Don’t scroll any further until you’ve read about this Spice Girls super fan.
Record-breaking collector Liz West has got her “glittery little paws” on almost 5,000 pieces of Spice Girls memorabilia; everything from that leopard print catsuit to those Union Jack platforms. Old Tat speaks to the 29-year-old whose love for the fierce five-some went beyond hanging a few posters on her bedroom wall.
“My collection is definitely a self portrait,” Liz begins. “It tells the story of my life – it illustrates my tastes and interests in aesthetics, fashion and music as a teenager.” She attributes the birth of her obsession to the first time she heard the Spice Girls’ hit ‘Wannabe’ in 1996, where she remembers being “mesmerised”. From there, she began trading the official postcards in the playground with friends and scribbling Christmas and birthday lists full of the stuff. Today, her collection of memorabilia and ephemera has expanded beyond the walls of a vast rented warehouse space. “I have spent nearly two-thirds of my entire life following them.”
For 11-year-old Liz, the Spice Girls had no competition from other groups at the time such as A1 or B*Witched. “I was young and impressionable and they came along at the right time for me. I found the Spice Girls had a sound and aesthetic that was completely in tune with my sensibilities.” Likening the band to “vixens”, she claims “The Spice Girls attitude was of pack mentality; they stuck together in their feline group and of course everyone else wanted to be part of their gang!” For us nineties babies, the lure of no-holds-barred girl power was indeed irresistible and like Liz, we all wanted a pair of Buffalo platforms. Yet for most us, our collections never went much further than a pack of stickers from the movie and a set of the dolls (Mine were all decapitated apart from Posh Spice, who subsequently escaped a dodgy glue repair by my grandad).
The band quickly became Liz’s obsession, she admits. “As a teen I would happily spend every waking hour allowing their music and actions to dominate my thoughts as I replicated their dances, sung their songs, attempted to dress-up as them chat about them with my friends, listen to their songs, hang their posters on my bedroom walls, arrange my memorabilia on my shelves…” From CDs to clocks to the covers of Smash Hits magazine, you name it, Liz got her hands on it. A student loan and the popularisation of eBay further facilitated her obsession, until 2011 when she was finally recognised with a Guinness World Record for her mammoth collection.
Currently based in Manchester, Liz earns her trade as an artist. “Now my priorities have changed and my focus is less about obsessing over the Spice Girls behaviours or about adding to my collection but instead I am determined to showcase it globally.” Doing just that, Liz’s recent stint showing her wares at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in London has been a “real crowd pleaser”. Sharing her collection for the public to enjoy is a no-brainer for Liz. No old tat should be hidden away in boxes, we say! “The content of the collection is highly sentimental and nostalgic for a whole generation, who relish and delight in seeing it in the flesh.” Next stop, she claims, is America.
The super fan has also got her eye on some key pieces to expand her collection further. Liz tells us what she wants, what she really really wants is Geri’s legendary glittery Union Jack dress to accompany the platform boots she already owns. But even someone with Guinness World Record-holder status might struggle to acquire this one, as she tells us its on display at one of the Hard Rock Hotels. “I don’t think I will ever get my glittery little paws on that!”, she muses.
Despite all of her sparkling high-profile pieces, Liz never forgets the humble beginnings of the collection. “I don’t have any regrets about spending all my pocket money and time on my collection as I now have a huge investment (I have nicknamed it my pension fund!). I am just really relieved that my 11 year-old-self fell for the Spice Girls, who have carved out their place in pop history as icons.” The next landmark for the the band will be the 20th anniversary of ‘Wannabe’, which Liz admits makes her feel a little old. Nevertheless, in the form of her collection Liz’s childhood will ‘Viva Forever’.
Words by Alice Freeman