On Wednesday 26th January 2017 a selection of lucky hand-picked graduates from across the UK had the opportunity to attend an intimate masterclass with one of Graduate Fashion Week’s Lifetime Patrons; Victoria Beckham OBE. The private masterclass was an insightful tool for the graduate guests, offering tips and advice into a successful career in the industry.
L-R: Antonia Nae, (University of East London, Lipsy Red Carpet Dress Competition Winner), Scott Anthony (London College of Fashion), Genevieve Devine (Northumbria University, GFW 25th Anniversary Tu Scholarship Winner), Victoria Beckham OBE (Graduate Fashion Week Patron), Billie Cox (UCA Rochester, GFW x British Council Indonesia Residency Winner), Kendall Baker (Nottingham Trent University, Matalan Visionary Knitwear Award Winner), Chloe Rose Jackson (Nottingham Trent University, N Brown Catwalk Textiles Award)
Graduate Fashion Week aims to provide its graduates with an unrivalled platform in which to both promote the graduates and their work whilst connecting them with the leaders in industry. GFW’s appointed chair, Mark Newton-Jones was ‘thrilled and honoured’ when he first heard the news of Victoria’s acceptance to host the masterclasss, ‘for her to have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of designers will only help them strive that much harder to be that much more successful.’
Hilary Alexander OBE was hosting the talk and noted that Victoria’s design style has developed over time, with her collections now consisting of more volume and colour. Agreeing, Victoria said that,
‘at the beginning I just wanted to focus on perfecting the dress. The style was structured and many were corseted in the inside of the garment. I felt I needed to spend a couple of seasons really getting my signature style (at the time) right. I always wanted to do separates, skirts and tailoring as I do now, but it had to be the right time, I have never been one to copy what others do.’
Acknowledging how far she and her team had come, Victoria said,
‘we started out just 3 of us, and I still work with those people now. It’s just that the team has expanded although we are still A very small design team for a company such as mine. I’m very lucky in that I still have most of the original people with me today.’
Since 2008 Beckham’s label has developed an aesthetic that exudes sophistication. Lately her work has reflected the needs of a modern woman, her clean tailored lines give a chic and polished effect, whilst her knowledgeable choice of fabric gives ease of movement. She continues to perfectly match the needs of her consumer and constantly adapts to meet the needs of different women.
It is evident that Victoria has a strong purpose surrounding women and being able to deliver a product that enhances their life. Perhaps this is a continuation of her time spent as a member of the Spice Girls which were famous for ‘girl power’. When questioned around her recent Instagram posts which showed support of the Women’s March Victoria said
‘I like to inspire women, to make them feel powerful, strong, and ultimately the best version of themselves. That hasn’t changed, this was my message right at the beginning and it’s still my message now. It’s about feeling good, confident and powerful and really no political situation is going to change that.’
This topic re-emerges when a student asks, ‘who inspires Victoria Beckham?’ Her answer,
‘any strong woman holding down a job in this industry whilst raising a family. There are so many amazing women who work tirelessly in this industry and have children. For example, both Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Wintour have children yet continuously stayed at the top of their game.’
Many of the graduates in the room were eager to learn what Victoria looked for in a graduate.
‘Being a team player is really important, we can work crazy hours running up to fashion week, it also takes dedication, talent, and creative thought, it is also important to me that you’re also a nice person. Everybody works very hard, but we all treat each other equally.’
On advice for aspiring designers Victoria said;
‘the best advice I ever received was to work with other people first. That way you can experiment with your own style under someone else’s business umbrella. It is also important to try and achieve a balance of commercialism with pure creative expression and talent. Be open minded, if you know you’re more of a creative designer, work with someone who knows the business side of things. I always felt I work rather have a piece of something rather than own a whole lot of nothing.’
Only a day earlier Victoria had returned from Paris after being a judge for the International Woolmark Prize, and now she was here speaking to fashion graduates from all over the UK
‘I thoroughly enjoy afternoons such as this. I’m always surprised that people want to hear my opinion. I am excited about the future; the industry is changing. It is time to think outside the box, it is so important not to just have a creative head on your shoulders but to also have some commercial awareness about you. Because if you want a brand that has longevity, ultimately it is about creating what women want to wear and that excites me a lot.’
At this stage we are reminded that Victoria didn’t attend a design college or fashion university course. She exclaimed that the graduates were at such an advantage compared to her when she was their age.
Victoria ended the masterclass with a reference to the letter she penned to her younger self in British Vogue’s October issue. Where she writes that she was a young woman that struggled with fitting in, she battled with acne and had many issues surrounding her body weight. Re-reading the letter back Victoria admitted to being quite emotional.
‘I’m not ashamed to say that I am quite proud of what I have achieved. I was a misfit, that just happened to meet 4 other misfits. Everything I do today, I taught myself. Trust me when I say that if a spotty teenage girl from Essex can do it, you can too.’
One of the lucky attendees of this private masterclass was Genevieve Devine the recipient of GFW’s 25th anniversary TU scholarship. Commenting on the event, Genevieve stated that, ‘to hear Victoria speak in such an intimate setting was incredible, and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.’
Ending in true girl power spirit, GFW’s appointed chair, Mark Newton-Jones hopes that all attendees left feeling ‘inspired’ and that this will have ‘helped them to strive that much harder to be that much more successful.’
We would like to extend a massive thank you to Victoria Beckham for taking time out to speak to the graduates, and wish her luck on her OBE ceremony, we look forward to seeing her outfit choice and hope she remembers Hilary’s handshake tips for the day.