Vogue Festival 2013: Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham with British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman
On seeing the crowded theatre at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, Victoria Beckham’s first words were, “all of you want to hear me talk, I hope I will say something good now”. This drew laughter from the audience and it set the tone for the next hour as the former pop princess turned fashion designer talked about her fashion career and the amount of dedication it takes to become the woman who really has it all.

After Spice Girls split up, Victoria Beckham could have become the one no-one would have remembered but after a brief flirtation with the football WAG (Wives and Girlfriends) club, Victoria went on to become a household name in the world of celebrity. Many people tittered at the thought of Victoria going into fashion but she had the last laugh, with the likes of Hollywood stars wearing her dresses on the red carpet. Pictures papped by the paparazzi hardly do her any justice, in the flesh, she is healthy and happy with a self-deprecating personality that endears everyone to her charm and honesty.

What gives you the initial idea for your fashion collections?
“Each season, I get inspired by something different. I am fortunate to be able to travel a lot, to call London my home as well as Los Angeles, so last winter for example, my Victoria line was inspired by the Californian lifestyle. You can see that in the structure, in the prints and in the style of the dresses. Whereas my main line was inspired purely by one day, Romeo running in from school and he was wearing a baseball shirt and I thought ‘that looks really cool’ and so I had a baseball theme running through the ready –to-wear collection. The beanie hats were inspired by David wearing beanie hats. I get inspired by travelling and being at home and being a wife and a mother.

“It is great being back in London. London is such an inspiring place to live, so multicultural and interesting. I am happy”

How do you convey what you want in your collection to your team?
“At the start of every season, I sit down with my team and I talk about what I like, what I don’t like and what I like to wear myself. Ultimately I am designing clothes that I want to wear myself. What I often do, I use things that I don’t normally wear or find challenging to wear and I might have that as a starting point and find a way for me to like it. I want to challenge myself fashion wise each season. I want to push myself and try something new. It is all about communication. I have such a great team and I am lucky to have them and we are all very close and we sit down and we talk. Then I get naked and make clothes on myself!”
You like to challenge yourself. When do you think that first started?
“I have always dreamt of being in the fashion industry. It is always something that I have felt in my tummy that I have always had to do. Before I started on my own line, I was working with a denim brand and a sunglasses brand, so I was dipping my toe in the industry for a while before I could take the licensing deals and bring them in house and fund everything myself, it is all self funded. So I don’t have any licensing deals at all and when I was in a position to do that, that is when it felt right.”

What do you look for in your team as the people you work with?
“My team are so great. We are a small team but we are growing. They are all incredibly, talented, passionate and focused. I also think it is important to enjoy the people you are working with, we have a lot of fun every day. They are passionate for what they do and they believe in my brand and what I’m creating, I have the same team that I had when I first started over six years ago. I really encourage my team to grow with me as I grow with the brand as well. I have a few people who started out with me as interns that now have high up jobs in marketing, press and sales as well. It is a really nice family atmosphere.”

It must be a different experience now to work with the team, person to person, rather than over Skype.
“It is great. I am very hands on with every aspect of the business. I never did as much Skype as it came across. Every time I did an interview where I said I had a call on Skype, everybody thought that was how I designed my collections, via Skype. It was never that way. I did a lot of travelling which was difficult because I don’t want to leave my children. Being a working mum, you feel guilty every time you go out the door and you have to work. It is great to be in London and I am going to my studio every day which is just over the bridge in Battersea. It is great that I am here all the time, I have five categories now and I have just launched e-commerce and I am looking into retail. There are a lot of balls I am juggling at the moment and it is definitely easier being here.”
When did you think that it was real possibility that you could be in fashion?
“I don’t think there was one particular moment, it is what I always wanted to do. I did a presentation when I first started ten seasons ago, I had a room at a hotel in New York and I did sometimes one-on-one presentations or group presentations and I did that for four days to fashion press, buyers and I literally talked through the collection. I had ten dresses and I would sit there and talk about them. The dress would come out on a model and I would unzip the dress and talk about the corsetry and the inspiration and the fabrics. Sometimes I would be talking for hours on end to people who did not actually speak English! I just like the talk so I would be talking away, I really wanted people to understand the concept and understand why we do it. I remember that it was 3am and I would be standing in the florist in the hotel in my slippers trying to decide on the flowers. I didn’t have a stylist to decide the hair and make-up, things have come such a long way since those days.

“I think right at the beginning, I didn’t know what people would think and there were lots of raised eyebrows, or those that could raise their eyebrows, when they heard that I was going to do this. Pop star who is married to a footballer really going to do a clothing line? A lot of people had preconceptions and I didn’t go out to prove anybody wrong. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”

You would never get Karl Lagerfield showing how something was pieced together.
“I was so proud of it. I wasn’t out to prove to anybody that I know the ins and outs of this dress, I genuinely did. I never set out to talk through the collection, it just happened naturally. I was doing it for four days and it just came naturally to me. I am sure people were thinking ‘shut up, stop going on about grograin waistband but for me, it was important to do that.”

What drove you to move from the presentations to the show?
“I have eight minutes to show the industry, the buyers, the press, my customer, what my fashion is that season. It is important to me to do this. I have moved from the small presentations to a big show, though I do like to keep it as personal as I can. It is great, I have eight minutes, it is incredibly expensive and the pressure’s on and I get the opportunity to collaborate with the best people in the industry with regards to the style, the hair and the make-up. Such a lot of thought and time and effort goes into the eight minutes. People would be quite shocked at the conversations that I have for days on end, even months on end actually, with regards to the set, the lighting, the music, the hair and make-up and the styling. I love it, there is a lot of pressure and it is incredibly expensive.

“I like people to see my collection through my eyes and I have eight minutes to do that. I am a perfectionist, I like everything to be right and I am probably a complete pain in the neck to work with as it is important to me. It really is. I have grown this brand from nothing to where it is now.”

Would you ever show in London?
“I would say never say never. Maybe one day but I have a really good thing going in New York. I get a great slot in fashion week, the Americans have made me feel so welcome and the American fashion industry have been so supportive. America is a huge market for me but I would never say never. I am proud to be British and I love to support the British fashion industry in any way I can. I am very proud but may be one day at some point.”

How involved are you in the financial aspects of line? Do you get a budge to work with?
“I am very aware of everything that goes on with the brand and I like being creative but at the same time, I am running a business so I have two parts to my collection. I have, what I call, my signature part of the collection which is what my customer really wants and the other is very Victoria Beckham. I always like to push myself and have a strong fashion message as well. I do have to take into account that I am running a business and I am very aware how much the fabrics cost, how much the make costs, if I decide to put an extra pocket detail on something, I know that is going to cost more money.”

How do you deal with criticism?
“I think that I can learn from constructive criticism. No one is going to be nice all the time. It would be unrealistic to think that I will never get any criticism so I take on constructive criticism. There are a lot of members of the fashion press who have been on this journey with me, I haven’t done this myself. I do have a great team. “

Do you get frustrated by people talking about you and your fashion lines as being the same thing?
“Right at the beginning, I was so aware of preconceptions and I think there is less of that now. People are now judging the collection for the collection. They  did that right at the beginning and that is what I was grateful to the industry for. They came into the room and they were judging the clothes for the clothes, they left their preconceptions at the door. I had that conversation with Marc Jacobs not too long ago and he said ‘you have got to stop saying that, they did not leave their preconceptions at the door. The clothes spoke for themselves and you earned what they said about the collection’. I am very aware of it less and less now and the clothes are speaking for themselves.”

In the start, you only wore your clothes but now you are more comfortable wearing other designers.
“I am wearing myself today but I love to mix it up. I enjoy fashion. I love Prada, Balenciaga, Lanvin, there are so many incredible designers which I love to wear. I like to support other designers. There are lots of British designers I love to support and there are lots of women as well. There are so many strong women out there and I love clothes.”

How do you get dressed in the morning?
“Well I put one foot in and then the other… I have four kids. Brooklyn is here today, watching me and realising that mummy has a job now. He is realising that I actually do something. I have four kids so I don’t have much time as I would like to, to think about what I am going to wear. When I go to sleep at night, I think about what I am going to wear the next day. It was interesting that I was having this conversation with David the other day and he does the same thing about football. I had the same conversation with Gordon Ramsay who said he visualises food the night before. You visualise what your passion is.”

Generally, are you are a morning or an evening person?
“A little bit of both. I am up early in the morning to get the kids ready for school and going through timetables tests and spelling tests. I am also up late at night as I have a baby and then I have a 14 year old who refuses to go to bed- Brooklyn. So I am up late and early, I don’t get enough sleep. It is only then I get time to pluck my eyebrows and put on a face pack, those sorts of thing. I don’t get as much sleep as I would like.”

How do you deal with travelling?
“Dark glasses. I don’t travel so much now, that is why we decided to spend more time in London. We call LA our home and we call London our home, which is the best of both worlds really. I don’t travel so much, I don’t like to. I have to go back and forth to New York for work and I like to do lots of in stores to understand my retailer wants and what my customers want.”

You have been snapped in flats recently, have high heels had their day?
“(looking at the heels on her feet) No. I do actually wear flats. I wore flats and the amount of attention the flats got, it was quite ridiculous really.  Of course I wear flats, I always wear them. I am not into platforms so much now, but I do like heels.”

How do you juggle work and family life?
“I don’t know. It is all about juggling. It is just like any working mum out there, you just try to do your best. You constantly feel guilty but it is about being disciplined really. I have good people who handle my schedule. So if there is a parent’s night or a nativity play, I plan everything around that so I can always be there and always be involved with the school and cater to what the school need. I really enjoy being a mum more than anything and I would do anything for my kids but I love doing what I do and it is about getting the balance right which is not easy at all.”

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