Vintage, Couture and High Street: London's Best Shopping
By Arianna Reiche
London Local Expert
London is, quite simply, where the world's trendsetters come to define style. It's got the art students, posh fashion patrons, bloggers, and textile culture to make London style, and especially London Fashion Week, utterly iconic. It's been the home of Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and every single Delevingne of note, and no visit to London would be complete without a shopping day (or three). We've narrowed down our top picks in menswear, womenswear, vintage, and new up-and-comers who will have you looking your absolute best. Maybe you're sticking to the high street and need to learn to navigate the crowds. Maybe you're seeking out the brightest new talent on the design scene. And maybe you're trying to find tested and true classics, the kind that are actually not "classic" at all. All of our selections have an eye for quality and thoughtful sourcing, invention and the kind of remarkable aesthetic that makes this ten stand out from the rest (and trust us, that kind of selection is no easy task). If you have a look in mind, there will be a storefront and eager shopgirl/boy desperate to style you til the cows come gome, so bring your plastic and forget about the exchange rate.
Luna & Curious
Luna & Curious has been offering east Londoners some of the most rare finds in home, beauty, and apparel since it opened its doors in 2006. They're a self-described "hotbed for new talent and the place to discover new brands, be these local to the store or international." Any savvy Londoner would agree, when you've hung up your going-out-in-Clapton shoes and detoxed like a real grown-up, Luna & Curious is the perfect spot to put together a functional, high-quality, stylish wardrobe. We adore their "Polly" and "Quarks" tights, as well as their pleated dresses and hand-crafted jewelery. It's the perfect Shoreditch shop, even if you're headed home out west. (020 3222 0034)
Rokit is the heart and soul of Brick Lane's shopping culture, and its cozier space means that you won't lose hours of your precious holiday time. Their selections are always young and fun, with suedes and statement jewelery, as well as the in-house run Rokit Recycled, which "hand crafts original garments from found fabrics and customises otherwise unwearable vintage pieces into seasonal trend focused designs. So if your body just doesn't seem to have belonged in the early 70s, you can find items to fit your sartorial needs. And a trip to Rokit will drop you smack in the middle of Brick Lane, jsut a stone's throw from an unending selection of east London's unique boutiques. (020 7375 3864)
There can be no mention of London shopping without a mention of the Topshop flagship store by Oxford Circus. Whatever your opinion of the high street brand, their three-storey megastore is more like a small city than a shopping outlet, with tattooing, wig-fitting, art college showcases, vintage, print-your-own-pattern facilities, and of course the brand's own items. There's nothing you can't find, and if you can stomach the crowds, you might find yourself with an armload extra in luggage space to bring back with you. We recommend starting off on the basement level and working your way up to accessories, where you can get a cupcake and a cold pressed juice to fuel your day. (0844 8487487)
Vivienne Westwood is to London fashion what Jackson Pollock is to American art, what Jacques Pépin is to French food, what Kate Middleton is to European aristocracy. She's the iconic and groundbreaking designer who gave London its edge in global fashion, and who influenced every single up-and-comer who's followed her. And rather than reflecting all things intimidating and high-brow about her lines, the Vivienne Westwood shop on Conduit Street is a sort of celebration of her fun, vibrant spirit. You can peruse her jewelry, take home one of her signature pieces (from the Anglomania line, surely), or just do some good old fashioned people watching. (020 7478 2060)
You Must Create (YMC)
It's a boutique and an ethos, and one that's a refreshing alternative to the disposable seasonal trends of the high street. "The ethos of taking a traditional item & reworking it to create something modern gives a timeless quality to the clothes meaning they will last for seasons ahead," the company explains. We love their women's knitwear (their tees work in every season) and men's accessories. Stylish and functional, a bit androgynous -- what you'd deck yourself out in for laid back work functions or autumn brunches. And check online for sales -- you can find women's trainers for as little as £70.00. (020 7494 1619)
Vidur may be the Icelandic word for "wood", but the menswear line (launched by a mysterious, largely anonymous design-focused duo in 2012) is British through and through. It's come to embody the kind of Scandinavian minimalism which has been adorning East End creatives for the last few seasons, and now Vidur is available for purchase internationally. Vidur's design philosophy is to "create garments that are elemental, functional and enduring." Think streamlined structures and solid prints, asymmetry and plays on saturation -- the kind of menswear for an outdoorsy nomad who moonlights as a Fashion Week blogger. While their studio is based in Fitzrovia, your best bet for landing one of their signature menswear pieces is checking them out online: https://cools.com/designers/vidur-55167 (07590 542566)
In days of old, American society girls would hop over to Paris to pick up their bridalwear. Then came the likes of Jenny Packham and London became the it-spot for finding your perfect gown, wherever you might be on the planet. At the moment, there's no one who embodies clean, classic, almost-Edwardian (let's say Downton Abbey) elegance like Joanna Penneycard, the young designer who has just taken up residence in Somerset House, neighbouring on the British Fashion Council. Her gowns have the kind of subtle detail and flattering structures that could easily be draped across A-listers, and now's the time to get to her before she becomes the next Vera Wang. (07805 139022)
There's no shortage of vintage shopping in London, but Absolute Vintage has been there long before the east end was the hip behemoth that it is now. It's a massive, multicolored dream, and has a lengthy list of celeb frequenters (Kristen Dunst and Mischa Barton have virtually taken up residence in past years). And unlike newer neighboring shops, Absolute offers a variety of quality and prices, from antique Chanels moving toward the triple digits, to wooly jumpers (ie sweaters), usually around a tenner. So while you'll be spoiled for choice near Brick Lane, we say focus your energy on Absolute and leave the rest for sunset perusing. (020 7247 3883)
& Other Stories
& Other Stories is one of those boutiques you need to get to before the rest of the world does. On the surface it's a bright, airy, two-level space full of inventive structures and subtle prints. In fact, it's the newest brainchild of the H&M group, a new project to meet the needs of slightly older, slightly more discerning stylish city folk. Their pieces are versatile and stand up to wear and tear -- their lingerie, in particular, is remarkable given that other chains tend to treat it as an afterthought. Though there are only a handful of & Other Stories shops in the world (in the UK, Germany, Denmark, France, New York, Belgium) it can't be long before the secret is out. So giddy up! (020 7479 7070)
The Shop at Bluebird
We've praised The Bluebird for its versatile approach to dining and Chelsea-style leisure. It's a compound comprised of a swanky restaurant, a more casual cafe, outdoor space, and, of course, the boutique to end all boutiques. The ground floor shop is "an ever-evolving space; part concept store and part cabinet of curiosity, where you can discover high-end designers alongside niche labels and emerging fashion talent, interspersed with objets, ephemera, collectibles and cult beauty brands." They stock everyone from Balenciaga to Levi's, and their homewares are to die for -- go for a Fornasetti candle, try on something you couldn't possibly afford, and get your brows done by Blink. (020 7351 3873)
About Arianna Reiche
Arianna Reiche is a London-based writer and publisher. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied at the University of Edinburgh before working with Vice, New Scientist, McSweeney's, and Gawker Media. She first fell in love with London running errands during London Fashion Week in 2009, careening through the streets in an microscopic G-Wiz stylemobile.
Read more about Arianna Reiche here.