I’m as obsessed with shoes as the next woman, but I find shopping for them painful, sometimes literally. Too much choice, crowded surroundings, uninterested assistants who are keener to sell than to give advice, the weird way that high heels feel comfortable on a carpeted floor but like instruments of torture when you get them home – it all adds up to an unsatisfactory experience. The vast shoe halls that many department stores now boast are, in theory, shoe heaven but can easily turn into hell when you’re trying to make a decision in the brief interval between leaving work and closing time. And I don’t have the nerve to order online shoes that I haven’t tried.
Now I’ve had a revelation. In Harrods, vaguely looking for shoes that would go with both spring navy and summer’s hot brights, I found that the shoe department has been given more than a makeover, with clearly focused collections. It still goes from classic luxury brands, such as Chanel and Gucci, at one end to mid-market Kurt Geiger at the other, but the real jewel is in the middle. Under a golden art deco-inspired ceiling are tightly edited selections from hot young designers such as Nicholas Kirkwood, Rupert Sanderson, Méchante and Lara Bohinc, and also the best of international runway names such as Céline, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Chloé, Pucci, Lanvin and Valentino. Certain evening brands – Gina, Zanotti and Casadei – can be ordered bespoke or customised.
Better still, the staff are helpful and knowledgeable – they came round with me making suggestions and then spoilingly sat me down in a beautiful, embroidered, hooded armchair and brought me endless pairs to try. We whittled the choice down to some beautiful, bronzy-gold block heels from Chloé (£340) and spectacular, electric blue suede Balenciaga skyscrapers (pictured, £465), neither of which I had seen elsewhere. I was seduced by the blue, which the staff and I agreed were not exactly all-day shoes but they are in beguilingly soft suede. The whole experience was so pampering that I’ve promised myself a return visit for the Chloés once my bank balance has recovered.