V for Victory
“I don’t want people to be scared to come inside,” said Victoria Beckham, as the hefty concrete door, with its elongated panels, slid open to reveal her first store.
Where did that word “Posh” come from to describe the one-time Spice Girl? For the London shop that opens this week in Mayfair’s Dover Street is not “posh” – as in fake fancy – but rather a class act.
As Victoria walked up the monolithic, polished concrete staircase, designed by Farshid Moussavi Architecture, it is clear that in fashion terms she has arrived.
The designer has nurtured every piece of walnut wood, green glass and even the diagonal-grid ceiling that gives the interior a monumental look in terms of space but warmth from its materials.
“It is very important that men can come and watch – like David, who sometimes goes shopping with me,” says Victoria, explaining that modular pieces of furniture can be placed and re-grouped in the large upstairs clothing space. This is where David Beckham could pop in for a shopper’s rest and refuel.
Hovering over all three floors, the concrete ceiling alone “took seven builders, seven days a week for nine weeks” to create, according to Victoria, who deliberately chose an architect who was not familiar with designing retail spaces.
The general effect is of streamlined grandeur. The building is modern, minimalist and those stairs alone seem like a sculpture.
From the ground floor, with its denim and VVB collection at more affordable prices (from ?510 up to ?1,195), the shopper looks through a glass panel to another selling area beneath.
It all starts with handbags, those badges of honour for any glam brand. On the white shelves, luring in customers, are un-fussy bags in blush pink and cream, followed by shopper bags in black with a swirl of scarlet and small red clutches with gilded chain handles. The prices are expensive, but not catastrophically so (the shoppers are ?995).
“The moment people come into the store, they feel the brand through my eyes,” says Victoria, showing off the small leather goods that are a new category for her brand. Prices for the wallets, credit-card holders, key chains and key rings run from ?150 to ?480.
As we moved forward my eye was caught by metallic sunglasses in shocking pink and turquoise blue on a metal and glass tower of shelves. But that chilly construction was set against diamond-shaped benches in grainy walnut wood.
I could not work out whether the zigzag, pale gold rails were supposed to read as Vs for Victoria.
The clothes were very “her”, such as little, streamlined dresses in white, black, red and a few polka dots. They looked almost too small for their hefty, gilded walnut hangers. Prices for these dresses start at around ?500.
On our tour, Victoria drew my attention to something really big: the fitting rooms, so that you needn’t be in the personal shopping area to feel comfortable and coddled. And instead of having a till, the store has gone the Apple route, taking payments on the staff’s digital pads.
I followed Victoria up the staircase. She was balanced on pin-thin heels, with narrow black pants and a loose top.
In the large upstairs space, with its flexible furniture arrangement, we discussed how she sees her brand development in bricks-and-mortar stores. Victoria and David’s plan, in association with her mentor and one-third shareholder Simon Fuller of XIX Entertainment, is to focus on the London store, then to open in New York. Other key cities will follow.
“I really enjoy growing at a steady pace – attention to details is so important,” the designer says, explaining that after six years developing clothes and accessories, with shoes and small leather goods the newest categories, she envisages a subtle development for the next five years.
The clothes here in the ready-to-wear collection are her personal edit: stylish, deceptively simple, and expensive (from ?900 to ?3,000 for evening dresses, with one gown at ?5,800). This is roughly in line with other luxury brands.
Looking through the windows and across the street, one can see Dover Street Market, the dynamic and experimental design emporium developed by Adrian Joffe with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Gar?ons.
“VB” as she is known in the fashion business, is not claiming to be edgy or especially inventive. But she is dedicated to her collections and has succeeded in creating an environment that mirrors her desire for the sleek and streamlined.
I am not sure if the concrete stairs would be user friendly for her daughter, but it would be great for energetic teenage boys. And knowing Victoria and how passionate she is about the store, I bet that she will bring her children here for a run around and to see her latest big adventure.