The ultimate makeover: Stylist meets Victoria Beckham as she puts her mark on the beauty world

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Joanna McGarry
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She used her girl power to create a global fashion empire. Now, Victoria Beckham has turned her gaze towards the beauty world. Stylist’s Joanna McGarry meets an all-conquering business icon

Victoria Beckham is perched on a giant couch, talking with her hands. There’s waving. Clasping. Some enthusiastic pointing. This is perhaps surprising for a woman who for years was painted by the media as someone incapable of raising a smile. And yet, it feels odd to think back to the previous lives of Victoria Beckham, as her current one – as global fashion savant – fits her so perfectly.

With an inherent, almost unconscious, instinct for style, Beckham’s name is a byword for luxury fashion: whatever she wears, there’s a pretty strong chance most of us will want to wear it too. Today, she is dressed in a striped knit top and black skinny jeans from her eponymous label. In the eight years since its launch, the brand has been inducted into the notoriously closed ranks of the fashion world and, with a turnover of £34m last year, now sits on the frontline of British fashion exports.

Now comes her next pivot: make-up. This week sees Beckham leap from the catwalk to the beauty big leagues with the launch of a 14-strong collaborative collection with Estée Lauder. Next to the likes of Tom Ford or Marc Jacobs – also designers who have taken hugely successful strides into beauty – Beckham has an ace card up her sleeve: total and utter make-up geekery. There is no mascara wand, eyeshadow or sweep of bronzer that she hasn’t tried at some point. And with that comes a swathe of in-depth knowledge that her competitors couldn’t dream of matching.

Case in point: when the Estée Lauder team first rocked up to her LA home, Beckham tipped out all her make-up across the dining table, grasping at some long- since discontinued products that she’d been savouring for over a decade, waiting for a moment like this. Some of those beloved formulas have found their way into the collection, while her typically no-nonsense nature forms the overall ethos, which aims to take the guesswork out of make-up shopping.

She has housed the products in four distinct ‘wardrobes’ nspired by the four cities she frequents the most: London – her childhood home; LA – her adopted home; Paris – for its fashion heartbeat; and New York – where she shows her mainline collection every season. It is, as you’d expect, gloriously luxurious; each compact and lipstick carries a jewellery-like weight in the hand. The fluting that snakes up the casing forms a homage to the Estée Lauder branding of old, while the ‘blonde gold’ edging is the same hue as that used on Beckham’s leather bag fastenings. Make no mistake, this is make-up for the sybaritic joy of make-up.

At the base of it all though, is her love for women. A self- confessed ‘girl’s girl’, the hotel room we’re in is teeming with Beckham’s associates, colleagues and agents: all women. In fact, the only man in the room is the one taking her picture, which perfectly llustrates that Victoria Beckham is a businesswoman in the business of women. And despite her past lives, that’s the one thing that’s never changed.

You’ve spent more time on red carpets than most women in the public eye, what tricks have you learned from make-up artists over the years?
Goodness, I wouldn’t even know where to start! I mean there are so many, the main one being that it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, it’s about the key pieces in your make-up bag. I’ve worked with the best make-up artists in the world and learned so much and that’s why I am so excited about my eyeshadows in particular. The size of the pigment is really important because when a flash hits the eye, it’s got to have that wow effect and be different to anything else out there.

What kind of things do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind before a big event?
I speak to the kids and make sure they are sorted and their homework has been done so I have nothing to worry myself about. And then I just try and get a little nap if I can, maybe use Estée Lauder’s PowerFoil face mask [£16] and just relax a bit, really. I do get nervous at those events; it doesn’t come naturally to me standing on a red carpet, so I just try to be calm, make sure I’ve had something to eat and just relax a little bit because there is no relaxing at home when you have lots of children.

What tweaks do you make to your own make-up when you know you’re going to be photographed?
Add more, but not too much. Bring your eyes out, too. I’m so excited about my eyeliner – whether it’s using the black part to really get that smoky, intense, sweaty rock’n’roll look or the paler vanilla on the other end that’s really going to open up your eyes.

Do you shop for beauty yourself? When did you last find yourself scouting around the aisles of Boots?
Oh all the time. I love packaging, I love to see what people are doing. I’m often in Selfridges or Bergdorf and I buy make-up from Net-a-Porter too. It’s just a fun thing to do. If I’m with Harper on a Saturday afternoon, we’ll go walking around Selfridges. Years ago, I actually worked in a department store at Lakeside Shopping Centre. I would stand and spray perfume for £45 a day. This is when I was a student during the lead up to Christmas and I would get really, really dressed up, and stand there for hours listening to the TV advert playing over and over again, literally just spraying people. And that’s why, whenever I’m in a department store and someone comes up to me and says “will you try this?” no matter how much of a rush I’m in, I’ll always say yes because I know how that feels.

Your signature smoky eye and nude lip is one of the most iconic make-up looks of our time. How did that evolve into your first ever cosmetics line?
I have dreamed of creating a make-up collection for longer than you can imagine, so when Estée Lauder approached me, I was so excited. I’ve collected make-up for the last 15 years so now feels like the right time for me to share what I’ve learned with women around the world. Working with Estée Lauder has taught me so much and I want to learn more, this is just the beginning for me and I can reach a lot of women. Women will listen to me and I want to share all that I’ve learned to help empower women, make them feel beautiful and like the best version of themselves.

The beauty market is hugely competitive with an overwhelming amount of choice out there for women. How will your collection sit apart from the rest?
Well, I’ve been searching for the perfect nude lip pencil and perfect eyeshadow for longer than I can remember... There are lots of amazing products out there, I just wanted to do something different because I’ve been searching for all these products myself and can’t find them. To make this collection stand out, Estée Lauder started working with a new lab that they’ve never worked with before, so that we could produce new techniques and formulas. And our packaging reminds me of growing up and watching my mum get ready. She’s quite glamorous and has always loved make-up. And there’s something that feels quite vintage about some of the pieces. I want my customer to pull a compact out of her bag – feel the weight of it – and feel special, you know?

You’re a woman known for her impeccable grooming. What skincare rules do you stick to at home – the non-negotiables – even after a really long day?
I use lots of creams and always cleanse, tone and moisturise. I’m quite into stem-cell serums at the moment, which I use in the morning and night. I also use something quite oily at night because that’s the time my skin needs a good drink. I use a lot of [facialist] Sarah Chapman’s products. She is incredible.

How involved is your morning skincare routine?
I cleanse, tone and moisturise again and then I use a tinted moisturiser that has an SPF in it as well before I apply my make-up. I like to have a little bit of a glow but I think it’s good that so many moisturisers and foundations nowadays do have a little bit of SPF in them, which is important for looking after yourself.

You’re an avid disciple of Soul Cycle in LA and have been known to exercise every day – how important are exercise and nutrition in maintaining the quality of your skin?
100% and I don’t think you realise until you’re older actually how important it is that for good skin you have to eat the right things. I see a dermatologist in LA called Harold Lancer and he said to me, “You have to eat salmon every day because of all the good oils in the fish”, so I eat lots and lots of healthy fats; tonnes of avocado and salmon and lots of nuts. Eating healthy fats is really good for your skin, plus taking multi-vitamins and feeding your skin with great products. You have to look after yourself on the inside and then you can look good on the outside.

What product would be the most irritating to leave at home by mistake?
My lipliner, for sure. Funnily enough, when we were in the Spice Girls, we were travelling and working so hard, we used to have to have this thing called the ‘blusher police,’ because we put on so much blusher and lipliner and when you’re tired you just put on more and more and more. So it makes me smile seeing these things here, it reminds me.

What product would we be surprised to see in your bathroom cabinet?
Well, what would probably surprise people is that I am constantly covering myself in virgin coconut oil, the one that you’d use for cooking. From my neck down, I rub it in, stick my robe on and then do my hair and make-up. I do that a few times throughout the day. I mean, it’s a bit sticky but it’s natural, it smells nice, and your skin just feels so smooth. It’s the best thing for hanging onto a tan as well. I go to bed at night with it on too, with an oil stain on the bed! It’s so good for you. It’s brilliant.

You’ve created a limited edition LightBox [at £850 there are only 75 available worldwide] complete with beauty lighting to house your products in. How important is lighting in creating flawless make-up?
I travel so much and I’m always in hotels, trying to do my make-up and the lighting is rubbish. Then I go outside and sometimes I’m a little bit embarrassed, like, ‘Have I got too much on? Have I not got enough on?’ So I said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could create a box with proper make-up lighting,” and I can’t believe Estée Lauder made it work.

We read about business owners who get up at 4am to go through emails. Do you do that or are you vigilant about getting enough sleep?
I think it’s good to try to get as much sleep as you can, it makes a huge, huge difference. I mean in an ideal world I would get more sleep; I think that’s probably the case with most people who work and have children. At night when all the kids are in bed that’s when me and David get time to really catch up and spend time together so I would love to go to bed earlier than I do but there’s just so much going on.

How do you adjust to the different time zones when you travel so frequently?
Have you worked out an antidote for avoiding jet-lag face? Do you know, I don’t think there is one. If I’m on a plane on my own without the children, I just make the most of it and sleep. I don’t ever catch up with movies, I sleep. Get it while you can! I do make sure that once I’m on the plane, I take all of my make-up off, cleanse, tone and use a really good moisturiser, and then when I get off I do it all again really so my skin feels fresh and clean and that’s where this [Estée Lauder Morning Aura Illuminating Cream, £68] really comes into play because I just cover myself in that and put make-up on top. And then add a good pair of sunglasses!

All things considered, would you call yourself high or low maintenance?
I have friends that spend a lot longer getting ready and having treatments than I do. I don’t have the luxury of that because I’m so busy and I have children, but I do make sure that I look after myself; I work out every day and ensure I eat healthily. It’s important to put yourself first so that you can be strong for everyone in your life. If I can be the best version of me then I am the best wife and I am the best mum and business person; you have to invest in yourself and women should never feel ashamed of that.

The Victoria Beckham Estée Lauder collection is available now in Selfridges stores nationwide

Main image: Rex Features