Fresh of off showing her well-reviewed Fall 2014 collection during New York Fashion Week, designer and businesswoman Victoria Beckham graced the stages of the brand-spanking-new John L. Tishman Auditorium at Parsons last night for a question-and-answer session with the school’s dean (and fellow Brit) Simon Collins. I didn’t think it was possible to love the former Posh Spice any more than I already do, but last night proved me wrong. Victoria, of course, looked drop-dead chic in a tuxedo pantsuit and her trademark sky-high stilettos, and she was just so sweet, humble and charming—and best of all, funny.
The energy was palpable in the room as ecstatic fashion students waited in anticipation for the pop-star-turned-legit designer to share some insight on her success and just maaaaybe talk about the Spice Girls (which, yes, happened). During the student Q&A, a couple of kids blurted out openers of "oh my god, I’ve been dreaming about this for 14 years" and "you inspired me to become a designer," so I wasn’t the only one crushing hard in the room. I’ll remember last night forever (I was in the same room as Posh!), plus I’ll always have these takeaways as memories:
Let’s get the Spice Girl reference out of the way first. To open, Simon Collins cheekily asked if being a designer fashion was something she "really really wanted." Victoria’s quick response? "Is there a pun in there? It is what I really really want. There you go." Thanks for throwing us a bone, Posh.
Her first fashion memory is of her mom. "My first fashion memory was when I was a child and my mum, she had very big ’80s hair, very big ’80s shoulder pads. She really, really celebrated being a woman and loved to take pride in herself in the way she looked—hair and makeup and shoes and accessories—and as a kid I used to love sitting and watching her get ready." And yes, Posh read and collected fashion mags, too.
In a world where "designers are the new rock stars" (per Simon Collins), Victoria is happy being the former. Because, of course, it always comes back to the Spice Girls, right? ("Viva Forever," people.) "I had a great time being in the Spice Girls and I’m very respectful to the other girls and all the fans," she said. Victoria emphasized that fashion has always been her "passion" and she feels "very blessed" to be where she is and she has lots more plans ahead. "I’d say right now is where I feel comfortable. I’ve got a long way to go and there are a lot of things I want to do. I was never going to be the best singer or the best dancer and that was okay. I had four other people with me. I didn’t do badly, but I kind of hid behind the others a little bit." Hey, you’ll forever be my favorite Spice Girl, Victoria.
She once altered a Versace dress after a fitting with Donatella herself. Yup, when she was with the Spice Girls, Donatella personally fit Victoria in a dress, and then Posh altered it afterwards, Kim Kardashian-style. It’s okay, VB and DV are friends now.
Victoria’s best advice for any budding designer: work for other people first. Since this was a Parsons-exclusive Q&A (you lucky, lucky students), she couldn’t say this enough. Before she launched her own line, Victoria worked with and learned from Rock & Republic for denim, Linda Farrow for sunglasses and Samantha Thavasa for bags and accessories. And lo and behold, guess what categories are crazy-successful for her now? Plus, she had the privilege of having entertainment guru Simon Fuller as a business partner and friend and successful designer Marc Jacobs as her Yoda. Victoria also repeatedly credited her fantastic group of staffers for helping make her business so successful. A bunch of them were actually sitting front and center watching the Q&A, which she considered to be "daunting."
She’s not a diva! "Everyone thinks I’m going to be a prima donna," she said with a smile, and then admitted that the same people are "pleasantly surprised" when they realize she’s not. VB emphasizes that her work in fashion is "always about the product," and not her or her celebrity.
She’d consider doing a menswear line in the future. (David by Victoria Beckham, maybe? Just throwing some names out there…) Clearly everyone knows who the spokesmodel should be. Although, as Victoria jokingly pointed out, "Actually, he’s a bit busy modeling underwear at the moment." We’d still want to see him in actual clothing if you designed it, Victoria.
But definitely shoes! YES. Victoria shared that footwear is probably the next category that she’d explore. Squeee! She pointed out that she works with Manolo Blahnik on her runway show shoes each season, so she clearly she knows what she’s doing. While her personal footwear preference veers toward insanely high heels, don’t worry—she would include flats in the mix.
Victoria is a big fan of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, she’s read it and thinks it’s super inspiring. When a brave student asked her if she’s a feminist ("I don’t know if I’d use the word… "), Victoria suggested the book as a power girl resource. (No, the student hadn’t read it.)
She only found her signature look when she designed her first collection. Victoria admits that she only discovered the need for a signature look when she designed her first collection of 10 dresses. She created her trademark sleek, minimalist body-con dress because she couldn’t find the exact designs that she wanted to wear. (Which we kind of find hard to believe considering her insanely, amazing wardrobe, but it’s cool.) So her designs with "corsetry," "great seaming details," and the "dramatic zip" were born. And that last element: "women and men appreciate that." (Sly smile.)
And some final random fun facts: You may have heard that the Beckhams bought a sick new pad in London (still crying over their move from Los Angeles, by the way) and their neighbor three doors down is… Valentino Garavani. Guess Victoria can run over to borrow some thread or sketching paper or couture if she’s in a pinch. She’s a terrible driver—so bad that David has banned her from driving. (But don’t they have a driver anyway?) And if Victoria wasn’t a fashion designer (or a former mega pop star), she’d be a makeup artist. Huh.