The Travel Memories Behind Victoria Beckham's Globally-Inspired Fragrance Project, Her Most Personal Yet

From Paris date nights with David to her first scent line—a Spice Girls body spray—Beckham tells us a few never-before-heard stories.
Victoria Beckham
Dan Jackson for Victoria Beckham Beauty

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What was the first scent you bought with your own money?

The first scent that I bought was from The Body Shop. I mean, this would have been in the '80s, on a Saturday afternoon probably with my mum in Lakeside shopping center. They used to have body oils or fragrance oils in scents like vanilla and strawberry. They were very uncomplicated, which I liked.

The Spice Girls Impulse body spray from the '90s was my first scent. Do you have any memories of creating it?

This was at a time when there wasn't much that the Spice Girls weren't advertising, after Walkers crisps, Chupa Chups lollies, Pepsi. So, we didn't actually have anything to do with the scent, though maybe we had approval of the silhouette—I think there were five naked silhouettes on the cover of the spray, if I remember rightly. It was a long time ago, but we definitely had a lot of fun. I remember the video campaign where we all looked like we were naked, and we looked like we were walking through a street that was full of people.

Victoria and David Beckham at Nice airport in 1998.

What made you want to launch this fragrance collection?

This is definitely my most personal creative project to date. I’ve been working with Jerome [Epinette, Master Perfumer for Robertet] on these fragrances for eight years now, and this is my version of an autobiography. This has been a big project and there have been a number of fragrances I’ve smelt, and that Jerome has reworked.

I’ve been a lover of fragrance for such a long time, so to use this creative space to tell my story of a very true love story between me and my husband, and our travels and my self acceptance journey, I’ve never felt so vulnerable. But I’m excited at the same time. This is something that feels very honest and organic; it feels like the right time to be releasing fragrance, and it’s been my fifth child. Actually David is my fifth child, the fragrance collection is my sixth child.

Has it been emotional looking back at your life to create the scents?

You know, it was really emotional. I think the public feels like they've been through the journey with me. They remember me being in the Spice Girls, they remember me meeting David, getting married to David and sitting on the throne at the wedding and having the children, then moving to Spain and to America. So a lot of the public have felt—not just in Britain, but all around the world—like they have been part of my journey over the last 27 years. But they don’t know these stories, I've never told them before.

That really hit me when I was shooting the fragrance campaign with Steven Klein in New York. I was in a big studio in Brooklyn with an enormous projection of a Portofino landscape behind me, with a crew of over 100 people and I'm standing in front of this projection, standing on a rock holding on for dear life to a railing, balancing in crazy high heels and totally soaked in water. I looked behind me and I saw Portofino, and I did feel quite emotional. I almost got a little tearful because this is real and these stories are very true to me and David. I suppose that I am a little nervous, because I'm exposing myself and showing a vulnerability that I've never shown before - and the story behind every scent is as emotional as the next.

What was it like shooting with Steven Klein—and did you have a vision for how you wanted the campaign to look?

It was amazing. We both worked with Steven years ago, when myself and David shot for W Magazine when we first moved to Los Angeles. Steven is incredible and in my heart, there was nobody else that could capture these images. I love how he photographs women, I love how the woman is never the victim. She's in control, she's strong, she's powerful. His images are iconic and I look back at the pictures that we did with him all those years ago, and they're still relevant now.

He's also a very nice guy who's so passionate about what he does. The day that we shot the campaign, we started at 6 a.m., and finished around midnight and Steven is very similar to me; we probably could have finished at dinner time, but we both wanted to keep going because we still felt that we had more to give.

I always like to collaborate with the best; with skincare, for example, I collaborated with Augustinus Bader, and then when creating fragrances I want to work with Jerome. For me, it's about creating with the best in class, and for the images I needed Steven—there was no other contender.

What are the bottles inspired by?

I believe these are bottles that my customers will enjoy looking at. The color palette was inspired by a mix of one of my older fashion collections and a tiny vintage miniature fragrance bottle I had on my vision board for many years and the color of the bottle is a vivid turquoise which inspired Portofino’s bottle. When I was eight years old, my mums’ friend used to give me empty bottles of Coco Chanel, and I'd take those bottles, put them on my dressing table and just stare at them; fragrance has been my dream for such a long time

On their first time traveling together, Victoria and David stayed at Portofino's Hotel Splendido.

Pia Riverola

The fragrance names are so specific, what is Portofino 97 inspired by?

When myself and David first met we kept our relationship under wraps. Someone at the time said, don’t get photographed, get to know each other privately because once the paparazzi find out you're dating it'll be hard to have any form of personal life. This was when I was in the Spice Girls, when we were enormously successful all around the world, and David was playing for Manchester United. So the first part of our relationship we did keep very quiet, meeting in places where no one would see us.

A few months after we met in 1997, we decided to take a trip to Portofino. It was the first time we’d been anywhere together, the first time we’d stepped foot outside of London or Manchester. We stayed in the most amazing hotel in Portofino called Hotel Splendido and I remember how the sheets smelled so fresh in the hotel, I remember the light, I remember how the hotel smelled and how exciting that time was. It was very exciting and I remember it like it was yesterday and when I was working on this scent with Jerome, there was no doubt what it would be called.

The Ritz Paris was a frequent stay for Victoria and David during trips to the city in the '90s.

Vincent Leroux

What is Suite 302 inspired by? I’m intrigued by the name.

After we went to Portofino we got a taste for travel. So if ever we had the opportunity to get some time alone, even after we had the children, then Paris was our super happy place. We have celebrated many anniversaries and birthdays in Paris and I feel lucky and blessed to do my fashion show in Paris twice a year now. I feel very at home in Paris, as does David.

In the '90s we’d often visit Paris. This was a time when everything felt very opulent, how I was dressing, the restaurants we’d go to, the way that from the minute we arrived we’d be chased by paparazzi. I remember the hotels we used to stay in; it all felt very romantic and very cool but there was an ease about it at the same time. One of the hotels we’d stay in was The Ritz, and we were lucky enough to stay in one of their most beautiful suites—number 302. So, when I was naming this fragrance, that felt right. So when I was naming this fragrance that felt right. Even now if we have an opportunity to escape somewhere for 24 hours, it’s always Paris.

When David joined a Los Angeles-based football team, a move to the city changed Victoria's lifestyle.

Levi Mandel

The final scent is San Ysidro Drive, what’s the story behind it?

This was mine and David's address when we lived in Los Angeles because my husband joined the football team there. I have to say living in LA was incredible, it was a time that I really got to know, accept and love myself. I did a lot of work on myself in LA and I certainly became more aware of wellness there as it’s a huge part of the culture. We would go hiking with the kids, we would go surfing—I mean, I watched, but they would surf. We had a really lovely outdoorsy life with the children.

I would also regularly go to the crystal farm in Malibu, which is a place where they ‘farm’ crystals. It's not enormous, but they do have a lovely little store where I bought some really big crystals, like the one on the table right in front of me in my office, and the enormous one that I've got in my London store in Dover Street. They're so knowledgeable at the store, and I love educating myself and understanding the different energies. It's not that glamorous, like I said, half of it is actually a farm, but it's lovely.

In LA I really educated myself with regards to meditation too. It was the first time I felt content, happy and at peace with myself. It was such a great and happy experience for us all as a family and this fragrance really does symbolize that. It smells like LA.

Does David have a favorite scent from the collection?

If I was to go on a date night with David, I’d wear Suite 302. I don’t like using the word sexy, but it is a word I’d use to describe this fragrance. It’s the strongest, and you can really smell the cherry and tobacco. It’s very cool, very chic and very elegant. There are so many fragrances out there, it’s a very crowded market. So I wanted this to truly be a Victoria Beckham fragrance that is recognizable. But David likes them all and he sees how passionate I am about fragrance and how much time, effort and care has gone into this process every step of the way and he's proud.

I was a little nervous. At one point I thought, “My gosh, I've never told these stories in such intimate detail.” But at no point has he said that he feels uncomfortable with that, because I think it's very honest and it's very, very sweet. You know, our relationship has been very sweet over the years.

Over the years I imagine you’ve travelled a lot – do you actually enjoy it?

I really do love it. I used to travel a lot with the Spice Girls, but we were so young, I didn't really appreciate a lot of the places I went to. We had such an intense schedule that I probably spent most of the time complaining that I was tired, as opposed to getting out of bed and actually doing things.

Kyoto, Japan is always on Victoria's mind—she and her family took a bullet train to the city to visit the bamboo forest and see the temples.

Mark Parren Taylor

Where have you been recently?

David was on a work trip to Tokyo, so myself and the children just decided to jump on board and go with him which was an amazing experience because I haven't been back since 1997. It’s even more special to be able to share those experiences with the children. I think the older that you get, the more you appreciate really getting out there and experiencing the culture and food. We did some incredible things in Tokyo and it was just great to experience and create memories with the children. We went on the bullet train to Kyoto, to the bamboo forest, to see temples. We also went to Team Labs in Tokyo which was really impressive and we have been before to the one in Miami with the kids.

Obviously, the food is very different from anything that we're used to in Britain, but the restaurants are incredible. And the shopping is too—the vintage shopping is outstanding. So I went to get inspiration for my collections but it’s something we could all enjoy as a family because even the kids love a bit of vintage shopping..

What's been your greatest/most transformative travel adventure?

Moving to LA really was a time for me to grow within myself, and to accept and love myself. The paparazzi was intense when we lived in the United Kingdom and Spain and we got used to that, day in and day out. But in LA because we were over the other side of the world, we could get away from it more. It was a time when we felt free to be out in the open and hike with our kids and really just be us. So even though it might sound a little strange, I really think that I became who I actually am when we moved to LA.

As a seasoned traveler, what’s the one thing you won't travel without?

I have a Yeti flask and I go everywhere with it. David has one too, we all became completely obsessed with them. It reminds you to keep hydrated and one of the most important things is to stay hydrated.

How do you make the most of your travel time?

I tend to use the opportunity to read quite a lot. I've only recently gotten into podcasts, and I don't watch a lot of television. At the moment I’m reading This Is Not A Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan, who wrote the TV Show The Split. She's really a great writer. I also love Matt Haig's books too—I go through different phases.

Do you have a strict travel beauty routine?

Well, Harper has one hell of a beauty routine going on and she's only 11. She's a bit of a beauty expert herself, both skincare and makeup. I do travel with a lot of beauty products. I use my power serum and my cell rejuvenating moisturizer, but I also use other Augustinus Bader products. I like his face wash or I use the Sarah Chapman Ultimate Cleanse which is really good. I use Bioderma wipes to take my makeup off before I cleanse my face, and use Barbara Sturm’s night serum every now and then. I use eye patches and like the ones from the 111Skin Black Diamond range. It's always a pretty full-on routine. And it's not just one cosmetic bag, it's probably four or five bags. I do try to travel as light as I can, but, you know, I do love to have all my products with me too.

Do you ever visit any spas?

I've been to some amazing medical spas in Europe like Villa Stephanie in Baden Baden. David and I love to visit one of these medical spas every year because I think it's so important to keep on top of your health and wellness and look after yourself, inside and out. We also like Villa Stephanie, because hiking in the nearby Black Forest is incredible.

What wellness routines do you have at home?

I think meditation is really important and I use it as a form of relaxation. I also believe in crystal energy so hold my crystals when I meditate, or when I travel or before one of my shows. The children are really into crystals too and David too actually. I like to be as healthy as I can, and myself and David workout every day. Then David makes the protein smoothies and we take all of our vitamins and we try to have checkups on our health as much as we can, so it is a huge part of our lives. We also go out and have a few glasses of wine, so it's all about balance—and just being in nature as much as we can.

I also believe in positive energy and sort of put my order out to the universe to manifest things. I've always done that and I have vision boards. I try to not focus on anything negative and I like to always be positive, which drives my husband crazy because when he's a little bit grumpy because he doesn't like the mornings, I'm bouncing around and positive. I just wake up every morning in a really great positive mood, you know?

Victoria Beckham’s fragrance collection is available for presale at

Portofino '97: 50ml £170 / 100ml £245

San Ysidro Drive: 50ml £170 / 100ml £245

A version of this story originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveller.