British men's footwear designer Oliver Sweeney is on the brink of a substantial expansion, making the transition from cult name to major business.

Oliver Sweeney's first standalone store is due to open before Christmas in Middlesex Street in the City of London, adding to his successful concessions in Harvey Nichols (in both Leeds and London) and Liberty's.

The company has also revamped its current image with the help of design company McDaniel/Woolf, which has designed the store with Oliver in mind. Design partner David Springett said: "I wanted to design a shop that was unique for Oliver rather than the common approach of the high street shops with stainless steel and glass."

The Oliver Sweeney concessions were the designer's initial starting blocks, with the focus on traditional materials such as calf leather. Mr Springett explained: "The theme was the products themselves and the future, based on past, but subverting rather than duplicating change. The ideas are constantly evolving with the product. You never design a shoe the same, you are always making changes to it."

The new store stocks the full range of Sweeney shoes and wallets along with his newly introduced selection of leather accessories, belts, and bags. On the opening of the store, Mr Sweeney said: "It made good sense to open a standalone store as we are doing extremely well and the company is expanding rapidly. More stores are planned for West London and the North of England."

Sweeney has moved into the fashion arena in a major way, and is now one of the names setting the pace in modern footwear design. He's also one of the fastest selling labels in London's Harvey Nichols and currently sells to 90 accounts in the UK. In the past 12 months, he has sold 35,000 pairs of shoes in the UK alone. This is up by 15,000 year-on-year.

Oliver Sweeney collections for Autumn 2000 and Spring 2001, show Sweeney pushing out into new territory, developing a fashion-led image that strikes a strong chord with increasingly young customers and a growing celebrity following, everyone from US film star Will Smith to hot young London chef Jamie Oliver.

The collection is divided: Oliver Sweeney DB is top-of-the-line classics, complete with the hand-stitched O and hand antiqued leathers retailing from £195. Sweeney's, with a blue lining inside the shoes, are the core of the business, retailing from £135. And at the lower end of the price range are Blue Spots, retailing from £99.

The factories in Italy currently working with Sweeney are the sort of places that also do business with the likes of Prada and Gucci. "I would rather not make comparisons," he says, "but quality wise, my shoes are as well made as - often better than - any designer brand on the market."

From Peter Embling, Shoestyle