The men making their way down Sloane Street could have been forgiven for getting their hopes up on seeing the words "Wife Audition" emblazoned across 19-year-old Emily Pearce's chest.
The men making their way down Sloane Street could have been forgiven for getting their hopes up on seeing the words "Wife Audition" emblazoned across 19-year-old Emily Pearce's chest. Those that stopped to find out more were politely advised it was actually the well-heeled women shoppers browsing the street's expensive boutiques that were her true quarry.
Ms Pearce and her employer Lorraine Adams were recruiting for what is being billed as Britain's first wife audition, due to be held in London next month.
Ms Adams, founder of the dating agency Gorgeous Network - ugly people need not apply - hit on the idea after puzzling over the reasons why some of her most eligible clients were failing to cement long-lasting relationships.
Inspired by the success of such programmes as Pop Idol, Ms Adams decided it was time to apply the Simon Cowell principle to the world of dating.
At the audition, at Piers Adam's Capisce night club in Mayfair on 14 May, a panel of three men culled from her database: IT entrepreneur Neil Davies, 34; investment banker Jack Worthington, 37, and 39-year-old AIM-listed businessman Mark Robinson, will put 100 women through their matrimonial paces.
The reason they are resorting to extreme measures, insists Ms Adams, is not because there is anything wrong with them. Each hasdated upwards of 20 women in the past 12 months. It is just that no one has clicked. These men spend so many hours working that they struggle to create the necessary "me time" to find someone to settle down with.
The three, she insists, are "not looking for Miss World". But they wouldn't turn her down either.
Mr Worthington, who runs his own boutique investment firm Arundel, admits: "It would be fantastic if Nicole Kidman turned up." More realistically, the divorced father of two concedes he is looking for "a good-hearted woman" who will tolerate his triangular lifestyle between his home in Paris and business trips to New York and London. The successful candidate can look forward to romantic nights in a Parisian brasserie "sipping coffee and talking".
Mark Robinson, who runs a taxi firm and a kitchen company, as well as his electrical components enterprise, is only half-joking when he says he is looking for a woman who "just stepped down off the catwalk". He has "no problems picking up women" but is now looking for someone "pretty special", he says.
Ms Adams, who met her current boyfriend at a filling station and admits that she has enjoyed "dipping her hand into the cookie jar" of her own client base believes it is always the women who are prepared to go the extra mile for love. Men would never tolerate being quizzed by a panel of prospective wives.
Meanwhile, on Sloane Street, there was a palpable reticence among the prospective brides. Eventually unmarried Hayley Arthur, 25, was persuaded to take a leaflet. Was she looking? "Everybody looks but that's about as far as it goes," she said. Some, it seems, are prepared to go to rather extreme lengths.
Finding that special someone
Speed dating: Imported from the United States, time-pressed young professionals found this the ideal way to meet the perfect mate. Dozens of potential partners hold brief encounters - moving on when the bell rings.
Dating in the dark: Dinner in a pitch black restaurant (the waiters wear night-vision goggles). Claims to ease the tension of being on a first date.
Agency dating: Sign up to one of many agencies who promise to find your compatible life partner. Often at quite a cost.
Old-fashioned dating: You see someone you like, pluck up the courage, and ask them out for a drink.Reuse content