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Getting Into Harrods' Shoe Heaven

The department store unveils its biggest project yet.

LONDON — Harrods will unveil its largest project to date this week, a 42,000-sq.-ft. footwear mecca designed to evoke the mood of an opulent penthouse suite.

Harrods Shoe Heaven will open Aug. 1 on the store’s fifth level, marking another major development in the department store’s shoe-floor wars.

The new area, a mix of wholly owned space and concessions, will house 17 boutiques from names including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Valentino. Fifty additional brands including Nicholas Kirkwood, Charlotte Olympia, Sophia Webster and Rupert Sanderson will be displayed in curated rotundas distributed around the hall.

“It’s the biggest project we have ever done at Harrods in terms of capital expenditure,” said Helen David, the store’s fashion director of women’s wear, accessories, fine jewelry and children’s wear. “Every department store worth its salt has a high-end department for [footwear], and this is how Harrods does a shoe hall.” David declined, however, to put a price tag on the investment.

The shoe department is being opened with London-based Kurt Geiger, its longtime footwear partner. Geiger will manage about 90 percent of the floor, and Geiger’s CEO Neil Clifford said sales are expected to hit 100 million pounds, or $171 million at current exchange, in the first year.

“This project with Harrods has been cooking for three years, and the new space is three times the size of the previous shoe department,” he said. “It will give us the artistic and creative space to nurture new brands, and allow us to be slightly more adventurous. I think this will be the No. 1 destination for shoes in the world.”

The floor was designed by David Collins Studio, the London design and architecture firm that has worked with brands such as Alexander McQueen and Jimmy Choo and on major London commercial projects such as Claridge’s Bar, Colbert Restaurant and The Wolseley. This undertaking was one of Collins’ last — he died in July 2013 after a short illness, and his colleagues completed the job.

“It is an homage to how talented David was, and this project respects and embraces the history of Harrods,” said David, who described the space as “a luxury and designer proposition.

The David Collins team incorporated original art deco and Georgian architecture and features, while restoring the original cornicing and moldings from 1919. They brought in natural light through windows, as well as glass-ceilinged rotundas in the common areas. The rotundas also feature floors made from three types of marble.

Meanwhile, walkways are wide and meant to be easily navigated. David said the store gets 55,000 people walking through the doors every weekday, with as many as 75,000 on weekends.

All boutiques are marked with glazed fabric screens at their entryways and brass name plaques. The bespoke furniture was made in Düsseldorf, Germany, and features embossed leathers, mohair, devoré fabrics, etched glass and brass trim. Chairs and loveseats have all been designed so that customers can nestle their handbags behind their backs while they are trying on shoes.

Simon Rawlings, creative director of David Collins Studio, said he wanted customers to feel “cocooned, special and uplifted” by the space.

“We also knew it had to stand the test of time and have a real sense of permanence,” Rawlings said, adding, “It’s rich without being overly flashy, and it’s designed for trying on shoes.”

Before the makeover, the area was used as a staff canteen, but originally was filled with private apartments.

Not surprisingly, top brands — many of which have designed exclusive silver-hued styles to celebrate the opening — are embracing the space.

Bonnie Takhar, president of Charlotte Olympia, said the shoe department will have the right international brand mix and the sort of scale where brands will be able to offer their full collections.

“We’ll have a better platform to express [our] brand and grow the business. We’ve built our business with Kurt Geiger, and this was a next, natural step for us,” she said.

For Nicholas Kirkwood, moving into the floor marks a milestone as the designer gears up for his 10th anniversary next year. “I can’t wait to see the space. It’s going to be amazing,” the designer said. “As Harrods was my first stockist, I’m very excited to have designed an exclusive shoe to celebrate.”

Pierre Denis, CEO of Jimmy Choo, said Harrods is “one of the most respected department stores in the world. Attracting a broad range of global visitors, it is a benchmark for luxury retail and an important partner for Jimmy Choo.”

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