What I really, really want

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 May, 2012, 12:00am


'I'm 38 by the way,' Victoria Beckham offers, about 10 minutes into our conversation. 'I think I'm the only person in Hollywood who's actually quite honest about how old she is. Everybody else, they get younger and I get older. What's that about?' she laughs. 'I don't have any problem with getting older, I'm much more comfortable in myself and confident. I'm a better person.'

Beckham is well prepared for the media at the Four Seasons Hotel but it's through asides such as these that you start to see why she has a reputation for being a bit of a laugh. On a recent flight to Beijing, she tweeted a picture of herself with a Cathay Pacific stewardess to her three million Twitter followers, spawning a viral sensation.

Perfectly groomed, from the immaculate freshly blow-dried hair to the sweeping arches of her eyebrows and the glossy lipstick that stays put, Beckham hardly looks the part of a comedienne. She does, however, look like one half of a power couple who made it onto The Sunday Times 2012 rich list - her and David ranking joint 10th in the 'music millionaires' list of people residing in Britain, with reported earnings totalling GBP20 million (HK$252 million) in the past 12 months.

Since the inception of her eponymous fashion label four years ago, Beckham, already a style icon, has reinvented herself as a fashion insider, making great efforts to move on from the Posh Spice and WAG personas of yesteryear. However, her fashion career has not been without its doubters, especially given the industry's wariness of celebrity designers (the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have hardly helped the cause).

'I was very aware of people's preconceptions,' says Beckham. 'For me it's been a lifetime in the making. It's a passion, it's what I've always dreamt of doing. I love women; I want to empower a woman, that's why I do what I do.

I was just very, very focused. I knew what I wanted, had a very small team of people, and I want to give my customer what she wants.'

As far as anyone can gauge from a few short minutes with Beckham, she is wholeheartedly invested in the venture and, despite having had no formal design training, her language is peppered with design-speak. She is clearly passionate and a bit of a control freak about the whole thing. Dare I mention 'girl power'?

'I've always loved fashion but I think the thing I really love is women,' Beckham repeats. 'I think you're either a girl's girl or not, and I definitely am. I want to make women feel good about themselves.'

None of her lines - a ready-to-wear collection, the younger Victoria range, a Victoria Beckham Jeans line, handbags and sunglasses - are licensed, meaning she owns them in their entirety. She travels to London every three weeks from her home in Los Angeles, she says, to visit the design team. And her team travel in the other direction every three weeks to see her.

'I'm very hands-on with the whole design process. I'm aware of every seeming detail, every fabric. I'm not just putting my name to something. Not that there's anything wrong with that but it's just very different to the process by which I work.'

Her ready-to-wear line surprised everyone when it was critically and commercially lauded on its 2008 debut, at New York Fashion Week. The sleek, well-fitted dresses flatter in an understated European manner and her glamorous evening gowns wear beautifully on the red carpet.

'I've been that person for many years, standing on the red carpet. I know how you want to feel and look; something that's got to look good not just from the front and the back but from 360 degrees,' she says. 'Everything is very subtle, very chic. I don't want to over logo everything. I'm not a brand like that at all.'

Before 'Angelina's leg', there was 'Victoria Beckham's leg', perpetually tanned and often extended and accompanied by a moody pout, a red-carpet affectation she says she adopted 'to control a situation which is out of control'.

'That has influenced the way that I design dresses as well. I want to control the woman who's wearing it ... and I don't think I've seen a bad picture of someone wearing one of my dresses on the red carpet. You never see anything falling out or being inappropriate, it's always been flattering.'

Blake Lively, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Drew Barrymore, Mary J. Blige, Elle Macpherson and even her former Spice-mates have been photographed in items from her collections.

'I've never asked anyone to wear my dresses, even my friends,' she says. 'Half the time ... I'm not even aware [they have done so] until afterwards.'

Last year, with a tearful acceptance speech, Beckham won the British Fashion Council's 'best designer brand' award - and was, in the process, formally recognised by the world of high fashion as a force to be reckoned with.

'I'm still sooooo blown away, it meant so much to me,' she says. 'A lot of people were saying, 'Why were you so nervous? You've been on stage with the Spice Girls.' But this was very different.

'I was really surprised to win. God, with Tom Ford, Christopher Bailey standing there, I was completely blown away. I think, 'Wow, I'm lucky to have won.' I think I deserved it and, as a team, we deserved it - I mean that in a humble way.'

She couldn't stop crying that night, she says, 'I was so overwhelmed and felt a bit of an idiot. After getting over that, the first thing I thought was, 'How am I going to top this?''

She took advantage of mentorship from some of the industry's biggest honchos, including Roland Mouret and Bailey, and now, Beckham says, the product speaks for itself.

Quality of workmanship has been crucial. Her ready-to-wear line is produced in London, her handbags and sunglasses in Italy.

'Marc Jacobs said to me, before he'd even seen anything, that I just need to make sure it's really good quality, because then people can say that it's not to their personal taste, but no one can say that it's s**t.'

The label has evolved. At the beginning 'everything was very fitted to the body ... because that's what I was known for.' Each season Beckham has tried to experiment at pace, a notable turning point being her spring-summer 2010 collection, when she first played with major volume away from the body.

Inspiration has come from many quarters, including her family. There was a military theme to her latest ready-to-wear collection, but it also featured beanie hats 'that were inspired by my husband'; and baseball flourishes, courtesy of the couple's second son: 'Romeo running in the kitchen [wearing his outfit], and me thinking, 'Oh I love that baseball collar detail.''

Ultimately, though, Victoria Beckham designs for Victoria Beckham. One crucial difference between her and most other designers, she says, is that there is nothing in her own collections she wouldn't wear.

'Everything has been very considered. Absolutely everything I design is for my own wardrobe. Quite what's going to happen when I get old, I don't know,' she laughs. 'I am a control freak, in the nicest sense of the word.

'I put something on, consider how it looks, how it feels. I have quite a fanatical eye; are the proportions right?' she says, wondering out loud how male designers manage to do womenswear so well without having their own female curves to reference.

Given that Beckham's clothes conform to her petite frame and her classically chic style, the line appears a natural fit for the Asian customer she is courting.

'They look great in my dresses,' Beckham says. 'That being said, I have dressed women who aren't so tiny - like Oprah, or look at someone like Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez, I've also dressed a curvier woman.'

BECKHAM'S GOSSIP MAGAZINE alter ego never cracks a smile and seems every inch the ice queen. As a mother of four, married to one of the most famous men on the planet, with a multimillion-dollar business to run, you, too, might look a little distracted at times.

Here and now, though, she is warm and possesses a confident chattiness, a sharp sense of wit and the ability to laugh at herself.

'I'm a really happy person. I love what I do,' she says. 'Everyday I laugh - I think it's really important ... and it helps having your hairdresser with you on the trip!

'I'm very aware of people's perception of me because of the pictures that are out there. And that is what it is, that's fine,' she says. 'But I don't feel the need to prove that I'm any different. I don't care.'

That's not to say Beckham isn't focused on the task in hand; she expertly turns the topic back towards her fashion line and speaks with a tone that belies almost 20 years in the limelight.

Beckham the designer might still be a new concept to those brought up on a diet of Posh 'n' Becks OK! magazine photo spreads and the Spice Girls. Although the pop group were known for their unique style, some of their outfits haven't aged particularly well (I partly blame the 1990s). There was a time when Posh, as she was known, championed heavy lip-liner, overuse of hair straighteners and dodgy his-and-hers outfits with her husband.

The Beckhams' move to the United States in 2007, when David signed to play for the LA Galaxy football team, was an opportunity for Victoria to launch a serious fashion career. She had already dipped her toe into the waters with collaborations for Rock & Republic and Taiwanese label Shiatzy Chen, and she had been the face of Rocawear, a clothing and accessories label created by musicians Damon Dash and Jay-Z. And let's not forget that steamy shoot she did with David for the cover of W magazine.

The American fashion industry has always been supportive of Beckham and despite calls to show at London Fashion Week, Beckham isn't planning on abandoning the New York circuit anytime soon.

'We love living in America,' she says, adding that her children are happy in LA and the weather is great. 'I love their attitude - the sky's the limit. But then I'm also really proud to be British and I spend a lot of time in London.

'The other great thing is that we have a very different profile there, which really works for us.'

The couple do get followed by paparazzi in the US, but, she says, 'it's very, very different' from the hounding they get in Britain.

'You know a while ago, I said, 'Who cares about me and David if you've got Tom Cruise living five minutes down the road?' We love that.

'I'm very lucky that David and the boys are so supportive of what I do. I think it's a really positive message to give to kids: mummy works!

'It's no different for me than any working mum out there,' says Beckham, although, looking around at her entourage, which includes a make-up artist, a hair stylist, a publicist and security people, as well as the camera lenses constantly pointed at her, that seems unlikely.

Nonetheless, the sentiment is there and Beckham does appear to be a very hands-on mother.

'I take my daughter [nine-month old Harper Seven] everywhere with me. She's here, wandering around somewhere. She got a little bit bored. She comes to work with me everyday. I've never left her. I'd take the boys [Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz] but they have school.'

Now Beckham has a reputation for sophisticated style, what of those perennial rumours concerning a Spice Girls reunion?

'It was fun. I have a lot of respect for my past, and I'm proud of what we achieved. But [fashion] is what I always wanted to do, you know? I'm doing this on my own. It's almost like standing in a room full of people completely naked.

'No, I wont go back [to the Spice Girls], I love the other girls. The fans have been very supportive. I was never going to be the best singer and now I feel like I'm competing in an arena where I have something to give, in my own way.'

In Hong Kong, the Victoria Beckham mainline label is available exclusively through Joyce. Victoria is available exclusively through Lane Crawford