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The day Top Gear met Victoria Beckham

  1. During one of their visits to Land Rover’s design HQ, David Beckham was apparently rather keen to get hold of an in-car iPod connector, “otherwise Victoria will start singing”. Despite being one fifth of the Spice Girls, the most successful girl band of all time, even Victoria Beckham herself never claimed to have the pipes of, say, Aretha Franklin, so much so that it’s a running joke between her and husband. Now the former super-WAG turned award-winning fashion designer fancies herself as a bloody car designer. Has the world finally gone mad? Well, no actually. Allow me to explain.

    Words: Jason Barlow

    This article originally appeared in the June 2012 edition of Top Gear magazine 

  2. When Range Rover announced its partnership with Mrs Beckham back in summer 2010, it’s fair to say that TopGear was… sceptical. Anyone who thinks the Evoque is ‘fashion’ enough, especially for a Land Rover product, must have shaken their head clean off their shoulders in disbelief. On the other hand, more than 65,000 Evoques have been sold so far, and the company literally can’t make enough of them. For Land Rover’s Halewood factory, and UK plc in general, this is a giant shot in the arm. In fact, the facility is having to expand to cope with demand; apparently 35,000 people applied for the 1,000 new positions Land Rover has created.

    This, then, is the big-picture context of the £79,995 Range Rover Evoque Victoria Beckham. Think what you like about the lady, but this car unites two prestigious British brands, and pushes Range Rover deeper into territory it wouldn’t ordinarily reach, in important new markets.

  3. Like the one we’re in today. Such are the blunt commercial realities of the 21st-century car business, the scene has shifted from the Midlands to Beijing, the perfect place to get the Range Rover/VB collaboration fully airborne. It’s no secret that China is proving to be the salvation of the luxury-car business, and the Beijing show is the epicentre of the gold rush. On the eve of the show, Bentley announced that China was now its biggest market (they’ve sold 60 China-only Mulsanne Diamond Jubilee editions, a huge assault on good taste but one with irresistibly fat profit margins). Ian Robertson, BMW’s sales and marketing director told me that he expects China and the US to be neck-and-neck by the end of the year, while Jaguar sales have ballooned 156 per cent year-on-year.

    We meet Victoria and her car in Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts. The car? Oh yes, the car. It’s an Evoque with a clever paintjob, glossy black wheels and a retrimmed interior, basically, though the big reveal is so mesmerisingly OTT that I was expecting it to teleport from one side of the room to the other, then begin hovering. That said, it’s probably also the best-looking Evoque yet, which is no mean feat.

  4. “Do you like the car?” Mrs Beckham says, fixing me with a surprisingly focused stare. She seems genuinely relieved when I nod. The Beckham Evoque is refreshingly unshowy, tastefully anti-bling and fits in thematically with Victoria’s main business these days: fashion design. The Victoria Beckham line has won her a British fashion award and plaudits from the notoriously prickly fashion media. Career-making American Vogue editor Anna Wintour loves her; her British equivalent, Alexandra Shulman, was partly responsible for hooking her up with Land Rover.

    “When Gerry [McGovern, LR’s design director] approached me to do this, it was certainly a challenge,” she says. “I’d never designed a car before, so I think I brought a naivety to the project, though I’ve enjoyed customising the cars David and I have bought over the years. Many of which have been Range Rovers, coincidentally. I wanted to design a car I wanted to drive. It wasn’t a question of fixing something that was broken - the Evoque’s been a huge success and Gerry has done a wonderful job - I just wanted to put my little… taste on it. I didn’t want a car that was particularly feminine, I wanted something that David also wanted to drive.”

  5. This may explain the Evoque VB’s surprisingly masculine character, all stealthy matt grey and black wheels, enlivened only by subtle rose gold accents on the grille, alloys and bonnet (the rose gold was inspired by a chunky man’s Rolex David gave to her). Inside, the seats are trimmed in soft aniline leather from Bridge of Weir, hand-stitched to resemble a baseball glove (a nod to the Beckhams’ adopted LA home), and there’s piano-black wood on the dashboard. The rich carpet on the floor was inspired by the lambswool rugs found in the Seventies Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, the car Victoria’s father owned when she was a child (a revelation that originally earned her the nickname Posh.)

    “I like to think outside the box,” she says. “Why shouldn’t I design a car? Why not go from being a Spice Girl married to a footballer to being someone who’s taken seriously in the fashion industry? Let’s be innovative. People were cynical when I decided to go into the fashion business, and I enjoyed that challenge. I’m not trying to prove myself; I’m doing what I love. If people like it, great. If they don’t, that’s fine, too.”

  6. High-end bespoke cars are currently all the rage, I tell her, so this is very timely. “Wow, get me… who’d have thought?” she says, a little coquettishly and a lot mischievously.

    McGovern describes Victoria as a “real detail merchant, who effectively became a member of the team, and worked with incredible focus”. She collated mood boards, filled with fashion, film, art, architecture and even aeronautical reference images. “There is a consistency of tone,” McGovern claims, “and I think you see that in everything Victoria does. Her Evoque is sophisticated, pared back, clean.”

  7. “What I love about Range Rover is that there’s no other car I think you could use to arrive at the red carpet, then head off to the country in,” Victoria adds. “I wanted people to be able to see the quality and the luxury, and to feel it as well. Something that worked for men and women, something that was cool, but not too try-hard.”

    Does she understand why this might be a tough sell for some people? [pause] “Look, I’m not pretending to know more than I know. As I say, I came to this from a naive place. This is my taste; this is what I like… Above all, I wanted it to feel real.

    “You know, I’m not just messing around here,” she says emphatically. “I’m trying to build a serious business, and I have to stay true to myself. I have to build this business the right way; I don’t want to run before I can walk. I’m so proud of everything I did with the Spice Girls - I really am. But this is my passion. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and I think I’ve found an arena I can compete in, in my own little way.

  8. “David is a great businessman. Yes, we’re married, but we’re also in business together. David has an incredible business brain; he’s very bright, very ambitious and he has big plans himself. He has a great eye, he buys nice cars and he’s got great taste.”

    But so, it seems has Mrs Beckham. The 200 VB Evoques slated for production have already sold out. At £80k each. If LR wants to silence the critics, it can just flash the profits.

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