Whether promoting her eponymous fashion label, attending philanthropic events, or scouting out her next store location, fashion designer Victoria Beckham seems to be one of China’s most frequent celebrity visitors from the UK. On March 17, she was in Beijing to judge the global final competition of the prestigious International Woolmark Prize for the first time it’s ever taken place in China. The China market is vitally important for the Victoria Beckham brand, which is sold at posh boutiques like Lane Crawford and will soon open its second ever global location in Hong Kong—Beckham scouted out spots when she was in the city for Art Basel earlier in the week.
Backstage after the Woolmark show, we caught up with Beckham for an interview about her thoughts on the Woolmark Prize’s influence on young designers, how she chose winning brand M.Patmos, what she does to reach her Chinese customers worldwide, and why she and soccer superstar husband David Beckham love to make frequent visits to China.
How did you become a judge for the International Woolmark Prize?
Colin [McDowell] invited me and I jumped at the opportunity. I think it’s such an incredible competition where emerging talent is give a wonderful opportunity, and so for me to take part and help support young designers is very exciting. It’s the Year of the Sheep, it’s Woolmark, and we’re here in China, and for me it’s very exciting. I love coming to Beijing. My second store is actually going to be in Hong Kong, so I love coming here. I always enjoy my time. I love the Chinese women. So when Colin asked me, I said “absolutely.” I was very, very excited to be here and everybody has been great, so I jumped at the opportunity.
I always like to do these kinds of things and support young designers. I think it’s very important. I’ve been so lucky and I’ve had so many great people around me mentoring me and helping me get to the stage in my career that I’m at, and if in any way I can help anybody else, then I’d love to do that.
How important is the China market to Victoria Beckham’s overall global sales, and is it focusing more on expansion within China or on the Chinese traveler market?
Everywhere that I travel in the world—and I travel a lot—I’m meeting my Chinese customer, and I want to really be able to give her what she wants. For me, the best way to do that is to open my second worldwide store here in China. But, I’m reaching out to her all around the world, which I think is very exciting. It’s my fastest-growing market. The Chinese woman understands fashion. She’s sophisticated. She understands quality and luxury. And most importantly, I love coming here. David loves coming here. We want to bring the kids here, and I think that’s very important as well.
There’s an energy in China, and that’s one of the most important things for us. It’s enjoyable to come here. People make us feel very, very welcome here. It’s kind of a mixture of everything, really. It’s a really wonderful place. It’s also a fun place to visit, so very, very important on many different levels for us.
What criteria did you judge the designers on?
I liked her concept; I thought it was very interesting. I thought it was very wearable, and taste level-wise, I thought it was the most tasteful as well.
As a successful designer and businesswoman, what is more important—the creativity or the commerciality of a design?
I think it’s getting a perfect balance of the two.
What kind of impact does winning the Woolmark Prize have on an up-and-coming label?
I think it’s great because it gives them money that is very much needed for their brand and I think more importantly, they’re getting someone to mentor them. I wasn’t judging anybody today on anything other than them as designers and the collection. I don’t think it’s fair to judge them on their business plan, for example. They’re designers, and the idea is that at some point they will have a team around them that will help them with the more business side of things. It’s very difficult to expect people to do everything. I wasn’t judging anybody on that at all. It was purely on their talent and their collection.
What advice would you have for young emerging designers who want to gain international recognition and a good reputation?
I think it’s so difficult. I always think it’s great to work for other people and to learn from the experience of working for other people, when it’s somebody else’s money. I think that that’s very, very important. I think it’s just ask as many questions as you can and learn as much as quickly as you can, and try and stay focused as well. Keep things quite simple, rather than trying to do everything. I think that’s the most important thing.
What other plans does Victoria Beckham have in Asia?
I’m actually going to be in Singapore for Singapore Fashion Week in May, which I’m very excited about. I’m just working very closely with my retail partners here—Joyce, Lane Crawford, and Puyi as well—so just traveling to as many stores as I can. Meeting customers is always very important. I like to get in the fitting room with the customers and find out what they like, what they don’t like, how they feel in certain garments because that’s really useful information for me so season on season, I can give my customer exactly what she wants.