bryanboy tweeted not too long ago that style.com and other runway photography sites should include images of the back of garments and I couldnt agree more. There are so many intricacies that are already lost in photographs.. the zippers, the fabrics, the textures, the contrasts.. all the details that actually matter. But even more of an issue is the fact that people can only see the front of garments online.
I wish I could have seen the Victoria Beckham Collection in its entirety, the backs included. Then I think I would have had such a greater appreciation for her collection.. (I wrote about how I wasnt blown away by her most recent army of dresses). Here’s a detailed review of the collection and VB’s history from Times Online that really solidified my love for Victoria. Check it out!
It may be indelicate. But if you’d choose to describe Victoria Beckham as a “hot mom”, then fair enough. However there are better times (and better places) to do this than to her face at 11am on Valentine’s Day in the £19 million townhouse on East 63rd Street where she is showcasing her latest ready-to-wear collection.
Sadly, nobody pointed this out to the campish American fashion hack who did precisely that (in unprintable terms). As Mrs B cried “No!” in a vain attempt to forestall him, he inquired whether she ever worried that one day Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz might discover that their friends had more than cookies on their minds when they came to hang chez Beckham.
In unison, the clutch of top-tier editors — from publications including American Vogue, Vanity Fair and Le Figaro — laughed two octaves higher than is entirely comfortable. Then Beckham neatly defused the situation with an elegant response, and bid everyone — but The Times’s Lisa Armstrong and me — adieu. As they oozed off towards the marbled doorway, she turned to us, held up her hands and said: “Look, my palms are sweating!”
As well they might have been. Because for this, her fourth collection, the eponymous figurehead of the newly christened Victoria Beckham label faced the fashion pack head on — and, for the first time, she won them over completely. From the New York Post to Women’s Wear Daily via Style.com, every review has been a rave or near-rave. And this has been a genuine critical response, unsullied by over-zealous PR or indirect kickbacks: as Beckham is not yet a significant advertiser, none of the reviewers had any reason to be anything but honest.
Beckham, it is belatedly being realised, might yet — in her own way — become just as notable a young female British designer as the vaunted trinity of Hannah MacGibbon, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo. But because fashion is intrinsically snobby — although most fashion people would call this “discerning” — Posh (as she was never sincerely called), has been a difficult sell for many. Only a few years ago British High Street PRs sniffed that they dreaded seeing Posh wearing their clothes.
Now, though, she has broken them down; primarily through the quality of the clothes, but also via disarming touches such as admitting her relative ignorance. Take this cheery New York confession: “Look, it’s a very basic way that I am doing this. You can see that from the gold dress. The drape has literally been draped on me. We tied it in a knot. And I thought ‘that looks really cool — I like that’. Technically it’s probably not the right way to do things. But there’s a really fun, playful atmosphere in the studio.”
Later, she adds: “I have had to prove myself. But that’s a good thing: everybody has to prove themselves, not just me . . . I want to grow as a designer, I want to learn the techniques and do more and more.”
Part of this self-imposed initiation is Beckham’s decision not to show the collection as a traditional show. Instead Beckham semi-masochistically subjects herself to intimate presentations at which she commentates on each of the 25 or so dresses.
This year, she tells us in a nervily stiff voice, she has taken “a more sophisticated and daring approach to our evening wear”. Which translates into a series of 1930s and 1940s siren-wear-inspired dresses for the modern knock-out. All heavily corseted, in raglan, silk, crepe or wool, they have a confident simplicity zinged up by soft-touch details including neck folds, gold zips, narrow little belts and a Dick Tracy inspired print on her beloved Cloud Dress. Most of the collection comes in either black or fleshy silk, but the odd flash of colour — in sapphire, emerald or ruby — is eye-catching without being brash.
Yes, Victoria Beckham is a (crocked) footballer’s wife, but nobody — even the snobbiest of those snobs — can call this stuff vulgar. The most important critics of all — the consumers — have already worked this out. From Corso Como, to Net-a-Porter, to Selfridges and Bergdorf Goodman, the international outlets that stock Beckham’s dresses all report a near-to-100 per cent sell through.
Next season’s collection has already been swooped on by Beckham’s new celebrity clientele: in the past couple of weeks Cameron Diaz wore the one-shouldered gold jacquard dress to theVanity Fair Oscars party, Demi Moore opted for the sapphire silk column dress, and last week at a White House do Sarah Jessica Parker went for a Victoria Beckham number in cerise. This is an extremely good hit rate. Or, as Beckham says: “The support has been fantastic. And it’s been great that it’s been on lots of different body shapes as well. There have been tiny people wearing the dresses, such as Madonna, and then Jennifer Hudson wore one at the Golden Globes. The way the dresses have been constructed means that they are really flattering.” Flattering to Hudson, and certainly to the super-skinny models at her presentation.
Madonna is the only person to whom Beckham has sent an unsolicited freebie. It was a black-bodiced, ivory-skirted version of a corset dress that she spotted Madonna wearing for an American fashion shoot. And considering the competition it must have faced, that Beckham freebie got an impressive airing: Madonna wore it for her birthday supper last August at the Hotel Splendido in Portofino.
All the Victoria Beckham collection is made in London. And Beckham insists that she now sees design as her full-time, long-term job. “And,” she adds, “I think my middle son thinks that he is going to take over. Romeo likes to get involved.” He certainly has a good name for fashion design. Yet despite her commitment to the company’s London HQ, Beckham says that her family has no plans to leave Los Angeles. “The kids are settled in school, and very happy. And we have a lovely team of people. I travel a lot — Milan, London — and the kids enjoy it, soaking up the culture.”
Creating a red-letter collection of red-carpet dresses is labour intensive. One dress in particular, that Cloud, took up days of Beckham’s time as she and her team strove to get it just so (“it was crazy the amount of hours, days and days, but I was adamant”). And, as Beckham so disarmingly concedes, she is learning on the job: “That’s how it works. I make it on me, to very much what I like.”
This is decadent, yet Beckham says that her fashion business is in profit. “We’ve relaunched the denim and the sunglasses. And we’ve got a fragrance that’s been hugely successful too. So it funds itself.”
As she speaks, her salespeople are with buyers, on another floor of the New York house, showcasing the Cutler & Gross sunglass collaboration and the denim line. The house, by the way, was used as Carrie Bradshaw’s dream penthouse in the Sex and the Cityfilm, and Beckham briefly fantasises about buying it — perhaps, one day, to be a New York flagship for her brand. “This feels like the first season where this could be the house of Victoria Beckham, if you like. The first time I went into a Tom Ford store, years ago, I was so impressed. I loved the feeling of it being Tom Ford’s house.”
Even facing the fashion critics close-up, Beckham is confident enough to team her simple-but-sexy new-season dress with unextended hair and straight-up make-up. “Things have changed,” she says, before unveiling dark news for St Tropez, “I’ve downgraded the fake tan and the big hair. I just wanted a more natural look — a much more natural look. And I’m not going back, either.”
Two fashion weeks later, at Roland Mouret’s RM show in Paris, I met the man who has backed both Beckham and Mouret: Simon Fuller. This new-generation fashion mogul (he now owns Storm model agency, the Fashionair website, as well as holding interests in both labels) said: “I have the utmost respect for the individuals. With Roland and Victoria I will not second guess them.” Later he added: “I believe in Victoria, because it is her passion.”
And you can tell. Because why else would Victoria Beckham feel the need to talk us through each dress, or point out again and again that she’s only new to the fashion game, or put up with a bunch of facile questions from a bunch of fashion journalists? It’s not as if she could do with the cash.
Apropos facile questions, when that guy came up with his “do you worry your sons’ friends will think you’re a hot mom” question, Beckham’s response was impeccable. She said: “As long as it’s not their girlfriends wanting to get their hands on my handbags, I don’t really care!” Then she added: “I wouldn’t really say that I’m a sexy mum. I’d say I’m a full-on mum. It’s a balancing act, as any working mum out there knows.”
As we tootle off to the next show, Victoria Beckham waves her now-unsweaty palms around her showroom and says: “This is very much me. I feel more confident in myself because I feel fulfilled, creatively and professionally. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel very happy. I’m in a good place in my life. And I don’t feel I have to prove myself as much as I used to have to.”
Melnitz Movies and FAST at UCLA screened The September Issue yesterday on campus. The movie is a favorite of mine, not only because its about fashion, Vogue, Grace Coddington/Anna Wintour and the industry, but also because of the filmmaking of the project. When I found out that the director would be there for a Q&A session, I knew I had to be there.
The film was even better the second time around because I picked up on so many details that I hadnt noticed before. I did a great deal of research before going to the screening/Q&A session because I wanted to make sure I had some background information before asking questions. I learned so much about RJ Cutler, his work, the filming process with the Vogue Team, Anna and Grace, the methods of filming he used and why, and so much more.
I had quite a few questions after reading Cutler’s past interviews, so I set out to try and get a interview with him after the screening and Q&A session. I was somewhat disappointed in the Q&A, mostly because the questions were basically the exact same questions that Cutler had been asked in previous interviews since last year. Still, hearing him talk about the passion of the Vogue team and his insights on the film with passion was something that could never be transcribed onto a written interview. Here are a few questions from the Q&A/interview with director, RJ Cutler.
Why did you make a film about fashion? Were you always interested in it?
Never. I love baseball. More than the subject, though, its about the story, the character. Anna talking about her father sparked my interest and I knew there was something there. The genesis of the project was that I wanted a story of her, what she does and to break down barriers. The Vogue team approached me later and Anna wanted to focus on filming the making of the September issue.
What is the editing process like? How long did everything take?
After about 9 months of filming, we had this lump of clay: 320 hours. Members of our team that went through every single frame. Then we assembled “scenes we couldnt live without”, or so we thought at the time. That put us at 140 hours. I watched the whole thing at 22 hours. That is still a significant amount of time considering a documentary is usually 90 minutes or so. I wanted to include so many parts but the editing had to be done.
It was extremely difficult for Grace to watch her work get cut from the issue. Was it as difficult for you to have to edit down to 90 minutes?
There is always marriage to your work. Some people are definitely more attached than others. Filmmaking is largely about the editing process and finding a theme or storyline, so I would say I am more used to it because it is the nature of the business. Grace is so passionate about what she does and her vision is incredible. She puts so much work into bringing her imagination alive. Who wouldnt be upset when all your work doesnt make the issue when so much of you has gone into it?
How has the movie changed the lives of Anna and Grace and the relationship between the two women?
I dont know exactly how things are now, but I guarantee you that they are still fighting. The dynamic between the two women hasnt changed, but the documentary has affected their lives in a big way. They have been so far away from the public world and they were always surrounded by a shroud of anonymity. That veil of anonymity has been lifted and Anna and Grace are acknowledged for their hard work which they are still getting used to.
Fashion is thought of as materialistic, over-the-top, frivolous. How has your perception changed about the industry after this documentary? Is the industry bigger than just clothes?
I had similar opinions about fashion before going into this project. After the film was done, my original thoughts completely changed. First of all, the industry is bigger than just clothes. So many different industries depend on fashion – advertising, manufacturing and production, textiles, shipping, retail.. the fashion industry holds the pieces together. And the power of self-expression is invaluable.
Do you believe that your documentary was able to, to some degree, break down the perception that “cameras are evil”?
Cameras are evil in the fashion industry. They are seen as a tool for prying and manipulating. It took three months to gain the trust of the Vogue fashion team. I believe that as filmmakers and journalists, we need to be transparent and tell the truth. There is nothing easier than telling the truth.
You mentioned that you observe fascinating characters at critical moments in people’s lives. How was that true for Anna at the time of shooting the documentary?
The critical moment in her life at the time is that she is at the peak of her career. Her September issue is going to be the single largest issue of any magazine that has ever been published and that is significant. As we now know three years later, it will forever be the single largest magazine ever published.
Do you believe that The September Issue helped better brand Vogue?
Well, you cant better brand Vogue. If anything, Vogue helped better brand The September Issue.
Do Anna, Grace and the staff constantly think about their brand, or the process of branding from a business aspect?
Vogue, they are always conscious of what Vogue means. It means one set of things on the publishing side and one set of things on the editorial side. But it also means common things for both of them. And that is the history of what Vogue is.
If you havent watched the documentary yet, be sure to buy a DVD, now with 90 additional minutes of never-seen-before footage!