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VM Choice: Fenwick of Bond Street, London

To promote the new shoe department in Fenwick’s Bond Street branch the front and side windows of the store are currently dedicated to footwear. While the front windows contain sketches by illustrator David Downton, of fashion journalist Hilary Alexander and fashion blogger Catherine Kallon, with their must-have shoe of choice it is the VM of the side windows that truly appeals.

With plain cerise backboards, the merchandise in the five closed-back windows is divided into formal and casual. Each window contains a row of elevated mannequins. The top and bottom of each window is covered in a black foil with the graphic: ‘New Shoe Department on Ground,’ above the slice of clear glass remaining, and ‘The Shoe Corner’ below. This puts the shoes about a metre from the ground - perfect for getting up-close-and-personal - and complying with the classic received VM wisdom: display merchandise so customers can see it easily.

The window immediately adjacent to the front door contains standing female mannequins, all dressed smart-casual: country-coloured, ankle-high boots paired with a pleated skirt, or neatly styled jeans with the cuffs folded back - a very ‘on trend’ styling detail. Ruched ankle-socks fill the tops of the ankle boots. Fenwick’s is famous for its extensive hosiery collection, and this window showcases this small, soft accessory perfectly, teaching customer’s how to style themselves.

Although the spigots supporting the mannequins are visible, as in all the windows, the base plates supporting the mannequins have been covered in cerise pink, conveying a realistic touch as though the mannequins are actually standing in the window. The mannequins carry a selection of casual leather handbags and shoulder bags, in keeping with the rest of the merchandise. One larger, weekend bag rests on the floor of the window.

Most charmingly, between the ankles of the female mannequin are two life-sized toy Bassett hounds, wearing collars and leads held by the mannequins. The visual charm of the window lies in the contrast of the fluffy dogs and the shiny leather of the shoes and bags for an appealing and textually interesting window.

The next window is a little more formal but still contains daywear, with monochromatic, mostly black or gold, ankle-high boots and shooties (shoe-boots). The female mannequins wear black and grey merchandise with a more muted array of ankle socks, edged in magenta, just echoing the pink of the backdrop. This is the kind of merchandise we might choose to wear on a Saturday in the city, or for a more casual day at work.

The only bag, apart from a black one carried by a mannequin, is a back-pack in a stylized, blown-up, disruptive print, carefully placed beside the last mannequin. The effect of the black on white print backpack is of a giant, irregular-spot pattern. A matching furry toy Dalmatian, which of course also has a white coat with irregular black spots, is placed just behind the ankles of one mannequin, its lead held by the adjacent figure. This is such a very nice echo of the merchandise in the patterned prop.

The third window is a touch more dressed-up. The mannequins all wear stockings, apart from one in fish-net anklets paired with strappy high-heeled shoes. The merchandise is again neutral: black, silver grey and taupes, with a touch of animal print. One animal-print bag rests on the floor of the window, whilst a mannequin towards the right wears a leopard print coat and carries a leopard-print bag.

Stuffed in the top of the bag is a very small, golden, fluffy toy dog - the kind that never walks, but is carried in handbags. With a red bow in his topknot, he is so cute!

In the last two windows, the mannequins are seated on black Thonet chairs. In the first the mannequins wear more formal pants, all in muted or neutral colours. All are possibly about to go out to supper, or to see a movie? Their shoes are smart but flat: loafers, ballet flats, low-heeled courts, or print flat lace-ups. There are no socks or stockings, and charmingly, a couple of the mannequins are slipping their loafers or flats off, dangling them from their toes, as we all do. This adds a relaxed touch. Handbags are stylish but practical, and a black felt fedora is included. As fluffy dogs wouldn’t be heading out for supper in a nice restaurant or to a movie, there are none. This window works perfectly in directing the customer towards a classic but stylish look, without over-doing the accessories, although this must have been very tempting to an accessories-rich brand.

The very last side-window is of mannequins wearing glamorous but uniformly-black evening wear, with their legs crossed, sophisticated style, or knees together and ankles apart, in a more jejune pose, on the Thonet chairs. They appear to be waiting to be asked to dance. The shoes are strappy, have peep toes, or are eveningwear sandals, including Valentino’s strappy, studded, open court shoe, a total ‘to die for,’ product now in its sixth season. The mannequins clutch a smattering of small evening bags, including one placed on the floor next to a chair. A lovely window, but as Fenwick’s VM team have correctly determined, fluffy dog props would not work here.

This array of shoes neatly demonstrates how this season’s footwear looks fashionable when paired with the season’s merchandise, from casual daywear through to formal eveningwear. We have to admire it: Fenwick’s hasn’t put a foot wrong in educating its customer and making the collection look stylish and full of ‘must-haves.’

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