The first thing that hits you when you walk into Victoria Beckham’s new flagship store on London’s Dover Street is a four-metre wide polished concrete staircase that is reflected in the mirrored ceiling. The effect is so dramatic it makes the already massive 6,040 square foot store double in size.
The second thing that hits the senses, of course, is Victoria Beckham herself. She walks up and shakes your hand with the genuine enthusiasm of a 12-season-under-her-belt fashion professional, excited to be unveiling her new baby, her first store. She wears a loose black silk shirt, skinny black jeans and black heels, glossy long hair, make-up immaculately applied.
If ever a fashion store was the perfect embodiment of its owner/designer, this is it. Far from predictable, Beckham collaborated with the architect Farshid Moussavi who has never tackled a retail space before and is best known for Ohio’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, an extraordinary lopsided triangle of jutting mirrored points. ‘I wanted something a little conceptual but welcoming too. That she [Moussavi] was a woman was a bonus, I love working with strong women, and I definitely wanted something different, I didn’t want to be influenced by any other store,’ said VB, noting there will be no window display as customers pass through the sliding Ductal (concrete lookalike) door.
The ground floor – all polished concrete, bottle green glass, mirrored stainless steel and American walnut - houses the less expensive Victoria by Victoria Beckham, VB denim, eyewear (both optical and sunglasses), bags and, new to VB world accessible small leather goods from £150. ‘I really wanted women to experience and feel the brand through my eyes, and this is the first time that’s going to be possible. So it had to be modern but warm. I don’t want men or women to be too scared to come into the shop. I’m very lucky I have a husband who goes shopping for me and I think that’s also very important that guys can come in and be helped too,’ she explained, pushing open the door to a flatteringly-lit changing room. ‘I’ve been traipsing in and out of here so it’s got all my stuff in it. This is actually the smallest fitting room but it’s still big enough, y’know when I go shopping I’ve always got at least one child with me.’
We are directed to peer down onto the lower ground floor where the spring / summer 2015 collection she has just shown at New York fashion week is displayed. ‘It will be our personal shopping space – there’s an enormous fitting room down there. I’m going to spend a lot of time in the store and that’s where I’ll base myself and do personal fittings with people,’ she said, explaining that the whole point of having her own store is to understand her customer better. ‘I love getting feedback. I’m not just doing this to make myself look good; I’m doing this because I love women, I want to empower women. I want my customer to feel and look their very best.’
Up the concrete staircase, a large screen plays her latest show. VB wastes no time in connecting this piece of tech to her website ‘because online is also very important to us and we can share all that content here in store.’ The first floor houses her ready-to-wear collection on long moveable blonde gold chains, ‘so I can play’. The space is big enough to hold a small concert in let alone a party or fashion show – would she ever come back to show in London? ‘Sometimes you’ve got to recognize when you’re lucky, and I have a good thing going in New York, [America is her biggest market] so now’s not the time to move,’ she said.
As for VB’s personal shopping habits: ‘I love Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Browns,’ careful to name-check her retail partners, ‘I like to go shopping everywhere, in LA, too, as much as I can with four children.’ And as for her own wardrobe, ‘I’m not one of those designers who only wears their own clothes. I like to mix it up and support other designers, I wear a lot of Saint Laurent, vintage and Comme des Garcons and Junya [Watanabe],’ the latter two based directly across the road in Dover Street Market. ‘You know, I started out with just a collection of dresses, but now I have knitwear, tailoring, trousers, shoes - I was thinking about this when I couldn’t decide what to wear this morning – thinking how lucky I am, I have the best job in the world. Tonight, I have an event to go to and I can just get something out of the shop! So yes, I do feel very lucky.’
The impression VB leaves - professional strategist, marketeer and designer - is that this, her first flagship, is just the tip of the iceberg. The VB empire has only just begun...
Victoria Beckham opens today at 36 Dover Street, W1S 4NH, tel 020 7042 0700, opening hours Monday – Saturday 11am-7pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm. Twitter @vbdoverst