With parallel fashion careers and matching fortunes, country houses, famous friends and royal connections, you might imagine that Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney have a lot in common.
They’ve each got four children, handsome husbands and are even regulars at the same London facialist.
Indeed, Stella and Posh were on chummy terms around ten years ago when Stella’s husband Alasdhair Willis was hired as a style consultant to help re-brand David after his move to the U.S. football team LA Galaxy. But recently there has been a definite chill in their friendship, with talk of fallings out over staff and publicity.
There is also a feeling Posh, 45, has been trying a bit too hard to emulate effortlessly cool Stella, 48. Battle lines have now been drawn — and Posh has been unfollowed by her one-time friend on social media.
Here, Alison Boshoff tells the story of the ‘best of frenemies’ and exactly what has driven them apart.
Stella McCartney (left), 48. Stella has unfollowed Posh on social media. Victoria Beckham (right), 45. Victoria offered a job to Stella’s nanny, having heard on the mummy network that she was outstanding
Their fashion empires go head to head
Stella has made around £50 million in fashion, while Posh has lost £42 million.
Stella started out as an intern at Christian Lacroix when she was 16, then worked for Edward Sexton, a Savile Row tailor who made clothes for her father Sir Paul McCartney. She graduated from Central Saint Martins in 1995 with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell walking in her graduation show.
Her fashion house was launched in 2001 in collaboration with the Kering group.
It has been a huge success with revenues said to stand at around £250 million a year.
Victoria (left) and Stella (middle) with Natalia Vodianova (right) in 2009
She bought back Kering’s 50 per cent stake in 2018 and last year made a deal with luxury giants LVMH — part of their new commitment to ethical fashion and sustainability. She does not use any leather or fur in her designs.
Victoria, meanwhile, started in fashion with jeans and sunglasses in 2006, before launching her own line in 2008. Figures filed last year indicate Victoria Beckham Ltd has failed to turn a profit for the seventh year running. It has lost £42 million in 11 years, the equivalent of nearly £10,500 a day.
Losses are 18 per cent worse than last year and stand at a painful £11.7 million. Meanwhile, sales have also dropped by 16 per cent to stand at £35.1 million for the year ending December 2018. Previously they stood at £41.7 million.
Company chairman Ralph Toledano said it was experiencing a ‘growth crisis’ because demand had reached a ‘plateau’.
Fashion designer Jeff Banks told me: ‘It is not that she has lost her eye, but she is struggling against a massive overhead which does not support sales of £35 million a year.
‘The question is how much can they afford to pay so that she can keep pursuing her dreams?’
The two women have little in common socially — Stella’s dearest and oldest friends are supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, both of whom have well-reported antipathy towards Posh and her fashion aspirations.
But the beef between the ladies actually began thanks to a friendship which has sprung up between their daughters, Harper and Reiley, both nine, who attend the same private London prep school.
In 2017, Stella’s daughter Reiley was invited to Harper’s sixth birthday tea party at Buckingham Palace. Proud dad David posted a snap in which Reiley was clearly pictured in a group photo with Princess Eugenie during the trip, which had been organised by Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.
Stella was ‘extremely angry’ over this breach of her daughter’s privacy, which she has always taken pains to protect.
Then, more recently, Victoria offered a job to Stella’s nanny, having heard on the mummy network that she was outstanding.
Rumour has it that the nanny was not being paid at the elevated rates which this kind of work usually commands. In any case, sources confirm that the nanny left Stella to work for Posh. (Representatives for both women declined to comment yesterday.)
Following this, Stella heard that Victoria had made an approach to a senior member of her fashion team. Although the employee, a head of studio, didn’t leave, it was the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of their friendship.
Stella has now unfollowed Posh on social media. Victoria is said to have sent an email begging for forgiveness, but none has been forthcoming. A source said: ‘Stella has lots of friends in high places and obviously Victoria does not want to become a pariah in the celebrity world.
‘She sent an email apologising, and asking that their personal row should not be allowed to affect their families’ friendship.
‘Her daughter Harper is good friends with Stella’s daughter Reiley, and she’d hate for that to become an issue.’
Very proper properties
Victoria and family own a spectacular barn conversion a stone’s throw from Soho Farmhouse — the Cotswolds outpost of the luxury private members’ club — of which Stella is also a member.
It has three ‘wings’, an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court in its landscaped grounds, plus an enormous treehouse.
However, Stella’s country home, a gorgeous nine-bedroomed Georgian farmhouse on 277 acres in Worcestershire, knocks the Beckhams’ more modest residence into a cocked hat.
She spotted it in the pages of Country Life and bought it for £1.3 million in 2001 as the perfect place to ride her horse. She and husband Alasdhair Willis have done enormous renovations.
Party at Buckingham Palace: Harper, right, and Stella’s daughter Reiley, left, with Princess Eugenie
Stella said: ‘We took off the roof and took the walls out, and there’s still a lot to do. Every morning I go, “Oh, my God, is it going to last another ten years?”’ They have also poured a fortune into the garden.
‘We’re now trying to have it as a redbrick box within a garden within a garden within a garden, trying to just gradually work our way through the land. Luckily we’ve got a lot of acres to take you on a journey.
‘We planted a million trees here. We’ve made another Eden.’
The ladies are almost neighbours in London — hence having daughters at the same school.
Victoria and family have a £32 million house in Holland Park, while Stella and her family are in a similar-sized home in Belgravia. Stella also has a beautiful property in The Hamptons, outside New York.
Two tales of country folk
Although both women are members of Soho Farmhouse, they have very different views on country life. Stella’s version is traditional, with a draughty house, fleets of gardeners and days spent riding horses across her farmland.
The Beckham version involves cocktails with metropolitan friends at Soho House.
The Beckhams have been known to get ‘room service’ food at home from Soho Farmhouse and to ask staff there to walk their dogs.
There’s a hint of Stella’s husband Alasdhair’s personal style in Beckham’s image — the quiff, beard, well-cut suits.
This is no surprise, as Alasdhair (above right) was employed to help David ditch his streaked hair and baggy jeans style in 2010.
Alasdhair Willis and Stella McCartney. He now works for Hunter, the wellies people
He now works for Hunter, the wellies people, while David has a deal with Kent & Curwen, the gents’ outfitters.
There are four children in each family. Stella has Miller, 14, Bailey, 13, Beckett, 11, and Reiley, nine. Posh has Brooklyn, 20, Romeo, 17, Cruz, 14, and Harper, nine.
David and Victoria Beckham. David has a deal with Kent & Curwen, the gents’ outfitters
They are also often in the bar until late — it was reported that David and son Brooklyn were out until the early hours the night before Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding. There are also differing views over shooting.
David Beckham regularly goes shooting with his film director friend Guy Ritchie. But lifelong vegetarian Stella is fervently opposed to all bloodsports.
Stella’s property falls within the territory of the Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt, which had been allowed to cross the farm’s land, but now goes along bridle paths at the bottom edge of the farm.
Most of her estate is working organic farmland, whereas the Beckhams essentially have a big garden with some staff quarters and lots of recently planted trees.
Moving in very starry circles
Stella is friends with numerous Hollywood A-listers including actress Gwyneth Paltrow, whom she has known for decades, and George and Amal Clooney. She’s also pals with designers Valentino and Tom Ford, who came to her wedding. Other chums include actress Kate Hudson.
Although Posh was a celebrity before trying her hand at fashion, she has surprisingly few friends in superstar circles.
One famous pal is actress Liv Tyler, who is married to David Beckham’s best mate Dave Gardner. The family are also close to TV chef Gordon Ramsay.
In the fashion world, she was supported early on by Marc Jacobs.
She said at a conference last year that the late Karl Lagerfeld had been supportive, as had Valentino. But, she confessed, eyes rolled at the mention of her name. ‘I was very aware of the preconceptions, being married to David Beckham, being a Spice Girl, all of a sudden here’s a collection.
‘If I’d known then what I know now, I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do it,’ she said.
Battle of the beauty regimes
Both women have been to facialist Linda Meredith’s London studio. Victoria also goes to the famed Dr Harold Lancer in Los Angeles, who is the Kardashians’ dermatologist.
Victoria has her hair done by Ken Paves, who is her personal stylist, while Stella favours Jamie Stevens, London’s coolest hairdresser.
Royal connections and picking up gongs
Yet again, Stella comes out in front. She received an OBE in 2013, the year after designing the Team GB Olympic kit. She also designed Meghan Markle’s evening gown for her 2018 wedding.
And while Posh, who got her OBE in 2017 for services to the fashion industry, was at one time on good terms with Meghan, there were reportedly concerns from the Duchess that Posh was leaking stories about their connections, which led to an awkward conversation between David Beckham and Prince Harry, and cooled relations for a period of time.
Stella McCartney holds her OBE in 2013 (left). Victoria Beckham got her OBE in 2017 for services to the fashion industry (right)
Meghan wore Victoria Beckham clothes twice —once to church over Christmas 2018 and once in one of her engagement photos in 2017.
The Beckhams are now said to be concentrating on maintaining their friendly relationship with Prince William, whom David got to know through charity work and sports ambassadorships.