Victoria Beckham gets a rush from surprising people; it’s how she has shaped a staggering career doing what no one thought possible. When she revealed her eponymous fashion label over a decade ago, cynical critics were set to roll their eyes at the hopeful efforts of a former pop star, but they quickly fell at her well-heeled feet, praising her thoughtful designs. And then, in 2017, she created a capsule beauty collection in collaboration with Estée Lauder. “[The brand was] surprised by how passionate I was and how I had a point of view,” she explains over the phone from London. That launch was an astounding success, so this year she dropped a self-titled makeup collection on her website. “I haven’t heard one negative thing about what we created,” she says with a pleased chuckle. Amid it all, she recently celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary with David Beckham, with whom she has four children. (That her gig as a globally revered pop star with the Spice Girls now reads almost like a footnote speaks to her transcendence.)

Though she’s the most-buzzed-about designer at London Fashion Week, Beckham has actually built her aesthetic around a decidedly anti-fashion approach: Rather than parsing trends, she crafts clothes that women can’t live without season after season. “When I invest in pieces, I want to wear and wear them,” she says. “You need a great tuxedo jacket; you need the right pair of jeans and a slim white shirt. I am often in my jeans!”

She’ll be bringing her appealing fashion advice to Toronto this November, at the invitation of fashion and philanthropy titan Suzanne Rogers, when she hosts a trunk show with Net-a-Porter for her devoted customers. (Beckham may not be a pop star anymore, but she’ll always have fans, it seems.) Net-a-Porter will give 20 percent of all Victoria Beckham sales to Camp Ooch, which provides camp experiences for kids affected by childhood cancer, and the Penelope Neuroblastoma Foundation. We caught up with the designer to talk about evolution, excitement and her upcoming trip.

Will we be running into you in cafés in Toronto?
When I travel for work, the minute I’m finished, I rush home to be with the kids, so I never have as much time to explore as I would like.

What do you do with the little downtime you manage to carve out?
I like to read since I never seem to have a chance at home. But, honestly, I use the opportunity to sleep as much as I can—that is the biggest luxury. When I’m home, I get up so early to work out before getting the children off to school, so when I only have to think about myself for a few days, that’s a bit of a luxury, as much as I miss the kids and David enormously.

Your designs are more whimsical today than they were when you started your label 10 years ago. Is that a reflection of how you’ve changed?
When I first started, it was all about dresses that were very fitted and structured and there was lots of corsetry. Now, our dresses are more fluid and full of beautiful prints because that’s the way I want to dress—but they are very technical dresses, so you’ve got to have the right team to be able to execute them in the right way. I have grown, and my team has grown. It has happened gradually.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing as a designer today?
Goodness, I’m learning all the time. There are creative challenges: You want something that’s elevated enough for the catwalk but that women can still relate to and desire. And then business-wise, there’s been a lot of change. We’ve just launched the beauty brand, which has been fantastic because I’m really educating myself about clean beauty—not just with regard to clean formulas but packaging as well. I’ve realized that we all have responsibilities, and I’m dedicating myself to trying to make a difference in the industry. We’ve built not perfect but extremely clean formulas; we use as little plastic as we can, and we use 100-percent post-consumer waste. We have been trying to do something that’s kind not just to the individual wearing the makeup but to the planet as well. There are always challenges, but that’s why I continue to do what I do: I get to keep learning.

You’ve held so many different roles, from singer to designer. How do you define success at this moment in your life?
I’m proud of what I have created. I feel just great—I feel successful. But feeling content is actually the ultimate goal and is more important than feeling successful. That’s what I feel right now at home, at work and creatively: I feel very content.

I often wonder how one balances contentment and ambition, though.
I would never become complacent. I’m happy and I’m satisfied with my home and creative life, but I’m not short on big ideas. I always say ‘Dream big—then dream even bigger.’ So I’m still very ambitious and there’s still a lot that I want to do; I just want to do it while feeling content with who I am. I’m 45 years old, and I’m very confident in my own skin.

So what would you go back and tell yourself at 20?
When we’re young, we have hang-ups about silly little things. Then as we get older, they seem less important. Yesterday, I read that Helen Mirren said she doesn’t give an F-U-C-K about getting older. I think we all feel that way a bit. It’s about perspective.

What are the things you’ve been able to let go?
I’m not going to tell you that! [Laughs] When people know about your insecurities, they play on them. But, honestly, it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what they are; it’s just that, now, I want to be the best version of myself. I want to recognize who I am, be confident and, yes, look fantastic—but that doesn’t mean trying to be someone that you’re not or [trying to] fix something about yourself.

What’s the most recent thing that excited you?
We had an event in London two days ago with Sotheby’s and had Andy Warhol pieces hanging in the store; that was exciting. We also have this new brand platform called the World of Victoria Beckham, which comes out every Saturday. We talk about everything from fashion to beauty to art to the book I’m reading this week. It might feature a friend of mine who is an incredible jeweller; we have recipes for snacks that I make myself. It’s exciting to share what’s important to me.

How does it feel to let people get to know you as a person rather than as a designer or an artist?
People already know me. That’s the beauty of social media: You can really get to know a person as opposed to just feeling that you do because of the picture that the media paints of that person.

Have you wrestled with what to keep private and what to share?
People are interested in my husband, and they’re interested in my children, but I try to maintain a private life. It’s all about balance.

Gwyneth Paltrow was critiqued a lot about her privilege when she started sharing personal stories on Goop. Have you felt a similar response?
I’m lucky. I’m in a position in which I get to experience a lot, and I want to share that with people. I try to be very balanced. We don’t just talk about things that are expensive—it’s a real mix. There are some women who don’t want anyone to know where their outfit is from because they don’t want anybody else to copy it. I’m the exact opposite: If I find something great, I want to share [that] with everybody.

This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.