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Footasylum, London

The footwear retailer turns heads with Victorian asylum imagery and echoes of George Orwell’s 1984

Victorian asylums and state surveillance are some of the more offbeat inspirations for a shopfit, but for footwear mini chain Footasylum the influences represent a return to its inventive, attention-grabbing heritage.

The retailer’s 3,000sq ft store at the Westfield London development in White City, west London, is influenced by a 19th-century asylum with a more modern twist. Footasylum co-founder Steve Makin says: “[Interior architecture and design agency] Phaus worked very closely with us and really embraced the concept of what Footasylum is about. They helped us take the shopfit to another level.”

With a nod to George Orwell’s novel 1984, famous for its portrayal of surveillance and state control, the store toys with the idea of being observed and monitored. Original 1950s televisions are positioned at the front and back of the shop. The words ‘Talk to me, understand me, control me’ are scrawled high up on the walls, which Phaus design directors Heather Allen and Paul Swindles say is meant to represent the product talking to the customer. ‘Control them, guard them, own them’ on the facing wall represents the store’s thoughts about the customer. The walls are dark grey, with a brickwork panel in the middle. Footasylum’s distinctive lime green branding is subtly splashed throughout the store on wooden shelving units and leather stools.

Makin says: “The idea was to go back to what Footasylum used to be when it started about four years ago. It is quirky and unique; we are not just a white box retail outlet. We wanted something different to turn customers’ heads.”

Chocolate brown wooden flooring runs throughout the store, in which footwear is located at the front and clothing at the back. The dark floor contrasts with the steel bars on the walls, which are used to merchandise product, along with freestanding metal shelves. This method of displaying product is new to Footasylum, which used to sit product on block timber units. “It’s a system that shows off the product from all angles to create a theatre around it,” says Makin.

Graphics on changing room walls create the appearance of a padded Victorian cell, complete with scratch marks. Patients’ files spill out of a mock filing cabinet pictured on the wall, with handles that double as hangers for clothes. Angles are jaunty, with lights running across the ceiling cut at a slant.

The back of the store has a different feel, with an office/urban look in which trainers are hung on the back wall, clothing is lit by picture lights, and fluorescent lamps hang from the ceiling.

  • Footasylum Westfield London, White City, London W12


  • 3,000sq ft Size of the shop floor
  • 14 Number of Footasylum stores in the UK
  • 2005 Year the business was launched

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