When Victoria Beckham arrived at London’s Piccadilly Theatre a number of weeks ago for the opening night of the Spice Girls’ musical; Viva Forever!, the artist formerly known as Posh Spice posed and pouted in her signature style. Working the red carpet with expert knowledge, there was no denying that the most famous and undoubtedly, the most successful Spice Girl stole the show. Dressed head to toe in high-end designer labels (most obviously, her own label), her refined and elegant look stood out amongst the other four Spices. But for all the wrong reasons!
As she posed with David and her three sons, the Beckhams moved as if they were royalty, but as Victoria put her best leg forward, there was something missing. She hardly acknowledged her former band mates, refused to pose with them on the red carpet and appeared embarrassed when having to share a stage with them. The girl power zeitgeist that lives on in Scary, Sporty, Ginger and Baby was distinctively absent from Posh. On the opening night of Viva Forever! it was clear that for Victoria Beckham, her days as a Spice Girl were incongruent with her reinvented image as a world-renowned fashion designer and bubble-gum pop and pseudo-Feminist declarations have no place in her high-end ‘aesthetic.’
Ask Victoria what her clothing line is about and almost by reflex, she will speak about her proclivity to ‘empower women’ and make them feel special. And it’s something Victoria appears to do very well. With no formal training as a designer, Victoria has steadily built her eponymously-titled collection to become one of the world’s most promising luxury brands and her success culminated with her being awarded “Designer Brand of the Year” by the British Fashion Council in 2012. Her empowerment of women turns over millions and millions each season and her dresses sell out almost instantaneously. Remarkably, Victoria has masterminded one of the most successful and dramatic reinventions pop culture has ever seen – from a pouty-yet-friendly Essex WAG and popstar to a brooding, elegant and respected fashion designer. When it comes to Victoria Beckham, the designer, anything ‘zig-a-zig-ha’ related is decidedly tacky and best left forgotten.
The Viva Forever! musical, written by Jennifer Saunders and produced by Judy Craymer tells the story of fame and friendship and the music of the Spice Girls acts as its axis. However, for Victoria, on that opening night, it was perceptible that in the relationship between fame and friendship, when you live your life as a brand, the former takes precedence. The Spice Girls have ‘reunited’ three times this year – for the press conference to announce Viva Forever! in June, for the London 2012 Olympics in August and lastly, for the musical’s opening night in December. Each of these reunions portrayed a similar story – four friends who are thrilled to be back together and one who is characterised by her aloofness and desire to be anywhere else but back in a Spice Girls line-up. No prizes for guessing which one Victoria is!
Whether she’s standing separately from them, refusing to hold their hands, awkwardly hugging and feigning interest or covering her face with her hand as she squirms at Mel B’s profane praise for the musical, Victoria defines herself by her own self-styled superiority. Sometimes it’s hilarious, but most of the time, it’s just rude and promulgates a woman who has forgotten where she came from. For someone who so keenly perfects and controls her public image, it’s ironic that she indulges in this condescension, which unquestionably looks like a PR disaster.
Or does it? Is Victoria actually doing the right thing? The target market for her high-end clothing line isn’t the young girl who used to dance to Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life – it’s the professional woman who can easily afford to drop thousands on a dress and more than likely listens to Chopin in her spare time. It’s the woman Victoria purports herself to have become; and the one she so readily wants us to believe she truly is.
It wasn’t so long ago that Victoria sported her infamous WAG extensions, rhinestone-encrusted Rock & Republic jeans, a ‘bling-bling’ Jacob & Co. watch and a tight Dolce & Gabanna bustier. She regularly poured herself into skimpy Hervé Léger dresses to reveal both leg and breast, perish the thought. These days, however, she preaches about the necessity to choose one or the other – her ‘aesthetic’ is all about ladylike elegance. One can’t help but wonder where that ‘aesthetic’ was at the 2006 World Cup in Baden Baden where she gave a then Coleen McLoughlin (now Coleen Rooney) and Co. a master-class in WAG extravagance and excess.
However, since then, the mini-skirts and vest tops have been replaced with subtle metonyms of her new status. For example, her rose-gold Rolex is an exemplar of her own metamorphosis – slightly masculine, yet appropriately feminine, and particularly fitting to a woman who is the dexterous, yet adventitiously timid creator of her own star and success. Make no bones about; Victoria knows exactly what she’s doing.
But can the Spice Girls really harm Victoria’s image as a credible fashion designer? For all her propensity to empower women, it has to be asked, where does Girl Power fit into it all? Victoria Beckham, (the clothing line, that is), is carried in some of the world’s most exclusive stores, from Neiman Marcus in the States, Selfridges in London and Brown Thomas, here in Ireland, so there’s no denying the brand is at the very pinnacle of the luxury market and Victoria is not only the surprisingly-intelligent designer behind it all, but she has proved herself to be a deft businesswoman who hasn’t rushed into expanding the brand rapidly, but knows that the old adage of ‘slow and steady wins the race’ will prove true and profitable for her in the long run. As the fashion world finally accepts her as a serious player, Victoria can’t be blamed for thinking the Spice Girls and any reunion with them could undermine her achievements as a designer. Can you imagine asking Anna Wintour to spice up her life?
There are no two ways about it; Victoria is the most successful Spice Girl. She is one of the most famous women in the world and a pop culture phenomenon – not bad for a woman who has admitted to being the least talented singer and dancer in the band! Look at old videos of them and you will see she was always the pouty one, always the poser – but never a snob. Back in the day, she was much more carefree and endearing, but perhaps that level of accessibility isn’t endearing when you’re carving out a career as a designer? She has lost her playful Essex-twang and replaced it with a more transatlantic, fashion-friendly, plum-in-the-mouth type of accent that edges closer and closer to Kate Middleton’s tones by the day. Her whole demeanour has changed to fit in with the fashion cognoscenti and that has left her fans with a sour taste in their mouth. But again, the fans of Posh Spice are not the fans Victoria Beckham, the designer wants or needs to appeal to. These days, when she speaks of the Spice Girls, Victoria does so graciously, but more often than not, it’s in non-committal terms and without personal inclusion, employing indefinite pronouns such as “they”, to speak of “their success” and what “they achieved.”
Shortly after the opening night of Viva Forever! Simon Edge wrote that the Beckhams’ arrival into the theatre was like “watching the Duke and Duchess of Kent arrive as a prelude to the Queen” and it’s more than likely that Victoria’s regal entrance didn’t go down too well with the two Mels, Geri and Emma. The musical’s message of friendship being more important than fame found its comedic irony from the woman draped in a VB A/W12 plum coat and as she walked the red carpet sans Sporty, Scary, Ginger and Baby, somehow, somewhere Anna Wintour, Anna Dello Russo et al were smiling, or rather smirking, as the world’s most renowned fashion darling expertly pouted and shunned her former band mates to ensure all the attention was on her. Expect a US Vogue cover as a reward in the forthcoming months. The metamorphosis of Victoria Beckham was well and truly complete.