Selfridges’ Big Debut

LONDON — In the battle of the mega shoe departments, Selfridges is looking to stand out from the pack.

The London-based department store last week officially unveiled its 35,000-sq.-ft second-floor space, featuring more than 4,000 women’s shoes with 100,000 pairs in stock.

“To my knowledge, it is the biggest [shoe department] in the world,” Sebastian Manes, accessories director at Selfridges, said last Thursday at the official opening-night party. He described the space as “very inclusive,” with product ranging from Havaianas to Balenciaga to Nicholas Kirkwood.

Eleven brands, including Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Ugg, occupy standalone boutiques on the floor and were asked to put together very personal spaces.

“What a challenge to create,” said Christian Louboutin, whose area includes his vacation photos. “But I am so happy with the result, I could almost live in my shop.”

Repetto is another French name housed within the special boutique section.

“We can present our brand within its own environment, which is more than any multibrand store here [has done for us],” said Repetto Chairman and CEO Jean Marc Gaucher.

Joshua Schulman, CEO of Jimmy Choo, said the broad assortment of brands would be a big selling point. “This is a shoe-lover’s paradise, and cleverly combines a ‘category killer’ approach to footwear merchandising with unique interpretations of iconic brand concepts,” Schulman said.

The space was designed by architect Jamie Fobert, whose other projects include the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Moscow.

“I was invited to sit in on an informal steering panel when Jamie was first presenting his initial ideas, so it’s fantastic to see how the original concepts have come to life,” said designer Rupert Sanderson, who is represented on the floor. “I am particularly pleased that the opportunity to use natural light in the designer rooms [where we are] has been executed so well. It’s a bold and exciting project, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Other, more mainstream British shoe brands, including L.K. Bennett, Kurt Geiger and Dune, also have designated spaces.

“The department raises the bar to the roof in showcasing the world’s footwear brands in a highly innovative and luxury environment,” said Dune CEO John Egan.

According to Manes, the space, which had a soft opening in August and will be fully unveiled to shoppers on Sept. 23, has been three years in the making. “My first presentation to the board was October 2007,” he said. “We wanted the biggest and best area for shoes. And we really have achieved that.”

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