Victoria Beckham launched her fashion label 12 years ago. She's never turned a profit.

Victoria Beckham’s dresses have been worn by Meghan Markle, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian. Her clothes and accessories are sold in more than 400 stores around the world. Sales totalled £35 million (AU$68 million) in 2018.

But this week, with Beckham taking advantage of a UK government scheme to help businesses affected by the coronavirus, she’s come under attack from Piers Morgan for running a “failing fashion business” that’s been bailed out by her “fabulously rich husband” David Beckham.

“This furlough scheme was not for prima donna multimillionaires like you two running a failed vanity business that makes no money,” Morgan raged on Good Morning Britain.

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So what’s the truth? Has the former Spice Girl made a success of her fashion career, or is it just a “failed vanity business”?

Beckham launched her label, Victoria Beckham, back in 2008, four years after her solo singing career fizzled out. She’d spent those years dabbling in fashion, walking the runway for Roberto Cavalli and designing jeans for Rock & Republic.

“I always wanted to be a fashion designer,” she said at the launch of her label. “Then along came the Spice Girls, which opened a lot of doors for me. And, let’s be honest, closed a lot. But those days are over. I was never going to be the world’s best singer, but I hope I can be a good designer.”

Beckham’s first ready-to-wear collection consisted of just 10 dresses. In her words, they were “classy” – figure-hugging, but with below-the-knee hemlines. They would retail for between £650 (AU$1,275) and £1,900 (AU$3,730). Beckham presented her collection to a small group of journalists at the Waldorf Hotel during New York Fashion Week. Reviews were surprisingly positive.

“In fact – and I can’t quite believe I’m writing this – it was a very impressive, accomplished collection, with not a single dud,” the fashion editor of The Times, Lisa Armstrong, wrote.

Beckham had no training as a designer, but surrounded herself with people who knew what they were doing. From the beginning, she was very involved in the design process.

“I can draw, but badly,” she told the New York Times. “I think that’s okay. No one’s expecting me to do it the normal way. And that’s a good thing. But I do sometimes take all my clothes off and drape on myself.”

The business grew. In 2011, Beckham launched a new line, Victoria, with more colourful, flirty dresses, selling at significantly cheaper – but still not cheap – prices.


Beckham kept putting in the long hours, barely taking any time off after the birth of her daughter Harper.

“I was still in hospital,” she told the Financial Times. “I couldn’t feel my legs because of the bloody epidural, and I’m being asked to approve lookbook images. So I didn’t have a lot of time off. But it’s hard when you have your own business.”

In 2011, Beckham won Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. She won the same category three years later, and that year, opened her first bricks-and-mortar Victoria Beckham store in London. In 2016, she opened another store in Hong Kong. Her label was one of the 25 bestselling brands on online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter.

However, 10 years after its launch, Victoria Beckham was still in the red.

In an interview with the Financial Times in March last year, Beckham insisted her label wasn’t a “vanity project”.

“If I want this brand to still be here in 10, 20, 30, 40 years’ time, I need to break even, and then I need to be profitable,” she said. “We’re on the right track to do that, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”

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Later in the year, Beckham launched a beauty line. But by November, media reports revealed that demand for her fashion was on a downward trend. In 2018, turnover fell by 18 per cent, as department stores, particularly in Asia, cut their orders for her clothes. Losses accumulated by the label since its launch reached £35 million (AU$69 million), with loans from her husband David Beckham’s company helping to keep it alive.

Equity analyst Nicla Di Palma told The Guardian that it was “not atypical” for small luxury brands to start by losing money and to continue to lose money for a few years. But she suggested that Beckham’s sales may be close to the level achievable.

“The clothes are quite expensive and there are other brands that provide similar pieces,” she said. “I find it unlikely that the brand will be scaled up significantly and perhaps they will be lucky enough to be bought by some large luxury conglomerates or they will quietly disappear in a few years.”

Right now, Victoria Beckham is being hit by the coronavirus downturn, like so many other businesses in the UK. Beckham has “furloughed” 25 of her 120 staff, meaning they will be paid 80 per cent of their wages by the government while not working. But she’s also reported to be giving up her own salary during the crisis.

In the future, Beckham is likely to focus more on her beauty line – she says her skincare is doing “incredibly well” – and less on fashion.

No matter what happens, she and her husband are likely to be okay. Their personal wealth is estimated at £335 million (AU$660 million).

Feature image: Getty.