Since launching her eponymous label in September 2008, Victoria Beckham has established herself as a design force to be reckoned with. i-D hooked up with the pop star turned designer to eat cake and discuss her collections, LA and family life.
Victoria Beckham is sat barefoot on the carpet of her studio, leaning back against a large grey sofa, scattered with baby paraphernalia. There’s a hi-tech baby seat, bulging nappy bag, a couple of soft toys and a cashmere pink blanket. A pair of sky high Christian Louboutins are sat beside her. Dressed in a navy blue and black striped bodycon dress from her spring/summer 12 collection, she is quite possibly the most glamorous mum you ever did see. On the coffee table in front of her is a bowl of grapes and a cupcake decorated with star icing sugar. “We saved this for you,” Victoria says, gesturing towards the solitary cake. “The team and I had champagne and cupcakes earlier to celebrate and we thought you might like one too...”
Victoria is over in London from LA for the 2011 British Fashion Awards, where she was awarded the prestigious Designer Brand of the Year award. It was a major achievement for the 37-year-old designer, who beat fashion heavyweights Burberry, Stella McCartney and Tom Ford to take the much-coveted award home. Her win resulted in an emotional acceptance speech that revealed a new side to one of the most famous women on the planet. Holding back tears, Victoria thanked her team; her family and her husband David, without whom she “wouldn’t have the courage to do what [she’s] doing today.” It was honest, heartfelt and emotional, and afterwards there was barely a dry eye in the house.
“My god, I made the fashion industry cry!” Victoria exclaims, picking off a grape. “I really didn’t expect to win, which is why I was so emotional. When I’m in LA I’m in a bubble. My kids and David are my priority. Everything I do revolves around them.
I don’t read weekly magazines. I don’t read the tabloids. I don’t watch the television. I do my thing, so I was quite unaware of what was going on. To have Marc Jacobs come over from Paris to present it to me meant so much. He’s a really good friend and he’s always been so supportive and encouraging. The fact that he was there meant the world to me. It’s definitely the highlight of my career so far.”
“The older I get and the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I realise that to look great and feel great you haven’t always got wear something tight.” Victoria Beckham
Since launching her eponymous label in September 2008, Victoria Beckham has enjoyed a stratospheric rise to success. She’s honed her aesthetic, perfected her silhouette and finally thrown off her Tabloid reputation as an ex-pop star and ‘Wag’. Her beautifully tailored, effortlessly elegant dresses and super-luxe bags have received rave reviews the world over, finding celebrity fans in the likes of (take a deep breath) Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, Kate Winslet, Mila Kunis, Eva Longoria, Cheryl Cole, Elle Macpherson, Olivia Palermo, Mary J Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Blake Lively and Oprah Winfrey to name a small few. But what has perhaps been most unexpected is Victoria’s attitude. She hasn’t expected to be accepted, and she hasn’t thrown loads of money at the label to ensure its success. There have been no flashy catwalk shows, nor glossy ad campaigns. Instead Victoria has opted for intimate salon shows that allow her product to speak for itself. Which it does, in volumes. “I’ve made it clear to everybody I work with that there’s a difference between Victoria Beckham the fashion brand, and Victoria and David Beckham,” she says. “There’s a big, big difference and the product really has to speak for itself. That’s the first bit of advice Marc Jacobs ever gave me. He said, ‘People can say it’s not their personal taste, but if it’s the best quality it can be then no one can say it is rubbish.’”
Rubbish it certainly is not. Victoria continues to build on her signature aesthetic to present a sporty, utility themed collection of dresses and separates to continually take her label to the next level. “When I started it was all about the corset dress,” Victoria explains. “That’s what people associated me with, what people could believe was me, and possibly if I’m honest a sign of my own insecurities as well. But the older I get and the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I realise actually it’s okay to challenge that. To feel great and look great you haven’t always got to wear something tight.” Choosing a colour palette of navy, black and orange, Victoria moved away from her much loved hourglass silhouette to present a collection of military inspired coats, pleated shift dresses and boxy iridescent jackets with rolled up sleeves and hoods. Of course, her passion for bodycon was still evident in abundance, but this time it manifested itself as an orange and navy striped bandage dress with sturdy utilitarian straps, a slinky tangerine number and the figure flattering navy blue and black dress she is wearing today. Black PVC caps reminiscent of Charlotte Rampling in the Night Porter, slinky black leather legwarmers and Christian Louboutin stilettos completed the look.
Victoria’s fashion journey begun as a young girl in Harlow, Essex. Born in 1974, her earliest fashion memory is watching her mum get dressed for a night out. “My mum’s never been particularly interested in fashion per se, but she’s always loved luxury,” Victoria recalls. “I remember when her and my dad used to go to the Bunny Club in the 80s. My dad would wear a bow tie and my mum would wear a velvet skirt suit with big shoulder pads. She’d always have big hair, you could smell the hair spray and she’d wear really strong perfume like Poison by Christian Dior.” Listening to Victoria recount stories of her youth, it’s not hard to understand where the label ‘Posh’ sprung from. A fashion magazine addict, Victoria used to obsess over designer labels, saving up to buy a pair of patent white Patrick Cox Wallabees and swapping her school bag for a Gucci carrier bag, which she proudly carried her books in until the bottom fell through!
While her tastes may have changed, her passion for fashion did not. And with David and former Spice Girls’ manager Simon Fuller as business partners, Victoria presented her debut womenswear collection for spring/summer 2009. Opting for an intimate salon show environment, Victoria passionately talked her audience through each look, a practice almost unheard of today. “I wanted to explain inspiration, fabrics and detailing,” she informs. “I thought if I didn’t people might not know that it was there. So when the dresses came down I’d say ‘This is made of a dense rib jersey’ and then I’d unzip the dress and say ‘look at the corsetry’. It was really important for me that people understood the thought processes behind it.” Victoria’s personality and passion for her product shone through and rave reviews soon followed, with Style.com dubbing her ‘One of the hottest things going in New York’.
“I don’t follow fashion and I don’t follow trends, I just follow my instincts and think what do I want to wear? What am I feeling for next season?” Victoria Beckham
It was an unexpected achievement for Victoria, who with no former design experience was still busy finding her feet. “I have one person who helps me with dresses, a production person and a few interns,” Victoria reveals. “There really isn’t the big design team people think there is...” Luckily the people she chooses to surround herself with know the workings of the industry, leaving her to concentrate on design. “With the parachute dress, I literally stood in the studio in my knickers draping some parachute silk around myself to create a dress,” she recalls. “That’s how it starts, with me in my knickers.” With her team based in south London and her in LA, time differences can create a logistical nightmare. “I’ve got up at two or five in the morning before to do video conferences,” Victoria discloses. “But some of my team have family so I have to be respectful of that, and if that means I have to get up a couple of hours earlier so be it.” She also returns to London at least once a month, while her team fly out for meetings in LA and New York. “That’s another reason why the label’s doing so well,” she informs. “We’re all such happy campers because we’re all very respectful of each other.” While being one of the most photographed women in the world certainly has its drawbacks, when it comes to designing clothes it has its advantages too. “I’ve stood on many a red carpet and been photographed from every angle,” Victoria explains, “So I understand how important it is for a dress to be flattering.” It’s valuable insider knowledge such as this that has not only enabled Victoria to perfect her body-skimming tailoring, but also introduce such female friendly elements as under-bust contouring and channel seaming, discrete details that have helped sales to soar. In 2011 alone her label, together with Victoria by Victoria Beckham, her younger, more affordable line of dresses was rumoured to bring in a massive £60 million.
“For me it’s all about quality,” Victoria continues. “That’s the most important thing and that’s what I’ve always been adamant about right from the start, the quality has to be the very best. I don’t follow fashion and I don’t follow trends, I just follow my instincts and think what do I want to wear? What am I feeling for next season? I design everything for myself. If it’s a dress, it’s a dress I want to wear myself.”
Looking after four young children and a booming fashion label is a full time commitment. “I do find it difficult,” Victoria admits. “Just the other day I was at a conference and someone in the press said to me, ‘How can you say you’re just like any other working mum?’ and I said ‘You know what I am like any working mum. I feel guilty like any working mum. I’ll be in a meeting and the kids will phone on their way to school and I’ll be like ‘Have you done you homework? Have you done this?’ It’s a juggling act, and I can’t lie, one that’s getting more and more difficult as the collections are growing.” As for living in LA, Victoria is quick to insist it hasn’t influenced her aesthetic at all. “I went out for breakfast the other Sunday,” she chats, “and put on, what I would call ‘real clothes’ and people were looking at me like I had three heads. It was like ‘Really? You’re dressing like that?’ I only had on a nice dress and some heels. You know, something you might wear here everyday.” So where does she source her inspiration? “I’m totally obsessed with Paris,” she confesses. “Everything I do, whether it’s a lookbook or one of my collections, I always like it to have a certain French chic-ness to it.” Does David get involved in the designing? “No, he definitely does not!” laughs Victoria. “If I show David one of my signature dresses he understands it, but if I were to show him a parachute dress he wouldn’t get it at all. He’d say, ‘Err, I’m not sure about that one...’ and actually that’s great because that means it’s good! He doesn’t understand it and why should he? It’s women’s fashion. I want men to think women look sexy in my dresses, but I also want women to feel sexy for themselves.” While he may not be the world’s best design consultant, David is an integral part of Victoria’s success, providing her with the courage and the support to follow her dreams. “He’s so supportive,” Victoria confirms. “He knew when he married me that he wasn’t going to come home and find his dinner on the table every night. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say I don’t cook. But David never has a problem with me saying ‘I’m going to London to work’ or ‘I’m going to New York’. He’s really, really supportive. He’s very modern like that.” As for Harper Seven, the little girl Victoria longed for, and the best-dressed baby in Hollywood; “She’s made me a better person,” Victoria says with a smile. “She really has, not just her, all my kids have. I think when you have a baby when you’re a bit older you appreciate it more, Brooklyn is twelve now, and while I’ve always given the kids everything and I’ve always been a great mum, when you’re older you really realise just how lucky you are. The boys love football so they look up to David,” she continues. “They watch him play and they’re completely mesmerised. Romeo even goes to bed in David’s football shirt and sleeps with a pair of football boots! So when I found out I was having a girl, the thought of having a little person who can do that to me is really exciting. I’m hoping she’s going to like what I like and carry on what I’ve started.” Not to mention the enviable wardrobe Harper is going to inherit. “I don’t get rid of anything,” Victoria confesses. “I have storage places in London and LA where I archive everything. One day Harper has a hell of a lot of clothes to go through!” In the future Victoria Beckham hopes to expand her brand to include shoes and opticals. “I remember Sally Singer [Editor of T Magazine] saying to me when I met her in New York, ‘You should only enter into a category when you can’t find what you are looking for’,” Victoria recalls. “That happened to me subconsciously with the dress line and the bags. I could never find the perfect pair of jeans either, but I have to be realistic when it comes to shoes because there are a lot of designers out there doing shoes brilliantly.” She flashes a loving look at her Louboutins. She also has no desire to introduce menswear, nor childrenswear (despite rumours to the contrary). “My ultimate goal is to empower women,” she concludes. “I’m a real woman’s woman at heart and I want to make sure women not only look good, but feel good too. That’s why I do what I do.”