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It’s 8 p.m. on a recent Monday night, and Victoria Beckham isn’t out on the town with her soccer-player-slash-underwear-model husband, nor ensconced in the comforts of their Beverly Hills estate with their four children. Instead, Beckham is on designer duty in Las Vegas, spending a couple of hours with 50 or so customers at Neiman Marcus before hopping on a midnight flight to Los Angeles, where she will repeat her performance at another Neiman’s the next day, and then again the day after that in Dallas.
While Neiman Marcus is Beckham’s largest U.S. account (it was also her first, along with Bergdorf Goodman, when she launched for spring 2009), the designer has yet to make a store appearance there until now. Long overdue, Neiman Marcus was itching to get Beckham in front of a few select groups of loyal clients — all chosen because they had already bought Victoria Beckham pieces or demonstrated interest in doing so. These appearances were low-key, private affairs where she was able to personally present her brand’s spring collection.
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“Neiman Marcus is obviously a very important partnership in America,” said Zach Duane, chief executive officer of London-based Victoria Beckham. “It wasn’t about a particular product launch. It was more about Neiman’s. They have a customer that they were keen on getting close to the brand. We have a really good business with them.”
Speaking of Beckham’s business, Duane told WWD last year that the brand would exceed $12 million in annual sales in 2011. “The business is profitable, which I think for a young fashion brand is challenging in itself, and we are growing fast,” he said. “If you compare 2012 to 2011, we are up 150 percent.”
The job of a designer sometimes seems as much politician as creative director. Face time, handshakes and hugs are important, especially to a still-young brand. Beckham — who has racked up air miles this year with appearances at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver, Joyce in Beijing, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Brown Thomas in Dublin and Harvey Nichols in London — realizes that. “I want to get to as many territories and stores as I can, not only to meet my customer, but to also support my retailer,” she said. “I have a really great relationship with all of my retail partners. I think it’s really important. I also want feedback from women. I want to know what women want.”
Certainly, the private appearances go far in establishing long-term relationships with stores and customers, but their short-term impact is measured in immediate sales. While neither Neiman Marcus nor Duane would divulge the exact sales generated as a result of said appearances, Duane asserted that typically 60 to 70 percent of sales of the Victoria Beckham brand have been generated during the designer’s in-store appearances and in the days prior to or following them. “I would imagine they will do very, very well with this [spring] season as a result of these events,” Duane said of Neiman Marcus. (Upon later follow-up, the company would only confirm a “strong response” from customers at the Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Dallas events.)
In all three cities, Beckham spoke a few words into a microphone, thanking the guests for taking time out of their busy schedules to view the collection, and then the shows started — models walking in 23 ready-to-wear looks in Vegas, six in L.A., 16 in Dallas. Afterward, the models in Las Vegas came back out, this time wandering the space in Victoria Victoria Beckham pieces, while in L.A. and Dallas, samples of the secondary line hung on racks for customers to view and try on. In several instances, Beckham gamely walked around and chatted with guests.
Many of the Las Vegas clients, whose ages ranged from their early 20s to 60s and were mostly the wives of local bigwigs, were not shy about showing off their shapely bodies in Beckham’s slim silhouettes — several of which were paired with handbags by Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès and Chanel. In L.A., the guests, predominantly professionals in their 20s, cast a wider fashion net. Beckham looks were, obviously, a popular choice for the occasion while Tibi and Alice + Olivia were represented, too; Alexander McQueen, The Row and Alice + Olivia were among the guests’ favorite brands. In Dallas, the crowd, made up primarily of socialites in their 40s with a number of professionals in the mix, was polished, bejeweled and, like Beckham, in stilettos.
The mood at the daytime L.A. event was light and, as an added bonus, guests included Beckham’s husband David, their son Brooklyn and daughter Harper. While some clients swooned over the diapered baby, they appeared more interested in Beckham’s dresses than David, who calmly chased Harper through the partitioned area on the second floor where the event was held. “This is what I’m about,” said Beckham, as her daughter rolled over and over on a sofa bench. “I always love it when I’m lucky enough to take my children to work with me. I’m a working mom.”