Melanie C: 'I spent a few years trying not to be Sporty Spice'

Melanie C, as told to Leah Harper
Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock

Sportswear has become such a big thing in the past few years and, being Sporty Spice, I’ve really embraced that – but at the Brit awards this year I wanted to take it somewhere else.

This dress is from Fila’s spring/summer 2020 collection – it’s really grown up, beautiful, red-carpet chic, but with a bit of a sporty twist. You would never guess this dress was from a sportswear brand. You know when you put something on and it makes you feel … expensive? I looked in the mirror and I thought: ‘Wow!’

I grew up in the north-west in the 80s – everyone wore sportswear. I went to dance college and I was a bit of a raver in the early 90s, so it was all super-comfy trackie bottoms and stripy tops.

Historically, lots of girl bands have dressed the same or been very coordinated. When the Spice Girls started, we tried a few different looks, but it just wasn’t working for us. One day, we were looking at ourselves in rehearsal and I was in a trackie, Geri was in some crazy outfit from a secondhand shop, and we thought: why don’t we all just wear what we’re comfortable in? We realised that our individuality was a great selling point – lots of fans felt that they identified with at least one of us. We almost became caricatures of ourselves.

I felt a bit rebellious when I released my first solo record. I was very keen to be seen as something separate from the Spice Girls, so I chopped all my hair off, went a little bit punk and spent a couple of years trying to not be Sporty Spice. More recently, on tour with [the LGBTQ+ collective] Sink the Pink, my costume looked like a corset version of an American football top, but it was made from old pairs of trainers: a bit of Nike, a bit of Adidas.

I still love athleisure, but I also feel confident enough to be a bit more feminine at times. I know what suits me: simplicity, tailoring, a more androgynous look. I’ve always liked that rock’n’roll chic; Kate Moss looks effortlessly cool. So much of fashion history repeats itself: my daughter is now 11 and she and her friends are all dressing like Sporty Spice – they don’t even realise that I was there first.

Melanie C’s new single, Who I Am, is out now