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Four One One

Victoria Beckham spices up Paris Fashion Week

Having won over critics in New York and London, Victoria Beckham takes the step to the pinnacle of the luxury world with her debut at Paris Fashion Week, which opens Monday.

“It’s the arrival of a very beautiful label. We rejoice that Victoria Beckham is among us,” Pascal Morand, head of the French Federation for Haute Couture and Fashion (FHCM), told AFP.

The 48-year-old Brit joins 104 labels in the official line-up for the pret-a-porter spring-summer shows in Paris the most commercially important week of the fashion calendar. A handful of brands are sticking to online presentations that became the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But most of the big names are fully back in the swing of live runway shows, including Dior, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Issey Miyake, as well as emerging brands such as Weinsanto, who kick off proceedings on Monday.

Beckham held her first fashion show in New York in 2008 and has mostly presented there over the years, aside from a brief daliance with London.

“Don’t underestimate her,” Vogue supremo Anna Wintour said when Beckham was starting out, and indeed the former Spice Girl has proved she is more than just a celebrity hobbyist.  But despite having 250 global outlets for her clothes, 30 million followers on Instagram and one of the most famous husbands in the world, Beckham’s company has always struggled to turn a profit.

 ‘The big league’

In a bid to turn things around, she has recruited top French talent, including former FHCM president Ralph Toledano as chairman and Marie Leblanc de Reynies, formerly lead buyer at Paris department store Printemps, as CEO.

“Victoria is not from the fashion world. She threw herself into the business and at a certain point, she needed to structure, organise, and bring some order to the house, which is what we’ve been doing for the past four years,” Toledano told AFP.

A successful cosmetics line, launched in 2019, has helped trim losses, and the team hopes to break even in the coming months.

“We’ve defined a strategy, combined two pret-a-porter lines, found the right price-point… now it’s time to enter the big league,” said Toledano.

That means Paris Fashion Week, where Beckham will present on Friday — launching her into the loftiest and most scrutinised of the industry events.

“She’s a bit intimidated, she’s someone very humble,” said Toledano.

It is a sign of the continued importance of the traditional fashion events, even as some labels break away from the relentless routine of the official calendar.

Notably absent this week is French label Celine, whose artistic director Hedi Slimane has blown hot and cold on fashion weeks.

Having declared the whole system “obsolete” in 2020, he was back for the menswear showcase in June, before failing to show again for womenswear — all without explanation.

Morand insisted Celine’s absence was a “non-event”.  “The label or artistic director can make other choices. There is that freedom,” he said.

 

 

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