New York fashion week is a tempestuous place to be: it is at the mercy of tyrannical celebrity egos, as evidenced by Kanye West’s two-hour catwalk spectacle, which saw a model faint in the heat. And it has undergone a rapid shift from being an insider’s world of seating plans and civilised four-month lead times into being a consumer-facing Disneyworld of clothes which are on sale as well as on show, in full-sized funfairs (Tommy Hilfiger) and pop-up sweet stores (Alexander Wang).
Meanwhile, brands less brave or brazen continue to stage traditional catwalk shows to polite but dwindling audiences, ploughing on like the band on the Titanic.
Victoria Beckham is one of the select few brands successfully steering a level course through this storm. The status of the Beckham show as one of the established must-sees on the fashion week schedule is quite a turn-up for the books, when you consider the scepticism with which the former pop star’s fashion career was initially greeted, but that is the fickleness of fashion for you.
With her collection for spring, Beckham once again showed a deft touch in putting a palatable, glossy spin on styles which have been hovering at the more intimidating edges of fashion. Right now, fashion’s cutting edge is all about oversized, louchely loose clothes, and this collection was a prettily coloured take on the unstructured, dressed-down silhouette. Asymmetrically panelled skirts and loose, low-slung trousers were balanced by pretty botanical prints and flashes of skin at the ribs and spine. A crushed-velvet dress in peppermint green was an instant standout. Flat boots underlined the cool, unfussy tone.
The breadth of appeal of the Victoria Beckham brand was clearly evident on her front row. There are not many catwalk shows which attract high-profile millennials and their parents, but David Beckham and Anna Wintour were flanked by their children, 17-year-old Brooklyn Beckham and 29-year-old Bee Shaffer. The Beckham brand bridges the fashion divide, underpinned both by a very modern social media power base – Brooklyn’s Instagram video of the above-mentioned mint green dress had been watched 250,000 times within an hour of the show – and by a rather old-fashioned work ethic and sense of propriety.
“It’s a free spirited look – but not in a bohemian way, if you know what I mean. It’s about clothes that are loose and easy, but still flattering,” Beckham said. The relaxed structures of the clothes put the fabrics in the spotlight, and her team “worked hard to take traditional fabrics and evolve them in new ways. Like taking velvet and washing it and pleating it, so that you come up with something fresh,” she said.
Key to the Victoria Beckham appeal is how it combines new-season fashion with old-fashioned vanity, in a marketplace where many brands require you to choose one or the other. The look has evolved from the dresses of early seasons, but “my silhouette is always very flattering. That is a signature for me. But loose and easy can be flattering,” Beckham said.
Well aware that her own outfit will be as scrutinised as any of her models’, she underscored this message by taking her bow in loose-fitting trousers and flat shoes. “I have always tried to focus attention at the show on the collection,” said Beckham the day before the show. “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.”
The show began on a sombre note. In Lower Manhattan on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the run-up to the show coincided with the minutes of silence marking the times at which the two towers fell. At the show, American Vogue’s Wintour and Grace Coddington, along with David Beckham, took the lead in standing to observe the silences.
Source: The Guardian