NEW YORK — Earnest, ambitious, entertaining and unfailingly polite, Victoria Beckham offered a behind-the-scenes look at her workaholic life Wednesday night at 92Y.
In New York, to present her signature label’s pre-spring collection to the media for the first time, the London-based designer spoke openly about being a Nineties pop star, mother of four and United Nations Goodwill ambassador. Self-deprecating throughout her hour-long chat with Fern Mallis, Beckham, last year’s British Fashion Council Brand of the Year winner, also described challenges that come to pass.
“Sometimes I just want to scream, because I’m not sure how you are meant to do it all. I’m sure there are a lot of working mums out there. It’s tough when you’re trying to juggle,” she said. “I have a good team that helps me manage everything, so that I can be at all the school plays and also be at the office on time. With all the parents meetings and soccer matches, there are a lot of people who help me make all of this possible. I’m not doing any of this on my own.”
That said, she might have played down her global reach a bit, considering how she and the rest of the Spice Girls sold more than 75 million records. But with a team of 150 in London, though the design team in two ateliers is a fraction of that, Beckham’s eyes are set on the future, not the past.
With her Farshid Moussavi-designed Dover Street store up-and-running in London, Beckham plans to open another boutique in Hong Kong (Asia is her largest market), followed by New York. Children’s wear — a more affordable secondary label — men’s wear, and a full-fledged footwear collection are also on her to-do list, and talks for the first two categories have been explored.
But all in all, so far, so good. “I think I’ve achieved a lot in 41 years. I like how 41 feels, I feel good. I don’t like how it sounds too much,” she said. “But I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and I’ve got four incredible children. We’re so lucky to have them. I don’t know that I could have done much more in 41 years, so I’m OK with it.”
She was even OK when Mallis suggested her astrological sign is known to be moody. “I just want to say: Does anybody think I’m moody?” she deadpanned. “I’m just putting it out there — I’m never moody.”
Afterward, Beckham said, “I’m really open to talking about anything. Everybody looks back at certain things and cringes a little bit, but it was good at the time and it made me who I am now.”
Pre-show nerves are recurring, and Beckham, who reads all of her fashion critiques, said: “I read every single review, not the tabloids though. As much as people say, ‘I don’t care.’ I think they’re lying. You do care. I care what everybody says. There are lots of journalists who have come on this journey with me and I have great respect for them. I’m interested in what they have to say.”
More often than not at 92Y, Beckham was quick to make fun of herself, describing how she and her younger sister and brother were “just mortified” to be dropped off at school in their father’s Rolls Royce, and begged him to leave them at the end of the road or to drive them in the van he used for work. “How times have changed because I would much rather go in a Rolls Royce now – for sure. I remember very clearly how that car used to smell and the sheepskin carpet that was on the floor,” she said.
Asked about responding to an ad in The Stage looking for five girls who were “streetwise, outgoing, extroverted, ambitious and able to sing and dance,” Beckham said, “Other than ambitious, I was none of the above. But I liked the idea of being in a pop band. Thousands of girls came to the audition. Everyone but me sang a pop song. I sang ‘Mein Herr’ from ‘Cabaret,’ which was really, really not the better thing to do. But it got me in the group. It was very dramatic…and you know that video is out there.”
She said of the Spice Girls, “We didn’t really have a lot of routines. We just kind of danced around. They thought of getting a choreographer but no one would listen. I think people liked the fact they were real. We were five girls that individually weren’t that great but collectively all girls could relate to us….It was about telling people, ‘It’s OK if you’re a little bit different, if you’re not the tallest, the prettiest or the skinniest. It’s OK to be who you are, whether you’re a boy or a girl or man or a woman.'”
Her first paycheck from the girl band — whose first album sold 20 million albums — was used in part to buy a pair of Patrick Cox white sling-back Wannabes that she stood in line to buy and shared with her sister. “Because me and my sister have always shared everything,” she said. “I loved fashion and always have. When I was at school, I used to customize my uniform in the toilets at lunchtime.”
In the random facts department, (some asked, some offered) Beckham described her short-lived solo musical career as “not great,” and she had choicer words for her long-forgotten runway modeling at Roberto Cavalli and more recently a short-lived reality show career; said Hillary Clinton is the one person she is dying to meet and dress; Beckham is still very close with the Spice Girls; Geri Halliwell hid the band’s demo CD “in her knickers” when they escaped from their first managers in the middle of the night; her maternal grandparents had a penguin and a monkey; her own parents still watch television together holding hands, and her husband of 14 years, David, has so many tattoos that she has lost count.
Here, a few of Beckham’s other observations:
• Simon Fuller introducing her to David Beckham after a Manchester United soccer match: “What I really liked about David right from the start, when all the other players were in the lounge having a drink with their friends, David was sitting with his mum, dad and his younger sister.”
• Naming the Spice Girls: “We were going to be the Spicy Girls but it turned out that was the name of a porn site, so we had to change it because that would not have been good.”
• Her first present from David and her first Christmas gift for him: A big, black Prada bag. “I spent everything I had to buy David a bright red Ferrari. I wanted him to have something that he would have never bought for himself. I loved him so much and I still do. I just wanted him to have what he wanted. We were much more extravagant in those days. I wouldn’t do that now. You’re much more sensible at 41.”
• Calling Spain home while David played for Real Madrid: “Dónde Gucci?”
• Keeping things grounded: “None of the kids have ever been spoiled other than the way that we love them. Brooklyn has been working for two and a half years at the café down the road, washing it up on Saturday and Sunday. I think that’s good. I had a Saturday job when I was younger and he loves it. It gives him a little bit of cash as well.”
• Daughter Harper’s tomboy ways: “Harper likes soccer as well. It’s like a dagger going through my heart — I don’t want to see that in a headline. Please don’t tweet that. She’s got little shoes and a little football shirt and she runs around in the garden with her brothers. So as much as she is girly, she’s a tomboy as well.”
• Learning to relax: “Sometimes I really wish that I could sit back and enjoy it, live in the moment more. But I am terrified and I want to better myself, not that I want to prove anything to anyone other than myself. I am ambitious and there are many things I want to do. It doesn’t get any easier. I asked Marc Jacobs once, ‘Am I going to feel like this each season?’ and he said ‘Yeah.'”