LONDON — Harrods will unveil its largest project to date this week, a 42,000-square-foot footwear haven designed by David Collins Studio with the feel of a sumptuous hotel suite. Harrods Shoe Heaven will open on Friday on the store’s fifth floor, the latest project in an ongoing refurbishment of the store’s fashion and accessories floors.
This story first appeared in the July 28, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The area, a mix of owned space and concessions, will house 17 boutiques from names including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Valentino. Other brands including Nicholas Kirkwood, Charlotte Olympia, Sophia Webster, Balenciaga, Rupert Sanderson and Isabel Marant will be displayed in curated rotundas distributed around the hall. Among the brands to launch is Laurence Dacade.
“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 some 90 percent of the space, and Geiger’s chief executive officer 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 number-one 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. The project was one of Collins’ last jobs — he died in July 2013 after a short illness — and his colleagues completed the space.
“It is an homage to how talented David was, and this project respects and embraces the history of Harrods,” said David, who was very clear with her initial brief. “I did not want an airport. I wanted a 5/6 star hotel. A place where our customer deserves to shop.” She added that while the space is “very old-world, there are plasma screens, now and again.”
The David Collins team worked with original Art Deco and Georgian features, and restored 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.
All boutiques have glazed fabric screens at their entryways and brass name plaques. The bespoke furniture was made in Düsseldorf and features embossed leathers, mohair, devoré fabrics, etched glass and brass trim. Display niches are covered in lapis shell, cabinets are lined in stingray and tabletops are covered in a cracked eggshell material.
Chairs and love seats 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,” he said.
Before the makeover, the area was used as a staff canteen and, originally, it housed private apartments. The 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 Harrods Shoe Heaven 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.
Charlotte Dellal, ceo and creative director, said the space will be “a dream destination for all shoe lovers,” and said she designed rainbow-inspired platform sandals and exclusive Kitty flats for the opening.
Pierre Denis, ceo of Jimmy Choo, called Harrods “a benchmark for luxury retail and an important partner for Jimmy Choo.” Sandra Choi, creative director at Jimmy Choo, created a pair of silver court shoes with black tips and cut glass embellishments on the toe with a message inside.
“To me, the term ‘silver linings’ conjures happy times ahead and is full of optimism,” said Choi. “I wanted to create a pair of shoes that make you feel happy, confident and positive when worn.”
For Nicholas Kirkwood, moving into the space marks a big milestone as the designer gears up to mark 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.”