A new company, Fashion Ventures 21, has launched the first two lines of shoes named after McLaren, the mythical British Formula One car company, targeting annual sales of one million pairs before the London Olympics of 2012. Unveiled at the GDS next to a real €500,000 McLaren automobile that drew a lot of attention at the fair, the first styles will be available at selected stores for the Fall/Winter 2008 season.

Orders have already been received from high-end department stores such as Harrods, Slefridges and Harvey Nichols in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and KaDeWe in Berlin, in addition to upscale shoe stores such as Della Martira in Modena and Ramon Serrat in Barcelona.

Positioned differently, two lines are being marketed under a five-year licensing deal with McLaren Racing, with options for two renewals. The top of the range consists of an icononic racing boot and other luxurious and functional styles selling at prices of €229 to €299 per pair under the McLaren brand name. One of the features is the use of a breathable membrane that keeps away water and grit. A less pretentious line will sell at price tags of between €129 and €199 under the brand Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton, the well-known British car racing champion from the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, will act as testimonial for the line. The goal of one million pairs per year looks reasonable because of the notoriety and the high positioning of the McLaren brand. The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has an annual Grand Prix budget of €370 million, higher than Ferrari’s.

Furthermore, some well-oiled distribution companies are taking care of the two lines in certain markets, three of which have been closely associated with Diesel Footwear and other lines of the former GBMI: Action Sports in Germany, GPG in France and SGA Vanneste for the Benelux countries. Another important distributor is Flop Shoes in Spain, which also sells Café Noir from Italy.

Ramon Artigas, who has worked for the last eight years with DC Company, the Italian-based licensee of Levi’s footwear, is coordinating the sales team for McLaren footwear at Fashion Ventures 21, a venture capital firm in Barcelona run up by Mark Marti, formerly with the Boston Consulting Group.

One of the partners in Fashion Ventures 21 is Pepe Gual, who was previously a partner in the company that launched the Pirelli PZero line of footwear. He is in litigation with Pirelli over the fact that the Italian tyre company recently took back the Pirelli PZero license for footwear, while instead confirming a license for clothing with another Italian company, Incom. It previously signed licenses for eyewear and for watches. Pirelli PZero was planning to open three stores this year to showcase its various products in Milan, New York and Shanghai.