Victoria Beckham Talks Style

  The Victoria Beckham story is a post-modern fairytale. First, she was famous for being famous; then, she became – against all expectations – famous for actually being good at something. There is, of course, a prince in this story (more of him later) but the glass-slipper moment in the fable of Victoria Beckham is not her Vera Wang-clad wedding 15 years ago, but the morning nine years later when she presented her first collection to fashion editors and buyers in a New York hotel suite to rave reviews. What makes the Victoria Beckham story so compelling to the women who buy her dresses is that Victoria Beckham is living, breathing proof of the transformative powers of fashion. We buy clothes because we believe they will help us become who we want to be. It is the dresses with her name on the label – yours for around £1,500 a pop – which made Victoria Beckham who she is today. That is one very powerful sales pitch. The sitting room where Victoria, Harper, Natalie the PR and I sit on a trio of neutral-toned sofas, runs the full width of the house, opening on to the garden. Victoria is a great deal more beautiful in person than she looks in paparazzi shots. You expect the glossy mane, the perfect nails, the caramel skin; it’s the almond-shaped, dark-chocolate eyes which take you by suprise. She usually keeps them hidden behind enormous sunglasses. Her decor is a cheerful mix of grown-up taste and family life: one table holds a vast white orchid and tomes of fashion photography; another bears half of a Frozen-themed cake, leftover from Harper’s party. Ana and Elsa – the goldfish – are on the dining room table. (“They’re supposed to be in Harper’s room, but the bowl is too heavy for me to carry upstairs so it will have to wait till David gets home.”) David and the boys – Brooklyn (15), Romeo (12) and Cruz (nine) – have left to spend the holidays in LA. Victoria has more work to do on the collection to be shown in New York on 7 September before she and Harper fly out to join them. Being Victoria Beckham is a number of overlapping full-time jobs: mother, designer, brand ambassador, businesswoman. I met Victoria a few times over the summer in an attempt to get a 360-degree picture of the woman behind the brand. It became clear that she makes her schedule work by doing several things at once. We talked about the future of her company sitting on her sofa while she cuddled Harper. On a site visit to her London store, she took calls from Brooklyn – the first time he had forgotten his lunch money, the second he just called to check in. One afternoon at her Battersea headquarters, she showed me around her two ateliers and stopped to point out, hanging on a rail outside her office, the dress she had picked to wear to the Wimbledon men’s final: a priceless piece of publicity for her label, which saw that dress on TV screens and websites globally. Advertisement At home on her sofa, she reflects that “I know that I’m lucky to be in a position to plan my diary around the kids’ assemblies and sports days. I never miss those. But on the other hand, I don’t ever watch TV. After dinner I’ll catch up with emails. And when I’m lying in bed I think about the next collection. That makes me sound insane, doesn’t it? That I’m getting into bed with David Beckham and thinking about clothes.” The best new year resolution Victoria ever made was “to start going to the gym. That was nearly four years ago, when we were in LA and I was pregnant with Harper, and I’ve never stopped. Once I get into something, I do it properly.” Her daily routine begins – six days a week, at 6am on weekdays – with a 90-minute workout with a trainer. (Harper shows us a set of professional-looking bicep curls with a set of pretend dumbbells she has made from twists of craft paper: clearly, she has observed a few.) Victoria runs (eight miles around Richmond Park with Tana Ramsay the other day) and in LA attends the ferocious SoulCycle classes. She eats lots of fruit (“the most popular thing I make in my kitchen is a mango carved into a hedgehog. I do that and the kids tell everyone I’m an amazing cook”), fish and vegetables. On a school day, after training she will “get the kids up, do breakfast, check if there are any spelling tests or maths tests, if they need football boots. It’s complicated because two of the boys go to the same school, Brooklyn goes to a different school, Harper goes to another school, so usually David and I each do a school run.” These days, the paparazzi mostly leave them in peace. “I can walk to Marks & Spencer or to the park with the kids and I probably won’t be photographed.” The Victoria Beckham label has undergone an intriguing evolution in its six-year lifespan. Where the first collections of dresses were all about structure, using corsetry to sculpt a silhouette, within two years the aesthetic had loosened up to include draped parachute-silk. The business expanded with the more accessibly priced “Victoria Victoria Beckham” line, and flat shoes, trousers and oversized coats appeared alongside the hourglass numbers she calls her “signature dresses”. The new collection centres around lean but easy shapes: a high-neck sweater with a simple skirt, a silky tunic over slim trousers, a fluid sleeveless coat. If you were to psychoanalyse the clothes, you could say that they have become less about a perfect body and more about personality. The Victoria Beckham woman has a shape to her as a person, which is no longer defined by her waist size. I put this to Victoria. She is sceptical – “there was more corsetry at the beginning because we were a small team, with a smaller skill-set, as the atelier expanded we’ve been able to try more things” – but agrees that the way she herself dresses has changed. “Because I’m coming to work every day, I tend to wear things that are a little looser; if I want to look dressy, I put on my sunglasses. I used to wear clothes which would make me stand out and now I don’t so much because I don’t feel I have anything to prove.” Her day look seldom swerves beyond navy, black, cream and grey; as well as her own label, she wears Céline, Saint Laurent, Comme des Garçons. Her personal heroines are “Hillary Clinton for a start. I love her, don’t you? And Sheryl Sandberg. And Michelle Obama. Strong women, that’s who I really respect.” It is nearly two years since I last spent significant time talking to Victoria and she has changed a great deal. That was Victoria Beckham 2.0, transformed from pop star to promising designer. Victoria Beckham 3.0 is much more comfortable inhabiting the role of the boss and talking business, less inclined to crack jokes to lighten the mood. Success this time around feels different from her pop star life, she says. “First time around I felt famous, but now I feel successful.” She wears her power lightly – she speaks softly, has flawless manners, and returns several times to the importance of being “respectful” (of her team’s talents, of other people’s time) – but “the final decision is always mine. It’s really important that every aspect of what we do – the clothes, the swing tags, the shelves, everything – represents my point of view, because that’s what the brand stands for.” Two years ago, Victoria Beckham had one floor in the Battersea HQ; now her 100-plus team are sprawled over several floors, with two in-house ateliers. “I went to Net-a-Porter the other day,” she says, as we tour her scattered empire criss-crossing endless staircases and courtyards, “and their office is my dream. I called Zach [Duane, her CEO] and told him, ‘I want an office like that’! But basically, he said no. Not yet.” In her office – grey sofas, white-shuttered windows and a huge black and white photograph of her children – she talked through her day’s schedule, which included a meeting about rebranding and castings for a fit model, and I asked if she thought she’d still be working this hard in 10 years time, when she turns 50. “Probably, yes, knowing me. Although my mum can’t understand why I’m working this hard now, to be honest.” There is no financial need for Victoria to work and, for this reason, critics have been inclined to call into question whether she “really does anything”. (One notices that this is a logic seldom applied to successful men.) “The thing is,” she says, “I’ve always worked. The Spice Girls had a crazy schedule. I can’t imagine what I’d do all day if I didn’t work. I’m lucky that I do something I love, and I am proud as I think it’s a positive message to give to young women: if you want to have a career, and be married with children, then you can. It’s full-on, but it’s doable.” This autumn sees the opening of a 7,000 sq ft boutique on Dover Street in Mayfair. For a site meeting with Farshid Moussavi, the architect, Victoria arrives in skinny jeans, black flats, a black sweater and her own-label Liberty tote. She initially balks when handed a hard hat – “are you serious? I just had a blow dry” – but is soon posing in it, and posting the pictures on Instagram. The meeting covers rail fittings – should the clothes be held static (looks neat) or have flex to be rotated on the hanger (useful for customers)? Then it’s on to carpet for the fitting room – grey or green? Victoria makes quick decisions, often pushing for the purist design option. She wants the store to be “sophisticated, a bit conceptual. It’s not just about selling. I want it to work for someone who isn’t necessarily going to buy anything, but who wants to experience the brand through my eyes.” She leaves for a meeting, dipping into her bag for powder and lipstick before walking out to find her driver while taking a call – David, presumably – who rings to suggest dinner. Love to, she says, do you want to pick me up after work? “The part of the puzzle I find difficult,” Victoria told me, “is having a social life. Because I work and then go home to be with the children.” I sympathised, agreeing that with a career, kids and a marriage, something has to give. That’s just how it is, I shrugged. She gave me one of her delicate little frowns, and softly chided my defeatist point of view. “I don’t see why it has to be like that,” she said. “You know what I think, Jess? I think we need to try a little bit harder.” Source: the

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