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It is eight years since Victoria Beckham first launched a collection of 10 signature dresses under her eponymous brand. Since then, she has turned 40, graced the cover of British Vogue three times and transformed her company into a multi-category label that, according to a company report at the end of 2015, turned over £34m last year (an increase of £9m on the previous year). She has eclipsed her husband’s £17m earnings and established herself as successful designer and businesswoman (a second store opens in Hong Kong in March). She was nominated for British fashion designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards in December and I am prepared to wager a large sum on the fact she will bring it home next time around.
There was a pleasant circularity, then, in the fact that, for AW16, Victoria Beckham unveiled a collection that went back to ideas and silhouettes she first introduced with her famous corset dresses, way back in 2008. “It’s a reflection of the evolution of my personal style,” she wrote in the show notes and repeated backstage to journalists. “I reworked the signature dress, deboned the corset, softened up the silhouette and did a cool reinterpretation of what I did nearly 10 years ago.”
In recent years, Beckham has made a concerted effort to move on from the rigorous silhouettes that characterised her early collections, determined to push the brand’s focus towards a more minimalist and masculine fashionability. This collection completed the circle: drawing on many of her recent design interests — heritage fabrics, tailoring, mannish cuts and volume — but underpinning it all with cutaway corsetry and lingerie dresses that offered peekaboo glimpses of flesh and lots and lots of shoulder.
It was a bold decision. And it worked. In recent collections, she has sometimes seemed a little bashful of the aesthetic of her earliest success, tucking the “sexy dresses” into the vast-selling collection but away from the edited catwalk collection she shows. Here, within a modest 38 looks, she skilfully combined the two: jersey corsets were paired with mannish style trousers or underneath coats in a “heritage houndstooth” embroidered with waxed cord stitching. Ribbed woollen leggings and sleeves clung to the body underneath gently feminine bubble skirts, but the look was refined rather than risqué. There were tactile toffee-coloured faux fur bags and sharp pointy flats in shiny hides with silver buckles. The palette was neutral — navy, rust, orange and khaki — and there were punchy large-scale gingham details.
I could say this was the collection where “two became one” (and on Valentine’s Day, it is just too irresistible) but at this point in her fashion journey, Beckham should be spared the Spice Girl tags. This AW16 collection was a gesture of her ongoing confidence as a designer: she is no longer hiding any part of it away. “I want to know what’s going on underneath,” she explained of an especially revealing bandeau corset. She showed us precisely that.
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