The Victoria Beckham flagship store in London is a conversion of a 560 m2 three-storey Georgian building on Dover Street. Given that online shopping is a platform for fashion brands to provide their customers with choice, we questioned whether the spatial experience of a store should be less like a “market”, where the focus is on choice, and more like a gallery, where the focus is on display: how you view objects and the context within which that viewing occurs. For instance, in a fashion store, how can the way a store displays clothes and accessories give the shopping experience the sense of transience, unpredictability and exploration that underpins fashion itself?
To shift the store’s exterior from marketplace to gallery, the shop front is designed as a simple glass frontage with no window display. Its entrance, a concrete door which slides open to give direct access to the three floors within, is cast as a negative of one of the windows of the Georgian façade above it.
Inside, the different spatial elements and fixtures are designed to immerse customers in a sense of transience, rather than permanence, and to prompt a sense of exploration. The lightweight concrete coffered ceiling on the upper floor, for example, provides a sense of upwards expansion, whereas the mirror stainless steel ceiling of the ground and lower ground floors disappears through reflection. The coffered ceiling, which has long been used in modern art galleries to hide services, house lighting systems or deaden sound though its depth, is used on the upper floor both to conceal the mechanical and electrical system and to contain a system of oblique grid of tracks from which chains, and clothing, is hung – inverting predictable fixed clothing display systems with a system in which hanging clothes become as soft walls that can be moved around the space or even removed entirely to turn the store into an event space.
The oblique geometry of the coffered ceiling is extended to the lower levels through two large triangular cuts in each floor which animate the simple rectilinear space and make room for staircases that communicate the store’s different levels. The mirror stainless steel ceilings on the lower two floors create an optical doubling effect, making the store space seem twice as high and, by doubling the stair on itself, turning the staircase into a space of its own where the store can host different events, talks, shows and displays.
Another element which changes over time is the ground floor accessory wall, for handbags, whose long shelves are retractable, allowing the store to vary the number and height of handbags on display, or alternatively, to completely remove them from view to allow the space to be adapted for another use. The seating in the store is similarly unpredictable, comprising a system of triangular benches which can be moved around to suit different configurations of the store, and combined in different ways to produce pieces of furniture of varying size and shape. And the counters for folded clothing and small leather goods, designed in mirror stainless steel, rather than being rigid objects, are immersed in their context - their experience is therefore inseparable from the space that surrounds them.