By and  on September 17, 2010

LONDON — From the gold foil ceilings chosen by Tamara Mellon to the trompe l’oeil chandelier courtesy of Christian Louboutin to the bespoke pieces by the American artist Rob Wynne, the new, 35,000-square-foot shoe hall at Selfridges is an elaborate salute to the world of footwear.

On Thursday, the London store unveiled its biggest investment to date: the multimillion-pound refurbishment of its second-floor footwear department, known as the Shoe Galleries, which stocks 120 brands from Gucci, Tod’s and Chanel to Ugg, Havaianas and Topshop. It’s the biggest shoe department in the world, according to Selfridges, and about 40 percent larger than the store’s original footwear space.

The department, which was two years in the making, is organized like a glorious ocean liner with 11 apartment-style boutiques designed and stocked by individual brands. The apartments are dotted around six themed salons that stock both high street and designer footwear.

The French bistro and bakery Aubaine is positioned in the heart of the space, which has been designed by the London-based Jamie Fobert, one of fashion’s architects du jour, who has created Pringle’s new shop-in-shop and the international design concept for Givenchy.

Fobert lifted ceilings and put in skylights to create a light and airy space. He used a riot of materials, including concrete, wood, pewter, glass and velvet, and the space features hand-carved alabaster plinths, a suspended seasonal garden, flip-up vintage cinema seats and tables made from vintage wooden shoe lasts.

Anne Pitcher, Selfridges’ buying and merchandise director, said the store is aiming to build on its strengths. “Before the concept of the Shoe Galleries, Selfridges already had a strong women’s shoes business,” she said. “We felt there was an opportunity for us to grow this business by creating the best destination in the world for shoes.”

Selfridges, which declined to give first-year sales projections, has secured more than 30 exclusive styles, including Nicholas Kirkwood for Rodarte, Dior gladiator boots and Repetto ballet pumps. The space also stocks niche labels such as A.F. Vandevorst, Ann Demeulemeester and Maison Martin Margiela.

Guests including Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, Christopher Bailey and Rupert Sanderson gathered to toast the new Shoe Galleries space Thursday night. They were joined by a troupe of performing ballet dancers, who weaved their way through the floor as guests sipped Champagne and browsed the heels on display, while Scottish singer Paolo Nutini played a live set.

“The bar has been raised to an extremely high level,” said Sanderson of the new floor, adding he was particularly impressed by the galleries’ architecture and layout. “Even the furniture they have on the floor, they’re all extraordinary pieces — it shows you how serious they are,” he said.

Joshua Schulman, chief executive officer of Jimmy Choo, said the firm had been in discussions with Selfridges about the new galleries over the past two years. “Seeing it come to life is even better in person,” he said. Schulman added that Selfridges had “challenged” shoe labels with boutiques on the floor to design new concepts for their spaces. The Jimmy Choo boutique’s design, Schulman said, is inspired by Mellon’s New York apartment, which was designed by interior designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard. The boutique boasts wooden floors, distressed steel panels on the ceilings and leopard print armchairs.

“This space allows us to express more of the brand and the product,” said Schulman. “It’s our most fashion-forward assortment.”

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