Women without shoes are like humans without air. They can’t survive without them. So when Selfridges Shoe Galleries opened its doors in September 2010, a collective cry of happiness spread across London.

An archive of footwear with 55 000 shoes in stock, 4000 on display and 150 brands to indulge in is every girl’s idea of shoe heaven. The design is well-considered, set out like a museum gallery waiting to be explored, looking not dissimilar to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Medieval Renaissance Galleries, designed by Muma.

London-based architect Jamie Fobert’s vision of an experiential shoe gallery was realised when he created 11 luxury boutiques, six shoe galleries and a hanging garden where shoppers can sip champagne. Walking through Europe’s largest shoe salon you can see that the juxtaposition of materials is masterful, mixing velvet, satin, glass, wood, rubber and concrete. Display tables are made of wooden shoe horns, giant shoe statues adorn the atriums and each boutique is tailored to suit that particular designer.

The galleries turn a shopping trip into much more than just buying a nice pair of shoes – it’s about the experience, the inspiration, indulgence and obsession. This is theatrical and experiential retailing at its best.

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