Victoria Beckham: ‘It was a sign of insecurity that I always wore very tight clothes’
The designer answers questions on the Spice Girls, personal style and fashion after Covid-19
British singer and fashion designer Victoria Beckham. File photograph: Karim Jaafar/AFP
Victoria Beckham has an office in her Cotswolds house, where she spent lockdown, but when she answers the phone, that’s not where she is. “Um, no, Harper’s taken over my office. She’s trying to do all her schoolwork and, well, she’s kind of decided that’s her space now. So I’m downstairs ... we’re all dotted around the house, me and David and the boys, trying to work, trying to get schoolwork done. There’s often someone holding a laptop up to a window, trying to get reception.” Whoever you are, 2020 has had its challenges.
As a patron of Graduate fashion week, Beckham is on the line to answer questions sent in by fashion students from all over the country. “To be honest, I feel like I have so many more questions than I do answers, right now – like everyone else,” she says. Still, she is optimistic that this strangest of final terms will prove a valuable learning experience. “The generation coming into adulthood now will have experienced something that none of the rest of us have. I feel like this has taught all of us a lot about how to work together as teams, both in our home lives and professionally. This crisis will have expanded the horizons of all of us, in a way.”
Harper has been required by her school to wear uniform at home, “which at first I thought was a bit strange, I wasn’t expecting it. But for her it helps, because it keeps her routine going.” For the rest of the family, sartorial standards have slipped a little. “I’d love to say my lockdown look has been all about a vintage kaftan, but that’s not the case. I still get up early and exercise every day, then I dress for work and for comfort. A pair of old jeans, a T-shirt or a jumper. I’m not quite at the elasticated waistband stage yet – I still want to feel good about myself. We’ve been going out on country walks every day, so the only shoes I wear are an old pair of trainers. It’s so nice just to do things with the family and not think too much about getting dressed. So, definitely no heels.”
Beckham’s own lockdown got off to a shaky start. The planned furloughing of 30 staff at her label led to a backlash, and the decision was reviewed. Since then, working remotely with her design team, she has been trying to figure out what the next few seasons look like. “It’s not only about the clothes, or the design – it’s about the mood, what feels right. And all the practical issues – like, how do we shoot anything? I’ve also been trying to use this time to find inspiration for business strategy. A lot is going to change. I’ve been focusing not just on the collection coming up, but on what is the calendar going to look like? The concept of the fashion show needs to be rethought, but what does that mean? Will it be smaller presentations? Will it be digital? It’s impossible to know what the future will bring.”
In the not-too-distant future, Beckham is looking forward to getting back into her London workspace. “I can’t wait to get the atelier up and running again. There is so much that you can do digitally now, but at a certain point you need to be able to put your hands on the clothes.” She might be ready to ditch the jeans and trainers soon, too. “I do miss getting dressed. A nice pub lunch with family and friends, a few glasses of wine. I’m really grateful for the family time, but I’m ready to be a little bit sociable now.”
It sounds like a good moment to hand over to the students?
Has there ever been a time when you felt confused about your personal style ...
Isabelle Hill, fashion management and communication, Sheffield Hallam University
No, not really. When I was in the Spice Girls there were stylists who dressed the group, but in my personal life I have never worked with a stylist. I used to wear lots of structured dresses with corsetry, and I do still have some of those dresses, but my personal style has become more relaxed. Looking back, I guess it was a sign of insecurity that I would always wear clothes that were very tight, very fitted.
As the business took off and I got busier, my style changed, because I just can’t run around the studio doing everything in high heels. I’m juggling a lot: being a mum, being a wife, being in the studio every day. I remember one time at a show in New York where I wore a pair of masculine trousers and trainers, and everyone went crazy, “Oh my God, she’s wearing trainers!” My confidence has definitely grown as I’ve got older. I know what works on me, what looks good, what makes me feel confident and comfortable. I don’t feel I have anything to prove now in the way I dress.
Do you listen to a playlist when you’re designing? Who’s on it?
Alex Copeland, fashion marketing, University of East London
Music has always been such a huge part of me and who I am, and not just because of the Spice Girls. When I’m in the atelier, I love listening to whatever the team are into – it might be a new band I haven’t heard of that one of the team went to see the night before. A couple of seasons ago we went through a phase of listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin.
Right now there’s always music on in the house, whether that’s me playing it or David or the kids. The new Justin Bieber album has been a bit of a lockdown family favourite. It depends who has taken control of the docking station. David is sitting outside right now, listening to 90s soul and R&B.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic will influence the fashion industry, and your brand in particular?
Weronika Ozimek, fashion design, Cardiff Metropolitan University
I don’t know. If you know, please tell me! This is what everyone is talking about. Will the presentation of collections be more digital? I’ve always been interested in the digital space; we had an e-commerce site before we had a bricks-and-mortar store. I believe that people will be travelling less, which I hope will make the industry a more level playing field. It will be less about those crazily expensive shows that only the biggest brands can afford, and more about creativity. And the timetable is going to have to adjust, because doing so many collections each year seems like it’s going to feel outdated after this.
Why did you choose an eponymous brand name? Did you have any other name ideas?
Harriet Scott, fashion communication, Northumbria University
It seemed obvious that it had to be Victoria Beckham. I knew there were preconceptions attached to my name, but that was a challenge I was prepared to take on. Honestly? There was never really any other option.
I always want to better myself, so criticism is always useful. I started out with just 10 dresses in my first collection, and as the brand grew I learned so much from people who taught me the shape of what a proper fashion collection looks like. They showed me that a fashion brand isn’t just about what you put on the catwalk, it’s about price points, what the customer wants and when. I had a lot to learn when I started out, and I had to surround myself with people who knew about all that stuff.
I’m always inspired by the 90s. The colour, the simple shapes. There probably isn’t a designer who isn’t inspired by that decade. For me, it’s not so much about the street fashion of the 90s, but Martin Margiela, and Jil Sander. Not just the collections, but the shows, the models, the music.
What one piece of advice would you give to a fashion student graduating during the pandemic?
Emily Hewitt, fashion design, Liverpool John Moores University
Get as technologically savvy as you can, because that is going to be key. It’s also true that this is going to be a hard moment, economically. We are likely to be in a period of recession. So it will be important to think outside of the box in terms of how and where you can make a living. Everyone is going to have to work that little bit harder to succeed in their chosen field, while we all navigate coming out of this situation.
Where do you visit or look to for inspiration for your collections?
Nikki Abbott, fashion, Solent University, Southampton
I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel extensively, and a lot of inspiration has come from places I’ve been. Moving forward, we won’t be travelling so much, I guess. But then I live in London, and where is more inspiring than London? The art is incredible. Tate Britain is a favourite place, which is why I was so thrilled when we did our show there a few seasons ago. When I was in New York, I used to love going to the Frick Collection – I think it would be hard to find an environment that was more beautiful for looking at art.
Do you get creatively blocked? If so, how do you move past it?
Daniella James, fashion media and marketing, Plymouth College of Art
Sometimes I can get a little bit overwhelmed. There’s just so much to do, with eyewear and beauty and everything else. I don’t ever want to get stuck in a rut, so sometimes it’s about finding inspiration in something that you find challenging, something that is a bit out of your comfort zone. Sometimes inspiration comes from looking at something that I wouldn’t necessarily wear, and thinking about how to get from that place to creating something I find beautiful. It’s a balance, because I don’t want the brand to be predictable – but it still has to be believably “me”.
What piece of fashion advice would you give to a younger Victoria Beckham?
Gracie D’Silva, fashion design, Leeds Arts University
Enjoy the journey. I have. Also, go with your gut instinct. I always say I can handle mistakes that were made by me, but not mistakes that were made against my instinct. Trust that gut – it’s there for a reason.
Do you ever get knockbacks? How do you cope with them?
Kelsie March, fashion design, University of Hertfordshire
I wouldn’t call them knockbacks. I’m a glass-half-full kind of person. Everyone has challenges. The thing is to learn from them.
Which career did you enjoy most, being a fashion designer or a pop star, and why?
Ravina Kazim, fashion, University for the Creative Arts, Rochester
I love what I do now, because it is a true creative output for me. I love making women feel like the best version of themselves. I had a lot of fun with the Spice Girls, but I don’t miss those days and I don’t miss being on stage. That was then and this is now. Fashion is where I feel comfortable, and where I feel excited. I’m looking forward to the future in this industry, actually. I feel like we can all come out of this better, personally and professionally. – The Guardian