Of the many celebrities to launch fashion lines -- Jessica Simpson, Gwen Stefani, the Kardashians -- few are as respected as Victoria Beckham. Through a series of profiles and interviews over the past few years, Beckham has carefully positioned herself as more than just the pretty face of her six-year-old eponymous label, but rather as someone who is extremely hands-on: flipping through floor samples, overseeing product shoots for her e-commerce site, determining the set design and the music for her next fashion week show.
On Thursday, Beckham takes another step forward in her design journey with the launch of her first flagship store at 36 Dover Street: a three-story, 6,040-square-foot space right across from London's famed Dover Street Market, which houses Beckham's ever-expanding range of ready-to-wear, denim, accessories, eyewear and her diffusion Victoria Victoria Beckham line. It's difficult to find a shop to compare it to -- that may be because it's the first retail project architect Farshid Moussavi, who also designed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio, has ever taken on. But it is unmistakably a high-end boutique. The walls are white, the stairs are polished concrete with gold rails, and there are vast amounts of space between solid pieces of wooden or mirrored furniture and even between the clothes, hung on gold chains (a motif Beckham has long used in her designs) from the ceiling.
If that sounds austere, the store is, a little, but it's offset by the warmth of the walnut wood used in the furniture and on the hangers. Beckham, speaking to a small audience of reporters the week before her store opened, said that she wants it to feel modern but warm as well: "I don't want people to feel scared to come into the shop, I want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable."
What's perhaps rarer -- and more modern still -- is her approach to customer service. Walk into a Céline boutique, and a store associate may inform you that nothing whatever is available in your size, and you cannot be helped. Walk into Beckham's store, and you can expect a different level of service: "If we don't have what you're looking for in the store, then the staff will find what you are looking for somewhere in the world," she pledges.
Beckham wouldn't concede that she was influenced by any other store when designing her own, but did say that she "loves" shopping at Dover Street Market, Harrods and Selfridges, and that she likes to support the work of other designers -- namely, Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe. "I'm not one of those designers that will only wear my own clothes," she said.
It's perhaps a little surprising that Beckham -- who shows her collections in New York and whose biggest client base is in the U.S. -- would choose to open her first store in London over New York or L.A. "You know I'm from London, I'm very proud to be British, so for me there was no doubt I would want to open my first store here. My studio is here, my offices are here," she explained. "Maybe America will be next," she teased, adding, however, that she has no plans to rejoin the London Fashion Week calendar anytime soon.