday she is to show her fledging Victoria line of more accessibly priced clothes.

Why does New York’s fashion week, which Thursday began the spring/summer 2013 shows with the Fashion’s Night Out event, act as a magnet for international designers who, even if they do not stay, often jump-start their careers here?

Victoria Beckham is one of those many creative companies, which also include Carlos Miele of Brazil and Diesel Black Gold of Italy, that see New York as the ideal show spot.

“For me, I lived in America, although I am British-born and my aesthetic is British,” says Ms. Beckham. “But I admired U.S. brands, and I wanted to follow the U.S. model. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

“In a very humble way, I always had big dreams and ambitions for my brand,” she continues, stating her desire to take the brand “from America to the rest of the world and to see the international press and retailers.”

Compared with those of most show-off celebrity lines, the Beckham trajectory has been impeccable. Working with the Spice Girl supporter Simon Fuller, now head of the XIX entertainment empire, and with her husband, David, Ms. Beckham determined to think big but start small.

While the famous usually introduce their lines with runway razzmatazz, filling the front row with Hollywood friends, the Beckham plan was the opposite. The first collection of just 10 pieces was shown at a series of appointments at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2008. A year later, the collection was offered as informal presentations in a gallery. Then came a slow buildup, with shows where the designer herself talked the audience through the collection.

“VB,” as she is known within her fashion company, presented a classic runway show only in September 2011, at the New York Public Library.

Zach Duane, chief executive of the London-based company, talks about “a desire for the launch to be about the product, rather than the spectacle.”

“The decision to launch the brand with a single collection of 10 dresses was based on the fact that the heart of the brand is product that Victoria has worked hard to conceive,” Mr. Duane said. “To simultaneously launch multiple categories as Victoria’s first step into the fashion world would have meant a totally different approach to design — one where Victoria just could not have been involved in every detail of every item within the collection. This wasn’t what she wanted the label to represent.”

Ms. Beckham calls the label’s growth “organic,” saying that “it just happened naturally” — although industry insiders say she works fiendishly to push the brand ahead, hence the speedy development of the younger, less expensive Victoria collection.

As for selecting New York as the location, “there were a number of factors,” Mr. Duane says. “David and Victoria having moved to the U.S. was part of it, as was the sense that, at the time, New York felt very international in terms of fashion.

“Also, by presenting in New York, we showcase the collections to an international audience, whilst building important relationships with U.S. retailers — many of whom at that time didn’t travel to London.”

This idea of building up a British company in the United States is not unique. Matthew Williamson took his colorful, hippie deluxe collection to New York in 2002 — and returned to New York’s fashion week for the next seven years.

Joseph Velosa, the company’s chief executive, notes that other British brands, like Roland Mouret, Preen and Jonathan Saunders, also have taken a bite out of the Big Apple.

For the Matthew Williamson brand, “it was a business decision which at the time made sense because London Fashion Week was not attracting the major editors and buyers that it does today,” says Mr. Velosa. “It certainly helped getting the name out there and showing to an audience that would otherwise not have seen the collections.”

The brand returned to London because of the complex logistic planning — and because British fashion picked up.

Other international brands have trod a similar path. ZZegna, the sportier, more fashion-forward part of the Ermenegildo Zegna group, presented in New York for a few seasons to raise awareness, according to Gildo Zegna, the brand’s chief executive, who has now brought the line back to its home in Milan.

Heidi Middleton, co-designer of the Australian brand Sass & Bide, shows just how peripatetic brand strategy can be.

In the brand’s embryonic stages, Ms. Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke chose to present in London although their base was Sydney. After three seasons, they were encouraged by the organizers to show in New York Fashion Week and did so for five years, seeing global and U.S. market growth.

Then in 2008, when U.S. sales softened and Australasian and British sales were escalating, they returned to London, where they now show. At the same time, they are planning a first store in New York, to complement their range of stores and in-store boutiques in Australia.

A Victoria Beckham store is being planned for London, but the brand strategy is to stay in New York — even if it requires the designer to hop between the West and East Coasts and London.

“At the moment, there is no reason to move,” says Ms. Beckham. “I get a great slot; the American industry is kind to me; I feel at home here; I like the atmosphere. I’ve got a good thing going — I don’t see any reason why I would move.”

Perhaps because the fashion week in New York is now one of the longest of the four-week season, designers can find a slot more easily than, for example, in Paris.

But Ms. Beckham has a more down-to-earth point of view.

“What I had in common with American brands is: Yes, I want to be creative — but also a business brand,” she says. “There are goals we had to reach. I’m very ambitious. I want each season to top the season before. This is my passion.

“But you have got to sell dresses at end of the day.”

No comments:

Post a Comment