Victoria Beckham: Why Irish women can't get enough
Victoria Beckham was accused of hubris, a vulgar display of extreme ego, when she launched her ready-to-wear clothing collection in New York in autumn 2008.
Seven seasons later, the acid- tongued critics have demurred as the former Posh Spice moves from wannabe to fully fledged contender.
Evidence of Victoria's sartorial success is especially evident in Ireland. In the Brown Thomas Designer Rooms in Grafton Street, Dublin, she is an exclusive label, a star attraction.
Although conspicuous consumption is no longer politically correct in post-Celtic Tiger times, La Beckham's frocks, costing up to €5,800 last season, have been outperforming fashion royalty.
The brand has defied retail trends, and in financial downturns, when luxury labels can hurt that little bit more, Irish women are signing up to VB waiting lists at BTs, paying a 50pc deposit in advance in order to bag themselves one of her trophy dresses ahead of the fashion pack.
So, what is it that Irish women want to get their hands on and how much of the love affair has to do with Beckham's powerful weapon, her techno-stretch fabric which pulls you in all the right places?
Or is it her bodycon tailoring, which was regularly compared to Roland Mouret in the early days, or the exclusivity of her limited-edition handbags, that make shoppers seek out her designs months before they officially go on sale?
In the past three years, the Irish buy of Victoria Beckham at Brown Thomas has increased sixfold, from 50 dresses in her 2009 debut collection to 300 for spring/summer 2012.
The selling power of her autumn/winter 2011 collection, very strong on cocoon shapes, could be gauged in the Christmas sales last week.
There was only one coat left on the rail from her debut coat collection and a handful of dress styles.
In the coming weeks, 300 pieces will arrive in store, dresses and coats ranging in price from €995 for a dress up to €3,500 for an evening dress.
Ladies with attitude will appreciate the cheeky qualities of her navy dress (€1,450), which boasts a narrow transparent window across the front, exposing your navel and gym tummy. Very 1960s.
The must-have pieces are shaping up to be an orange and navy colour-block dress (€1,525), which she wore on the cover of 'Grazia' last week, and a strapless, bodycon dress in a reverse of the tangerine and navy colourway priced at €2,235.
The fact that Victoria has been photographed wearing both these styles ramps up their desirability and, inevitably, will trigger high-street homages for shoppers who can't afford to pay more than €1,200 for one of her signature bodycon dresses -- with a long zip that snakes down your spine from nape-to-knees; the kind of feature that drives anorak-type dedicated collectors wild.
However, the real fashion curiosity this week centres around the impending arrival of 50 pieces from her latest fashion adventure. Victoria by Victoria Beckham is a new 'companion' range which Mrs Beckham protects with the ballsy attitude of a true Essex girl.
While other designers introduce diffusion lines, the footballer's wife is absolutely insistent that this is most definitely "not a second line". She maintains it as a collection which hangs on the other side of your wardrobe.
Whatever you choose to call it, the new collection is far more girlie than her resolutely sexy mainline one and demonstrates that Victoria has moved on considerably from her signature hourglass mystique to young, flirty frocks which, she says, allows her to "channel my inner girl".
The collection is also considerably more affordable. Last season, Irish women opened their wallets and hoovered up her jersey 'trapeze' dress at €2,970 after Victoria wore it in navy to the royal wedding.
Her elegant coats, featuring funnel necklines and strong knife pleating, sold out rapidly -- so price was not an issue.
Victoria's 'inner girl' is a savvy one, with her eye firmly on the balance sheet in recessionary times. Her immediate team includes an able assistant in Caroline Dunne, daughter of former supermarket mogul Ben Dunne, who works in sales and marketing.
Entry price points for the new 'companion' range are cheaper, which paves the way for a new demographic of customer in 2012; someone younger who may want to spend less.
A sneak preview of the Brown Thomas buy of 50 pieces reveals 10 different dress styles with prices extending from €550-€1,070.
The candy-coloured, 1960s A-line shapes are more whimsical, featuring pretty scalloped detailing.
In a season where unusual prints dominate, Victoria has used cat prints inspired by indie-comic heroine Emily The Strange. The Cutie-cat and Victoria Cat prints are "key in encapsulating the playful mood of the range", says Victoria, who did a scaled-down, miniature version for her daughter, Harper Seven.
Victoria recently rejected reports that she is going to expand into childrenswear next. However, coming from a woman who rarely takes her long-awaited baby daughter off her hip, I think it is only a matter of time before she introduces a mini-me collection .
Now sold in 107 stores around the world, Victoria's next business move is to open her own retail shops and her organisation is researching different cities.
It is also planning to launch e-commerce by next summer -- two moves which increase her availability.
In addition to the two clothing ranges, she designs the Victoria Beckham Denim range. Her spring/summer 2012 looks, include ankle-grazing skinny jeans in a myriad of colour for €200 and luxurious-to-touch tees and silky tanks from €140.
Victoria's design portfolio also includes an eyewear line, two fragrances and a collaboration with Range Rover.
This year saw her first boot and shoe collaboration with Christian Louboutin, which resulted in the birth of the vertiginous 'Vicky' suede boot, which she is regularly papped wearing.
An astute businesswoman who was jeered at initially when she vocalised plans to become a global brand with her 'golden balls' husband David, Victoria admits she is acutely aware that people find her a polarising figure. You either love her or hate her -- and, for the moment, Irish shoppers are voting with their wallets.
Her brand has enjoyed a 120pc increase in turnover each year for the past three, and official company figures reports annual retail sales of more than €25m for 2011.
Analysing Irish reaction to Victoria's designs, Shelly Corkery, buying director of the Brown Thomas Group, says: "The coll-ection is now internationally recognised for the superb quality of the fabrics, the brilliant cut and proportions and the varied shapes.
"There is a dress to suit everyone in her collection. Victoria is very conscious that lots of women would prefer to hide their arms, so she allows for three-quarter-length arms and caps sleeves, as well as sleeveless pieces, throughout her collection.
"The exposed zips are cool and edgy, while the colours are vibrant and very of the moment."
Jane Given, wife of Irish goalkeeper Shay Given, is a fan of VB dresses and admires "the cut combined with internal structuring and fine fabrics".
She regards her Victoria Beckham dresses as investment pieces "which have an understated, timeless appeal, glamorous without being too ostentatious".
On a practical point, she says: "Being tall, I have found the mid-lengths and body-skimming fit suit my proportions, while the signature zip at the back provides a sexy, modern twist to what are quite classic, grown-up styles."