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Victoria Beckham: I'm having the last laugh now

After being named Britain's top entrepreneur, Victoria Beckham has proved she isn't just the wife of a famous footballer

By John O'Shea

At first glance, the decision to name Victoria Beckham Britain's top entrepreneur of 2014 might seem slightly ridiculous, yet further proof of the flimsy values of our celebrity-obsessed age. After all, the former Spice Girl was picked over the likes of Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson, the hugely successful and innovative designer behind the electrical appliances that have generated a £3.2bn fortune.

And even the editor of Management Today, the business magazine which made the award, admitted that many may "scoff" at their decision to pick the lady who was once known as Posh Spice as the UK's top entrepreneur.

"Some will say she's never been taught how to cut a pattern, or iron a pleat on a fashion course," said Matthew Gwyther.

"Doubters will claim she's just the wife of the world's most famously over-tattooed ex-footballer. It's all come to her far too easily."

However, Gwyther pointed out that Mrs Beckham realised some time ago that "celebrity has long been a powerful commercial tool" and called her "an adept exploiter of her own celeb value".

And that is what may mark out Victoria Beckham from the merely famous. The former girl-band star has used her fame to forge major strategic partnerships, source the best business advice and position herself as an emerging star of the high-fashion world.

It has been a spectacular transformation. Few, if any, in the fashion world believed that this woman would one day be designing handbags that retail at £18,000, or more. And that the world's most stylish women would be clamouring to buy them.

Today, Victoria Beckham is being praised for her "finely tuned business acumen". She runs a fashion empire with a £30m turnover, 100 staff and a 6,000 sq ft flagship store in London's uber-glitzy Mayfair (which opened last month).

The figures are hard to argue with. They include sales growth of 2,900% and employment growth of 3,233% over the past five years.

The former Spice Girl launched her fashion label in 2008 and by 2011 she had won designer brand of the year at the British Fashion Awards.

Her fashion collections include the lower-priced Victoria line, which brings her name and look within the reach of mere mortals, as well as more luxury lines of clothes and accessories.

Victoria runs her fast-growing fashion empire from a private office suite in the riverside Battersea area of London. The HQ is on two floors and includes in-house pattern-makers, sewers and cutters as well as around 100 staff working across design, product development, marketing and finance.

Visitors report that it's a buzzing, high-energy environment, with a constant stream of young talent, buyers for the top stores and business partners coming and going.

Victoria also welcomes the editors of the top magazines. Her young fashion company has managed to punch well above its weight in terms of publicity.

Most recently, she guest-edited the Paris edition of Vogue and did two major cover-shoots (Allure and Vanity Fair) along with a string of interviews for fashion and business magazines.

In all, Victoria has now graced the cover of nine different international editions of Vogue.

Her personal fame and the allure of her husband is a huge plus. "It's a double-edged sword really," Beckham recently said about the role fame plays in her business.

"The most valuable part of being famous is that you have a voice and people will listen. I mean, I can get a lot of attention. I don't have to rely on advertising campaigns," she said.

"But I don't like to use that card very often. I like to keep my head down, work hard, focus on what I'm doing business-wise. I like to try and control how much I'm seen. I don't want to go out and be photographed every day."

One reminder of her days as a Spice Girl is the presence of Simon Fuller, the pop music mogul who now has interests in everything from major TV companies to sports like tennis and Formula 1.

Fuller remains a close associate. His XIX management company owns one-third of the Victoria Beckham business while Victoria and David own the remaining two-thirds.

It is, when viewed without prejudice, an incredible achievement.

Beckham has transformed from pop starlet to hugely successful high-fashion designer, using the Beckham name where necessary, but now far eclipsing the earning power of her retired-footballer husband. It's not something she tends to crow about. That is not something cultured, high-fashion icons tend to do.

But in a recent interview with Business Of Fashion magazine, Mrs Beckham allowed herself a little stab at those who doubted her.

"For a long time there, I was a bit of a laughing stock," she said.

"And while everybody was busy laughing, what was I doing? I was laying the foundation to what I have in place now."

As she surveys her growing empire and the fashionistas clamouring at her door, it must feel very good indeed to be Victoria Beckham.

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