On Friday morning, my phone rang and my heart skipped a beat. I knew who was on the other end of the line. Geri Horner, nee Halliwell, was ringing me to talk about the latest episode of her YouTube series, Rainbow Woman.
It was, for me, a momentous occasion. As a child, the Spice Girls were goddesses. I worshipped their every move. My bedroom was lined floor-to-ceiling with posters. I had the lunchbox, the dolls, the stationery. My tenth birthday party was a Spice Girls party with Spice Girls cake and Spice Girls goodie bags. In Year 4, I was given detention for making and selling my own Spice Girls merchandise. When Blue Peter ran a poetry competition, asking viewers to submit verses focused on a significant moment in history, they received yards of entries about wars, scientific discoveries and moon landings. I wrote about the most significant moment in my personal history: when Geri left the Spice Girls in 1998. I managed to recover emotionally in time for this interview, 23 years later.
Rainbow Woman, which launched last year with an exploration of the life of Elizabeth I, continues its run with a new episode – The Right Fit – dedicated to Audrey Hepburn. A firm favourite of Geri’s in the style stakes, she endeavours to make a dress modelled on the Breakfast At Tiffany’s star.
‘Audrey has always been my go to,’ she says. ‘I love the old black and white movies, and her classics like Roman Holiday and Sabrina. If in doubt, go black: it’s so simple and so timeless. When I left the Spice Girls, almost when I was in my cocoon phase, I’d always go for the black Polo neck. There was lots of black and grey. And I love pearls: I’ve worn peals forever. I have this saying: “Even Watford Girls Wear Pearls.” And why not? You can put your pearls on with jeans and trainers and feel good. Why not? Mix it up.’
This latest episode of the series is far from Geri’s first time threading a needle. She has long made her own clothes, or re-fashioned and re-purposed vintage pieces, ever since studying textiles at school.
‘I went to a Girl’s Grammar School and obviously there was a school uniform, but I remember sneaking in stripey socks, trying a little bit of self-expression’, she recalls. Getting to grips with this as a girl served her well in the male-dominated music industry at a time when manufactured groups were the norm.
‘The lioness that I am, I feel happiest when I can be myself’, she chuckles. ‘And it’s really inspiring when I see others being themselves. We can all be individuals, but united. Look at Mother Nature: there’s a garden of many flowers out there.’
The Union Jack dress alone would be enough to earn Geri a place in the fashion hall of fame, but in the last three decades she has shown herself to be one of pop culture’s most fascinating sartorial chameleons. The Spice Girls’ peak saw her don platforms, short skirts, hot pants and unitards. Of the five young women, Geri’s style was without doubt the most bright, daring and engaging. When she left the group and went through a period of reflection, as well as launching a philanthropic career, a more classic, serious style became the norm. Her solo career seemed to merge the two. The Schizophonic era was defined by sexy but not immodest looks. The Scream If You Want To Go Faster campaign seemed to go for grown-up-cheeky. And now, as Geri has become a mother, wife, author, TV judge, Celebrity Great British Bake Off contestant and YouTube creator – Rainbow Woman indeed – she has evolved once more, her looks defined by clean crisp tones and practical cuts. In short, she is without doubt a style icon.
‘I find that really flattering’, she says earnestly. ‘That’s really nice. I think we all come into our own in different stages of our life. If could tell my younger sisters and brothers out there, I would say that actually your style is yours: be with it and let it grow with you. Sometimes we find it fits better at different stages of our lives. The Audrey look is true to me. You can get swept up in fashion, that’s fine: it’s playful and good. But the fundamental essence of ourselves – our style – never goes out of fashion. People say I wear cream or white a lot, but I find it so simple. And it means that when I put colour on, it feels like a celebration. The decisions I make – generally but not always – are very reflective and instinctive of where I’m at. It’s organic.’
Geri is an active interviewee. As we speak, she browses the internet, screengrabbing images of her outfits as she discusses them so that she can pass them on to me later. Her legacy – as a Spice Girl, as an object of fan affection, as a woman in the public eye – is clearly important to her. She seems genuinely pleased to know that she is speaking to someone who spent their childhood idolising her.
‘I feel like we’ve gone full circle!’ she says, as if we’re firm friends. ‘Twenty years ago, with Blue Peter, and here we are!’
I really must dig out that poem.