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Victoria’s Second Act: Beckham Out to Bend Her Style Into a Brand

"People look at me and David and they see fashion, they see family, they see sports."

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NEW YORK — “People look at me and David and they see fashion, they see family, they see sports. I think there are people who want to be a part of that. It’s aspirational.”

So says Victoria Beckham, and she wants to capitalize on that to build her budding lifestyle brand, DVB, into a fashion empire. The former Spice Girl and wife of soccer icon David Beckham will kick DVB into high gear this month with the launch of sunglasses, which will be followed by a denim collection in May and the U.S. introduction of his-and-her’s fragrances in September. Sources close to the couple hope the lines can generate retail sales of $150 million in 2007.

Not that she expects to conquer America overnight — even if she is half of a multimillion-dollar couple and friends with TomKat, et al.

Sources close to the couple hope the lines can generate retail sales of $150 million in 2007.

Not that she expects to conquer America overnight — even if she is half of a multimillion-dollar couple and friends with TomKat, et al.

“We are passionate about what we do, so let’s see what happens. I am the first one to admit, do people really know who we are in America?” Beckham told WWD in an exclusive interview. “Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. We are very realistic about that. For David, it’s about really cracking the back of soccer and trying to make it as successful as it is in the rest of the world. We have come here for a reason: to do the best we can with the soccer and with the brand.”

Make no mistake, the Beckhams have always seen themselves as a brand, which is no doubt why her company’s name is a combination of their initials. The push into fashion is sure to help boost the couple’s profile in the U.S., where David Beckham will start his five-year contract — worth a potential $250 million —with the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club this summer.

But Victoria Beckham insists DVB isn’t just another celebrity fashion line done by a one-time star singer. Fashion is now her focus, and she’s determined to make it her second career. And she can talk about her collection like the best garmento.

And there is plenty more in the pipeline. Beckham already is working on a children’s collection to complement the denim, and she aspires to create a full ready-to-wear line that could make its way to the runway and even include men’s wear for hubby David, too. She is quick to point out, however, that she wants to take her time to make sure the product is up to her standards.

Fashion, she said, was “something that I am good at, I am confident with. I realize I have a long way to go. I just have a real passion for it, much more than for music. To actually see the final product in a store is so exciting. That’s much more exciting than having any number-one record for me personally.

“This isn’t just something I put my name on,” Beckham continued. “There are lots of people out there who have clothing lines that are great, and it works for them, but they don’t have as much control. I love the entire design process, and going to the factories and picking out the rivets, and picking the color threads they use and wearing the clothes themselves.”

She certainly knows how to wear clothes — although she denies spending the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year quoted by the tabloids. Asked for her favorite designers, she rattled off a list that included Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, young Brits Christopher Kane and Gareth Pugh, Proenza Schouler, Prada, Roland Mouret, Alexander McQueen, Giambattista Valli and Azzedine Alaïa, much of which she buys at vintage stores and auctions.

But she admitted she didn’t always get it right. Beckham said there were moments she looked at photos of herself and cringed. “I think that’s human nature,” she said. “The worst outfit I ever wore was when David and I went to a Versace party in matching Gucci leather outfits. Goodness me, that picture haunts me. To be completely honest, I don’t know whether to start with the hair or the actual outfit. It was probably everything. It was just pretty horrible, full stop.”

She downplayed the notion she was a typical footballer’s wife who spent her days stretching her credit card.

“I like to shop, but I don’t actually shop as much as people think,” she said. “I don’t spend ridiculous amounts on clothes. I am in a fortunate position where I get lots of clothes from designers, which is great, but most of the time, if you catch me, I am at home looking after my children or my husband.

“I obviously like to go to the shops, because it’s great for research,” she added. “The best thing to do, if I am in London, is to go to Notting Hill and just sit somewhere and people watch. I was just in Paris for couture week, and it was so inspiring to watch how people carry themselves. I find it more inspiring looking at a French lady sitting there waiting for a bus than walking around a designer store.”

In New York last week with her sons Brooklyn, 8, Romeo 4, and Cruz, 2, Beckham had plenty of opportunities to get inspired. She sampled the scene at media hot spots Michael’s and The Waverly Inn. Her three sons also visited the Statue of Liberty, the top of the Rockefeller Center and the American Museum of Natural History. “When they walked into FAO Schwarz, they didn’t know what direction to run in first,” she said. “The children aren’t spoiled at all. They are not used to walking into toy shops like this. Contrary to what people think, we live a relatively simple life at home.” In England, this happens to be a grand estate in Hertfordshire that is so large the British media has dubbed it “Beckingham Palace.”

Beckham is used to media scrutiny by now, and she takes it in stride. She has been in the spotlight since the Spice Girls burst onto the music scene in 1996. The group’s 2001 breakup may have dampened the appeal of the other four band members, but not Beckham’s, even if her solo music efforts failed to make any impact. Her husband is the most successful soccer player in the world, and, as a couple, they have become media darlings and, at times, targets. They are young, rich, glamorous — and ambitious. The English may sneer at such characteristics, but in America, they tend to be causes for celebration.

On her three-day trip to Gotham, Beckham found time to present DVB — she’s creative director — to key retailers. The lifestyle brand will be based in London, though the sunglasses are made in France and the jeans are manufactured in a partnership with Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Western Glove Works. The Beckhams are managed by 19 Entertainment Ltd., the London media and branded entertainment firm of Simon Fuller, who was also behind the Spice Girls and current television hits like “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” He’s also masterminding the return of designer Roland Mouret.

“Victoria loves fashion and understands lifestyle brands better than almost anyone I know,” Fuller said. “She is intuitive and passionate and has an instinct for what that next fashion trend is going to be.

“She is one of the most ambitious, conscientious and hard-working girls I know,” he added. “The opportunities for growth are endless. However, we are both mindful of not trying to do too much too soon.”

The philosophy for DVB hones in on simplicity, high quality and a shot of high fashion, and on several occasions, Beckham pointed out that she wants each of the pieces to have a timelessness and longevity to them. This is in line with many of the pieces she buys, she said — although she can be photographed wearing teeny-weeny shorts and a T-shirt one minute and a dramatic, tight-fitting dress with a huge hat the next.

“The denim was a really great starting point, because for a long time, I couldn’t find what I consider to be the perfect pair of jeans,” she explained, sitting in her suite at the Mandarin Oriental hotel near Columbus Circle. “And like most people, I live in jeans. I did a lot of research into denim and went to loads of denim factories.”

Beckham honed her fashion skills with Rock & Republic, where she collaborated on a jeans collection for the past six seasons. That agreement will end this spring, but she credits the firm with teaching her much about the craft. Fit, she noted, was a primary concern while working with Japanese fabrics for DVB Denim.

“I didn’t want anything too tight around the waistband so you had anything hanging over,” said the rail-thin Beckham. “I have had so many jeans too tight around the waist, or too baggy around the knee. I wanted the women’s legs to look long. I am a consumer, too. I know how women want to look, and it doesn’t matter what size or age you are.”

The jeans, from $285 to $325 at suggested retail, feature details such as contrast stitching, colored zippers, purple pocket lining and a metallic embroidered star or the sleek DVB logo on the back pocket.

“I wanted the jeans to sit flat and be flattering,” she said. “When I was in the factory, I wanted them to literally strip everything down, and really take it back to basics, because that’s how you get a good line. Quite often, when I buy clothes, I take the linings out myself to improve the fit. I never allow it to get see-through, though. I can’t bear see-through-ness at all, not after three children.”

The sunglasses, meanwhile, are inspired by style icons like Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn, and most pieces are oversize in acetate, except for the aviators, which have become Beckham’s trademark in recent months. “They hide a multitude of sins when you have been up with the children all night,” she said with a chuckle. “You don’t have to put your makeup on, you can just bang on the big sunglasses when you are doing the school run as well. With a good pair of glasses, you can make any outfit look stylish.”

The sunglasses, which sell at a suggested price of $280 on average, are launching internationally at such retailers as Fred Segal, Harvey Nichols, Colette, Brown Thomas and Villa Moda this month. The range of stores is of a noticeably higher caliber than most celebrity-driven lines.

Jackie Brander, owner of Fred Segal Fun, said DVB differentiates itself from other celebrity offerings because Beckham is “such a fashion freak. She absolutely loves clothing and is pretty particular about how she presents herself. That will be important to her collection, too. Other celebrities want to do it almost like a hobby, because it sounds like a fun thing to do. Victoria loves fashion.

“I did really well with the Rock & Republic jeans, and this is the next step,” added Brander. “She is going in as an educated student.”

As Beckham said, “The product speaks for itself. I am optimistic and realistic. I very much understand people’s preconceptions. If you had said to Fred Segal that they were going to sell Posh Spice sunglasses five years ago, they probably would have laughed. But they saw the product, which you can’t argue with. It’s always been an ambition of mine to have product in Fred Segal, in Colette and at Dover Street Market. Those are three boxes I have ticked now.”

Which is at least one thing off her full plate. For now, the move over “the Pond” is her priority, and while there will be an adjustment period, Beckham said it’s highly unlikely she and her husband will be partying on the Los Angeles celebrity circuit.

“We have a few very good friends that are celebrities,” she said. “But David and I don’t go out that much. Obviously, it’s fun every now and then to go out for dinner, but am I going to start going to nightclubs with Britney Spears every night? Possibly not. I have three children, I work hard, and when I am not working, I am at home with the kids.”

Acting could be a natural temptation in Tinseltown, but Beckham winces at the mention of her movie debut, “Spice World.”

“It was fantastic and I am so grateful for the girls, and how successful we were because it’s given me the opportunity to do what I actually really, really love. We were like a girl gang. We were five best friends. What people didn’t want to believe about the Spice Girls is that we actually genuinely were like that. Emma came in with those pigtails, Geri came in with the red hair and the big boobs and the little tiny HotPants, and Melanie B. really was scary. And the sporty one was obsessed with soccer. That was what was so phenomenal about us.”

Press reports over the weekend of a possible Spice Girls reunion were denied by Beckham’s management company Monday.

“It was about strong women and that philosophy is something I inject into everything I do,” she added. “I am a girl’s girl. I am not the kind of girl that boys put posters of on their wall. The girls want to go shopping with me.”

Her lifelong fascination with fashion has recently also prompted her to put together a how-to style book titled, “That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between,” where she tackles subjects ranging from designer fashion to more mainstream market looks found on the high street. The book was a hit in England, which even she was surprised about. “I had a book launch, and told my family that I was really nervous that no one was going to turn up,” she said. “I said to my mum, ‘You are going to have to come, bring a wig or something, buy a book, go back, put the wig on and come back around again.’ But I turned up and there were, like, between 3,000 to 5,000 people.”

The episode exhibits Beckham’s sense of humor, which more often than not she directs at herself and the public’s perception of her. For instance, there is the issue of why the warm, friendly Beckham never smiles in photographs.

“People would be quite upset if I actually smiled,” she said, jokingly. They almost expect her to be serious with “the miserable cow syndrome,” she quipped. “I think it’s funny. At the end of the day, I like to poke fun at myself. I am a very happy, fun, smiley person. It just doesn’t always translate that well.”

A permanent smile, she maintained, would be even stranger to the public. “Half the time you don’t even see the photographers,” Beckham said. “You’d look a bit daft to be walking down the street with a big old grin on your face. You’d look like you were slightly mental, wouldn’t you, smiling just in case someone is hiding behind the tree. You know what, it’s me at the end of the day.”

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