It’s a funny thing to speak to Victoria Beckham, much in the same way perhaps as when you run into an old friend who has recently posted 487 family holiday photos on Facebook: what do you ask when you’ve seen it all? Mrs Beckham has — as anyone who follows her on Instagram, picks up a paper or absent-mindedly scrolls through the internet knows — had “a really lovely summer”. She really has.
First came a trip to Indonesia, followed by decamping to Sir Elton’s yacht in the South of France. There was David floating on an inflatable peacock, Brooklyn and Romeo diving into the sea, while Harper had a hair cut — an image her mother shared with the world with the hashtag “how chic”.
But now the 44-year-old mother-of-four is back to work in typically expert choreographed style. First came last week’s reveal of her — en famille — British Vogue cover, and an accompanying video (you must watch, it’s very funny).
In the film, she (with the help of editor Edward Enninful — excellent poker face) sends up the star designer stereotype; she poses in a Spice-Girls-era Latex catsuit, the gown she wore to straddle a London taxi at the Olympics closing ceremony, and even her Vera Wang wedding dress — that “crumb catcher” (so described in its extensive coverage 19 years ago in OK! magazine) full-skirted, creamy bodice number. “It’s such a beautiful dress,” she tells me on the phone as she is driven out of London. “I have to say, it was really nice putting it back on.”
This nostalgic run through her own personal style annals — gold thrones and all — is because she is celebrating 10 years of her fashion label. She started the line “with just one other woman” and now employs around 100. From a tentative presentation of 10 dresses, designed to look good from every angle, it has grown into a fully fledged clothing and accessories empire, with shops in London and Hong Kong.
It is both a surprise and, perhaps, given her tenacity for success, not unbelievable that, so far, her fashion gamble has paid off. While her metamorphosis from pop star to blingy Wag to sharp-dressed business woman could perhaps have been predicted, that women would actually buy her clothes — some at considerable cost — was not necessarily assured.
Her first fashion forays of diamante-edged denim and sunglasses (both under licence with other brands) made sense for her audience. But would grown-up, sophisticated, moneyed women buy into her? The answer, as ever, is — if the clothes are good enough — yes. The company has shown revenue of around £36 million for the past two years.
In the past decade, its upward trajectory has followed the broader course of female-founded business, though men are still 86 per cent more likely than women to be venture capital funded, a fact highlighted by The Daily Telegraph’s Women Mean Business campaign.
For Beckham, ambition has always been a mindset. At the end of last year, she acquired £30 million in investment via private equity investors, a new chief executive (Paolo Riva, formerly at Diane von Furstenberg) and a new chairman, Ralph Toledano, who has an impressive fashion pedigree (CEO at Chloe, president of the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode — Paris’s fashion governing body — and headed up the fashion division of cosmetics giant Puig).
“I always say dream big. There are a lot of things I wanted to do with the brand, more categories (childrens-wear, menswear and a full beauty line have been mooted), and really put my foot on the gas. I needed to bring people in to help me to do that, people who had done this before,” she adds.
Beckham acknowledges that the past decade has been a learning curve. “It’s been an incredible journey, even when things can be challenging. I’ve had to learn incredibly quickly. I’m the creative director and owner of this brand.” One thing that she has picked up is to “really trust my instincts, and I think that’s something that comes with age”. She credits the crucial role her team play in its success, and enthuses that she is “proud of being a woman in business” as well as “a mother and a wife. I’m proud of everything”.
Although she enlisted royal milliner Stephen Jones’s help with Harper’s latest Easter bonnet, she certainly does not shirk hard graft. She gets up “really early. Then I go to the gym for a couple of hours before the kids get up. Then I’m in the kitchen with David, getting them ready, finishing up any last bits of homework. We take it in turns to do the school run, then I’m in the studio five days a week.” She is insistent on “always being home for dinner” and to try as much as possible to “spend a lot of time with David and the children, being the best mum and best wife I can be”.
The crux of her offer has always been her own taste and style — her must-have for autumn is a leopard-print coat, recently worn in a shoot by her “favourite actress of all time” Cate Blanchett.
While she started with a more timid attitude to the clothes, she is now ramping up the VB-ness of it all or, as she says, “putting the Victoria back into Victoria Beckham”.
This is why she got back into the bag, which played on her wry sense of humour, a decade after she agreed to let Marc Jacobs spoof her for his own campaign a decade ago. It made sense to her to go full circle yet, this time, she’s been photographed by the same photographer, Juergen Teller, in her own branded bag.
“Back then, when Marc put me in the bag, I didn’t understand the irony,” she remembers. “But I do now and so when it came to us sitting round having a bit of a brainstorm... is it a model in a dress, is it a model in a bag, is it a model in a pair of sunglasses? Surely, it’s me coming out of a Victoria Beckham bag. I’ve put all of me into this brand.”
Beckham has also, for a one season spectacle, moved her fashion show from New York to London Fashion Week. The campaign will also be projected from Piccadilly Circus — something she is thrilled about because “when I was a kid, my parents would drive us up to London and show us Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, and would always drive around Piccadilly Circus. I remember looking up, thinking ‘Wow, how cool would that be, to literally see your name in lights’.”
And that makes you remember that this is the girl who has really wanted all of this for a long time. She might have once said she wanted to be as famous as Daz Automatic, but she’s long since eclipsed the doorstep challenge.