'I learn an enormous amount by seeing pictures of myself' - Victoria Beckham talks new Estee Lauder collection
It’s rare that a week goes by without one of the Beckhams making the headlines, whether we’re reading of Brooklyn’s new tattoo, Harper’s party at Buckingham Palace or rumours swirling about the state of Victoria and David’s marriage. There are also regular snippets of the family’s jet-set lifestyle posted on their many social-media accounts, all of which feed our appetite for brand Beckham.
But for many of us, it’s the matriarch, Victoria, who is most intriguing. She has, after all, successfully transitioned from ’90s pop star to WAG to globally acclaimed fashion designer within two decades. All while raising sons Brooklyn, 18, Romeo, 14, Cruz, 12, and daughter Harper, six; plus relocating from London to Madrid to LA and back to London.
Along the way, Victoria has faced criticism from the public and the media, for everything from the way she dresses to how she brings up her children. However, she’s always managed to ride the storm and come out the other side. Over the past nine years, her fashion line, Victoria Beckham, has grown steadily and amassed a loyal celebrity following: Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz and Beyoncé are regularly spotted wearing her pieces. She also collaborated with the massive US chain Target on a mother-and-daughter-inspired clothing line in April, which sold out within hours, and earlier this year was awarded an OBE.
But it’s not fashion she wants to talk about when I meet her in the penthouse suite of Claridge’s Hotel, it’s the second instalment of her beauty collection with Estée Lauder. The first offering, unveiled last September, was a runaway success, with several products selling out within hours, including the Morning Aura illuminator and the nude Lip Pencil in the eponymous shade, Victoria. The highly anticipated range was divided into four cities, London, Paris, New York and LA, with make-up looks to reflect each destination, including a Californian glow and a Parisian red lip.
In the flesh and away from prying photographers, Victoria is warm and inviting. There is no trace of the famous aloof pout that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in photos; instead she offers a friendly yet firm handshake. Despite the mild weather outside, she’s wearing a navy roll-neck sweater and pleated skirt from her autumn/winter 2017 collection, and her make-up, including the signature nude lip and smoky eye is, of course, perfect.
While the first collection was small and focused, the new offering, which hits the shelves next month, is about expanding and establishing her beauty philosophy – and with 18 new products, including a debut mascara, cream blusher and matte eyeshadows, there is plenty to talk about. Perched on the edge of a cream sofa with the new beauty stash precisely displayed on the coffee table in front of her, Victoria is keen to get her message across.
‘It’s a passion project for me. There were half the amount of products the first time round; I was only scratching the surface and I’ve got a lot to say about beauty,’ she asserts.
Perhaps this is a discreet nod to the whisperings last autumn about Victoria’s involvement in the project and whether the products were just existing formulations wrapped up in new packaging. Admittedly, this isn’t uncommon with celebrity-led brands, and it isn’t the first time Victoria has fended off rumours about her ability, or supposed lack of it. When she unveiled her first line of dresses, rumours abounded that the designer Roland Mouret had offered more than a helping hand. In reality, he had merely recommended pattern-cutters.
Her subsequent success – both critically and commercially – has silenced those doubters and Victoria seems determined to do the same with her beauty range. ‘I was at the airport looking at the make-up in duty- free and I thought, “Everything looks the same.” For me it’s not about copying what everyone else is doing, it’s about creating make-up that women feel proud to own. Ultimately it’s about empowering women.’
Victoria has put a lot of herself into the collection and wants it to feel attainable and wearable. ‘There are must-have pieces that every woman should have in her make-up bag. I’m obsessed with nude lipsticks and the new Matte Lipstick formula is absolute perfection. I learn an enormous amount by seeing pictures of myself and in photos the new shades read as nude, but in practical terms you can get a really great lip shape and it doesn’t bleed. I put this lipstick on at seven o’clock this morning – I’ve eaten my breakfast, my lunch and it’s still in place.’
Victoria insists on trialling all of the formulas herself. ‘I like to wear-test everything. Last night, I went home and was talking to David and he said, “You’ve got a lot of make-up on.” I test everything and keep removing, reapplying and layering it.’
She has been incredibly hands-on with the process and has worked closely with Estée Lauder Companies’ global partnerships lead, Sarah Creal, on everything from the initial concept of splitting the collection into cities or ‘looks’, to the nitty-gritty of product development. ‘I never thought I would be having conversations about how much it costs to create a lipstick lid, and that’s frustrating, but this is a business and I’ve had to learn on the job very quickly.’
She’s not the only one who has been pushed out of her comfort zone: Creal has had to source new manufacturers and factories to bring Victoria’s vision to life. The debut Eye Ink Mascara in Blackest is a case in point. ‘I wanted a mascara with a beautiful, refined wand and brush that meant you could really get into the roots,’ says Victoria. The design of the mascara is a first for Estée Lauder as it has a tiny brush and a looser wiper, so you get plenty of mascara in one sweep.
Victoria recommends using the wand horizontally on the upper lashes. ‘On the lower lashes I use it vertically on a few lashes at a time because I like it when they look a little spiky – I think spidery lashes are very youthful.’ Any leftover mascara is then used to shape and ‘spike’ her brows.
The Pore Perfecting Powder was equally tricky to create as Victoria had a long list of requirements. ‘I wanted something that closed the pore, that really perfected the skin – a lightweight but effective texture in a colour that would suit all skin tones, and I wanted to be able to contour with it.’ No mean feat, but Creal mastered it.
Eagle-eyed fans will also notice a new city has been added to the collection. Miami is a burst of colour with cobalt-blue and vibrant coral matte eyeshadows. Such boldness might not seem very Victoria, but she has her own way of wearing the shades. ‘I layer the blue on top of the black liner, so you get this subtle navy feel,’ she says, although she admits the orange hue takes slightly more nerve to pull off.
Essentially, Victoria is trying to cater to her existing customers while attracting new ones, who might not have been able to invest in a Victoria Beckham dress, but can afford a bronzer or lipstick. As with everything she does, though, there is very little room for compromise and she has paid stringent attention to detail, right down the eyeliner with its monogrammed pencil sharpener. ‘I have a really obsessive eye, so the new mascara had to be the exact height of Morning Aura, [while] the lipstick looks smaller than the average, but contains the same amount of product.’
The second instalment of VB beauty might have doubled in size, but she hasn’t finished there. She has already revealed that there are more products in the pipeline, including a fragrance and skincare. ‘Sometimes things take longer in development, so they might not be here right now, but we really try to push the boundaries and do something different. I’m not trying to be anyone else. I’m just doing what I want to do and giving women what I think they genuinely want.’