Exclusive: Victoria Beckham on her new high street collection for Target - and what Harper won't let her wear
Generally speaking, sightings of Victoria Beckham wearing high street are rare. She mainly shops online, at upmarket sites like net-a-porter.com and matchesfashion.com. “You know what it’s like when you’re working all the time,” she says, when we meet at her company HQ in an unglamorous stretch of Battersea.
Most unusually, there’s a plate of Nice biscuits and a used tea bag currently embellishing the coffee table in her office. “Welcome to the glamour,” she deadpans, holding the plate up. “Would you like to Instagram it?”
In the past, I think the plate would have been banished long before a journalist was granted permission to enter. VB has visibly relaxed. Not to the point of smiling (when I snap a picture of her next to the clothes and ask her to smile, she laughs. “You know I don’t ever smile!”). The Not Smiling has become an in joke. Last week she launched a T-shirt with the slogan: “Fashion Stole My Smile”. No marketing flies on Victoria.
The location may be workaday, but VB, not one to capitulate to grim circumstance, is attired in wide ginger trousers and a teal silk shirt, both from her mainline collection. Light tan, hair in those flattering, tousled waves she’s been wearing for a while, make-up impeccable… This doesn’t look like 4pm in the normal office when everything’s running late (she’s definitely busy: later this year she’s launching perfume and a skincare range “that won’t just be about fluffy smells”). Yet from every other aspect, including the slightly messy desks and the small child running around in a striking purple school uniform, it’s almost your average office of women.
The more rapaciously hawk eyed of her fans will have noted that, of late, Beckham has been sporting items from Target, the accessibly priced chain of 1,800 (and counting) stores that bestrides the length and breadth of America.
Further sleuthing reveals that the items in question are from Beckham’s forthcoming Victoria by Victoria Beckham collaboration with Target – or Targe-ay, as she refers to it, which launches on April 9 to the UK market from her own website. “I’ve been wearing a lot of the tailoring pieces,” she confirms.
Sleuthing may be overstating it. Teasers have been peppering Beckham’s Instagram feed for weeks. There was last week’s Carpool Karaoke clip with James Corden (now a rite of passage for any A-lister, including Michelle Obama, although Beckham may be the only one to have filmed it while sporting the new high-cut V fronted shoe in white). Then there is that ad – the one where the cute model, Sasha Pivovarova, and even cuter children cavort their way through a succession of colourful, peak-cute clothes from the Target/VVB collection, to the unmistakable Spice Up Your Life anthem, composed by, inter alia, one Victoria Beckham, circa 1997.
This, naturally, is all catnip to the gossip writers and bloggers. The general theory is that Mel B is “livid” with VB for using the song when, just a few months ago, the latter refused to take part in a mooted Spice Girls reunion. This latest Mel B twist occurred after our meeting, so I couldn’t discover whether it’s true. But VB did tell me she thought the reunion plans had been shelved a while back (Geri has, after all, just given birth to her second child). “Target asked me what music I wanted, and said they normally took Nineties pop songs and created new versions. I think it’s sweet.”
I think we can say the publicity is all going to plan and that when the two collections launch on Sunday – one for grown-ups and one for children, although there is considerable cross-over – they will be a sell-out.
While Victoria has often seemed keen to distance herself from the Spice days, she’s happy to embrace them now, which suggests increasing confidence in her role as a designer. “Yeah, I’m proud of my past, and this collection is about fun and empowering women and being positive, and the Spice Girls fully embraced girl power. We were all misfits in our own way, and if you look at those lyrics they’re all about being inclusive, no matter what colour or size you are or where you’re from.”
She’s certainly addressing a much wider demographic than hitherto. Prices range from $12 to $70 (£6 £70 in the UK) and adult sizes are available from UK 4 to 26. “Target has an incredibly clear picture of their shopper – they call her Sadie. That was very useful to me.” In addition to the snappy A-line mini-dresses in the adult collection, there are more forgiving, soft drapey trouser and blouses with giant single floral prints and (excellent value at £40) crisp, chic cotton shirting.
But will Sadie go for the Alice in Wonderland colouring books (a favourite read of Victoria and Harper) that are part of the children’s collection? She’ll certainly be struck by the whimsical mother-and-daughter dynamic running through the offering. “It is very English,” concedes Beckham. “I tell this story about how me and Harper walk to Holland Park to collect flowers. You can see that the collection is really about my relationship with her…”
On cue, more or less, Harper Beckham skips into her mother’s inner office and runs a seasoned eye over the children’s collection. Never mind the Nice biscuits, I’m itching to photograph Harper. Instead, I ask Harper which is her favourite piece (a black-and-white print dress). Not the pink section over which her mother slaved to get the right shade – a classy-looking blush, rather than the glutinous cyclamen shade more usual in children’s clothing? “That’s nice, too,” says Harper loyally.
She doesn’t come across as a spoiled media brat, but a confident six-year-old with better than average manners. “She’s really a tomboy,” says her mother. Albeit one who was sent every style in the children's line by Target. “She’s very opinionated about what she will and won’t wear. Not in an obnoxious way, but like any child, whatever she wears has to be comfortable – no heavy fabrics, nothing too tight under the arms or around the waist… I’ve fed all that into the Target collection.”
It’s a fine line, this path the Beckhams tread between marketing Brand Family and maintaining a semblance of privacy and normality. They probably feel their way along, which can lead to accusations of inconsistency. An article on salon.com accused the Target collaboration of being patronising. Really, it’s a savvy business move. “Obviously a lot of people know I’m a designer. But America’s such a huge country and there are still people there who know me primarily as a pop singer. For me, this is about reaching a new customer who can’t afford, or doesn’t want to pay, designer prices.”
Is she worried it will cannibalise her own business? Unlike some designer collaborations, the VVB/Target collection doesn’t dilute her original vision. The adults’ line is scattered with scalloped edges and splashy florals, all hallmarks of her recent VVB collections are recognisably here. The fabrics are different, obviously, and the originals mostly appeared several seasons ago, but still. “I think, rather than eating into my own lines, this is going to bring a whole load of new people to my own website. I’m the first designer who’s worked with Target ever to stock the collaboration on their own website.”
Part of the appeal of going with Target is that she had to make remarkably few compromises. “Maybe there’s a little less embellishment on the embroidered bug jacket than I proposed, but generally their quality’s amazing and the production levels are really high. We used Willy Vanderperre as the photographer for the campaign. They’re not scrimping.”
In some ways, the collaboration brings Beckham full circle. When she reinvented herself as a designer 10 years ago, the emphasis – in the face of unanimous scepticism from the fashion press – was on being as exclusive as possible. “Of course I know that everyone thought Roland [Mouret] designed [the collection],” she told me recently. “That just made me more determined. The truth is, he recommended some of the team.”
Now that her clothes have been acclaimed by the likes of Vogue, she’s addressing Everywoman. In parallel, she’s trying to instil an appreciation of the value of money in her children. While Romeo stars in Burberry’s campaigns (and Brooklyn shoots them), Cruz has just taken a Saturday job washing up in the same London café where Brooklyn worked. “Why not? It means they have to get up early on a Sunday… I had to do it when I was their age.”
She thinks it’s doing the trick. When she took the boys shopping in Selfridges and offered to buy Cruz a top, he said: “ ‘Are you sure, Mummy? It’s really expensive.’ And he promised to wear it a lot.”
Getting ready to go out chez Beckham sounds like an intense version of Say Yes to the Dress. There is the husband telling her that what she’s wearing makes her look like one of the elves in Harper’s school play (“I took that as a compliment, but it’s true, there are definitely things I wear that he doesn’t understand”) Or the time, recently, when he told her she looked great and that she should dress more like the old days. “And I was just wearing a sweater. I said, ‘Do you honestly think I’m going out like this? I haven’t finished getting ready.’ ” There is Harper instructing her not to wear a certain pair of shoes when she picks her up from school (not as bad as Brooklyn asking his father to drop him off at the end of the road: “I said, if David Beckham isn’t cool enough then what hope for the other dads?”). And there is the street-cred criteria of her sons. “The last time I went out, I wore tracksuit bottoms and a coat and Cruz said, ‘Mummy, you look really nice…’ Baseball caps and beanies, those are the only things, really, that the boys fight over.”
It all feeds into her work, which makes it charming or paradoxical, depending on your view. Beckham herself is clear about what she’s doing – and why. “I’ve learnt so much about how to get dressed over the years. Are there pictures of me in regrettable outfits? Plenty. But I think other women relate to that.”