Destination: England: London
Read about London’s best vintage shops
Just down the block from the cutting-edge Dover Street Market, in Mayfair, sits the quirky Swedish label Acne flagship shop. Housed in a five-story, 19th-century townhouse, formerly an art gallery, the shop has an arty feel. There’s a grand piano, pine and concrete floors and splashy art on the white walls. The clothes are cool, too. What started out as a denim label in 1996 has grown into a collection of hip urban wear. The shoe selection on the top floor might be a bit too-cool but even these uber-trendy styles worked well in the space that also acts as a revolving art gallery and has a sweet roof garden.
The owners of this boutique are natives of France and sell only things French from Christian Tortu candles to clothes by Barbara Bui, Claudie Pierlot, Sonia Rykiel and Zadig and Voltaire.
Bourdon House, a stately Georgian mansion, once home to the Duke of Westminster, was transformed into an Alfred Dunhill store. There’s a lovely central courtyard walled off from the street that you pass through to enter the shop. Polished wooden floors, Oriental carpets and handsome brass columns offset the essentials of the well-dressed man that are sold on the main floor. Upstairs, a museum of the company’s artifacts complements the custom leather and menswear. After having a tailor take his measure, a man can also visit the on-site barber. His “shop” is outfitted with wood paneling, caramel-colored leather barber seats and plasma TVs. The basement boasts a bar and one of the sleekest private cinemas in the city. The boutique may feel like a gentlemen’s club, but it’s the wing next door that actually houses one. Alfred’s, a private members club, features four bedrooms, a stately restaurant and even a chauffeur driven Bentley. Membership is by invitation only.
A multiple winner of the British Fashion Awards for Glamour, Amanda Wakely has built her fashion house with a distinct vision of English elegance that is noted for its clean lines and luxurious fabrics. Her flagship store is on Fulham Road, but you can also find her collection at Harvey Nichols and Harrods. Most recently she introduced jewelry and handbag lines.
More understated than your average logo are the little black bows that distinguish the bags of Anya Hindmarch. The whole collection as well as the totes that can be customized with your own photos and her wildly popular I’m Not a Plastic Bag can be found in her Chelsea and Notting Hill boutiques.
Austique is a high-end boutique with an interesting mix of glam designer labels. Among the lines that they carry are Alannah Hill, Thurley, Lover, Karen Walker and Fleur Wood. They also carry lingerie, perfume and chocolates.
Lady Bamford sells the kind of gorgeous clothes that she herself likes to wear and the beautifully made elegant objects that she chooses to be surrounded by. Quality trumps trend here, where materials and lasting beauty are what matter. In fall, you’ll find seriously seductive fur jackets, cashmere wraps and tony loafers. The spare white space sets off the subtle workmanship of the wares. This is truly a shop not to miss.
London’s hippest maternity store (both Gwyneth and Posh shopped here), with exclusive pregnancy pieces by top designers like Diane Von Furstenberg.
An excellent source for refreshingly simple underwear, bathing suits and pajamas in natural fabrics and original styles.
The shops of this Scottish cashmere house burst with gorgeous cashmere in a range of mouth-watering colors and contemporary styles for men, women and children.
Founded by Joan and Sydney Burstein in 1970, Browns is truly a fashion institution in London. It was the first boutique in England to sell designers like Alexander McQueen and John Galliano and has grown from a small shop to an emporium in interconnecting townhouses on South Molton Street. Its outlets now include a bridal gallery, Brown Focus for edgier styles and—its latest addition—a new jewelry section. The chic salespeople serve as personal stylists to many loyal customers around the world. Closed Sunday.
Tip: You can browse at home and buy online at their site.
At the top of my birthday list is a pair of Charlotte Olympia shoes, ultra-feminine and glamorous creations that evoke 1940s panache. And with her crimson lipstick and curled copper hair, young London designer Charlotte Olympia Dellal could be a pin-up from that era herself (she hails from a prominent London family; her sister is a model, her brother owns an art gallery and her Brazilian mother is a former model). For her stunning shoe collection, Dellal focuses on motifs like leopard prints and fan detailing, as well as bold colors and a signature spider web on the heels (Beyoncé, Sarah Jessica Parker and Gwyneth Paltrow are all fans). Best of all, the shoes are displayed in a gem of a store with hand-carved oak cabinets, an original herringbone floor, abstract Neisha Crossland wallpaper and ‘spider’ fabric blinds to compliment the Eames style sofa and antique brass lamps.
The company that supplies leather for Rolls-Royces and Bentley’s brings the same level of elegance and serious craftsmanship to exquisite men’s and women’s wear. Joseph Ettedgui of the Joseph brand is the man behind the sophisticated country look—think of a movie star couple as they would be styled for a drive in the countryside in an old-fashioned convertible and you get the idea. The designs are classic, nothing cutting-edge here, but the materials and attention to detail stand out. Reversible shearling/rabbit coats and suede trenches in dove grey will make you yearn for your own glamorous weekend escape.
Tucked away in a cobblestone mews in Belgravia is a treasure trove for limited edition gifts, jewelry, clothes and antiques. Founded by Carmen Busquets, a founding investor of Net-a-Porter, CoutureLab is a tangible extension of her upmarket “e-tail” sites CoutureLab and GiftLab. The Belgravia boutique stocks such items as Talisman homeware and beautiful bespoke jewelry. In-store exhibitions feature such designers as Seaman Schepps, Vincente Garcia, Lotus Arts de Vivre, Madeline Weirib and Safiyaa. This is truly one of the most delightful shopping experiences in London. As Busquets sees it, “When you visit CoutureLab, it is because you are a client like me – someone who can afford something beautiful and special; something that is unique and hard to find – often the pieces are limited by the handcrafted restraints that the producers are faced with. These items are expensive but, next season, their value will not drop and may even increase.”
By appointment only
Dover Street Market
Considered the London equivalent of Paris’s Colette, Dover Street Market is a concept store that mixes cutting-edge fashion with art and design in a quirky British-meets-Japanese way. The Mayfair boutique, which is housed in an historic townhouse, was opened by the founder of Comme des Garcons, Rei Kawakubo, in 2004. With an enchanting mix of avant-garde designers and art and objects, the boutique has a point-of-view that mixes edgy and quaint as only a supremely confident global aesthete could. Come to explore the clothes, the art exhibits and the Rose Bakery Café.
This great one-off shop offers scarves in perfect shades including pale pink, forest green, midnight blue and dusty grey. Also available are over-sized sweaters, Cornish seascapes and handmade pottery. If my Christmas list could be a shop, it would be Egg.
Emma Hope’s shoes combine sophistication with wearability. They have a bit more boho flair than their sophisticated brethren Manolo and Jimmy.
Emma Willis, renowned for her skills and fabrics, is one of the few female tailors. She also has a small women’s shirt collection, bespoke and hand-finished.
Another one of the country’s historic department stores, this five-story emporium on New Bond Street has become renowned for showcasing hot new design talents at reasonable prices. Good spot to pick up the season’s look at a semi-disposable price.
Update Fall 2010: Shopping the best of Mayfair can work up an appetite, so luckily Fenwick has a brand-new all-day restaurant. Bond & Brook serves light lunches and afternoon tea; all is overseen by posh London caterer Rhubarb. Restaurant critic Fay Maschler is behind the venture, so the vegetable frittata, prawn pad Thai and gold-dusted fondant fancies at tea time should earn top ratings. ELENA BOWES
Gieves & Hawkes
Gieves & Hawkes has occupied the prized No.1 Savile Row address for over ninety years and as such is known for dressing impeccably turned out men of taste. The exemplary custom tailoring combines classic craftsmanship with design-led collections.
Sells the hazardously high shoes coveted by London’s party girls. It’s long been known as one of Madonna’s favorite sources for stilettos.
Globe-Trotter has a stunning flagship store and bespoke service in the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair. Designed by a Japanese architect, the sleek shop showcases the brand’s signature handmade trunks, including the canvas Safari collections, the royal blue leather Cruise line as well as limited edition designs, which date back to 1897. Clients can choose from a selection of colors, shapes and sizes, with Liberty patterns for the lining of the suitcase and even a matching lined Mackintosh coat if they with to coordinate. Bespoke service by appointment only.
In this lovely boutique off of Sloane Street, former banker Gwendolyn Carrié showcases her collectible shoes. Over the past few years, stylish women from Tokyo to Los Angeles have discovered her limited edition pumps and sandals in exclusive boutiques but now those with footwear fetishes can visit her first shop to browse a broader range. Most of the fanciful creations are fashioned out of fish skin and made by hand by craftsmen in Turkey who never make more than a dozen or so of each design. Bespoke orders can be placed here and products are available from her website.
Read a profile of Gwendolyn Carrié in Style.
Read about Carrie’s favorite London spots.
Harrods is an old-fashioned grande dame of a department store that will satisfy most shopaholic tendancies.
Harvey Nics is sleek, buzzy, trendy and definitely more fashion savvy than Harrods. Modern ladies-who-lunch enjoy the organic juice bar and cheap noodles from Wagamamma in the basement, as well as the chic Fifth Floor restaurant.
Many social x-rays swear that no one’s pants fit better than designer Joseph Ettedgui who sells his own label along with those of others in his series of boutiques for men and women.
A treasure trove of designer clothing put together with great flair by the owner who mixes vintage jewelry with costume and trendy accessories with classic contemporary pieces to create an inspirational shopper’s paradise that is favored by serious fashionistas from around the world. Some of whom will even have pieces shipped foreign FedEx for special events.
Luxurious nightwear in old-fashioned styles. The linen and cotton styles come in a wonderful palette of colors and stripes.
Liberty of London
Housed in a landmark Tudor mansion, Liberty is an English institution that remains appealing more than a century after its founding by Arthur Lasenby Liberty. The famous prints can be bought by the yard or in home furnishings. The store itself with its beamed ceilings and carved wooden staircases exudes an off-the-beaten track charm. There are Womenswear, Menswear, Kitchen & Dining sections as well as loads of gift items and a bespoke tailoring department.
Update: Since its major relaunch, Liberty has become the place to shop in London. On my recent stroll, I was tempted by the limited-edition beach towels, designed by contemporary artists Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Alex Katz and Karen Kilimnick. In women’s fashion I loved the “Kiku” range of vintage sari fabrics made into lovely coats, each unique (and part of the proceeds going to Indian orphanages). Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Woods has designed a collection of wild t-shirts, dresses, scarves and wallets for this bohemian retailer. I couldn’t imagine the rockers’ artistry anywhere else. And The Tea Room is the perfect respite with its lovely painted walls, pretty china and youthful clientele, not to mention scrumptious cucumber sandwiches, cupcakes and wide assortment of teas. ~Elena Bowes
Known for her bathing suits and beach cover ups, Liza Bruce has brought great exotic flair to beachy dressing with her extravagant caftans. Her shop sells the brightly printed flowing tunics along with dramatic hats, jewelry and a new line of cashmere accessories.
Louis Vuitton Maison
Designed by New York star architect Peter Marino, the Louis Vuitton boutique on New Bond Street spills across four floors, boasts original artwork by Gilbert & George and Jeff Koons and the top-floor “apartment” is reserved for VIP shoppers. In short, the 16,000 square-foot retail space is easily the most glamorous of the LVMH empire. Over-the-top exclusives include an alligator skin caviar case with mother of pearl spoons, crystal dishes and Mumbai goat skin lining (£38,500) and an alligator traveling whiskey case with solid silver ice bucket and tongs and olive picks (£41,000). The Bag Bar displays bags slickly revolving behind the counter, as customers perch on bar-like stools. Impressive works of art from Michael Landy, Richard Prince, Gilbert & George, Takashi Murikami and more will draw art aficionados as well as fashionistas. And the light-filled Librairie section carries bespoke contemporary art books by the likes of Anish Kapoor, Chris Ofili and Gary Hume.
For those who believe that a lady’s handbag is not an after-thought but a personal statement and can be at once feminine and quirky.
Called a secret weapon of the well-dressed women, the clothing of is elegant and understated in the way of true couture constructionists like Ralph Rucci. Madeleine Her immaculate, minimalist pieces radiate urban cool and attract fans like Gwyenth Paltrow, Dido, Helena Bonham Carter and Jasmine Guinness.
Mary Portas at House of Fraser
Known as the “Queen of Frocks,” Mary Portas opened a permanent pop-up shop in Fall 2011 in John Lewis’s Oxford Street department store. Portas, who has a style column in the Telegraph and regularly talks retail on a number of television series, hand-picked the fashionable collection, featuring her own designs, brands she loves and a selection of homewares. Along a shopping spree, you may get Portas’ candid advice, including tips like: “Avoid dressing like a teenager, edit your trends, work with your proportions, keep it low-maintenance and don’t buy crap.”
In New York they have Jeffrey’s and in London the lazy but super stylish have Matches, where you can find the trendiest pieces by the designers of the momentall under one roof. In almost two decades, Matches has burgeoned from one shop to eleven around London. Among their constant favorites: Catherine Malandrino, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalain, Martin Margiela, Stella McCartney and Temperley.
Shoe guru Nicholas Kirkwood opened his flagship store nearby on Mount Street. Yes, you can also get his lofty creations at Jeffrey and Barney’s in New York (as well as high-end stores in Los Angeles, Dallas and San Francisco), but it’s so much more fun to browse in the groovy-cool space. The opening in May 2011 drew many big names, and the after-party was held at other newcomer 5 Pollen.
Nicole Farhi is a British designer famous for her classic, comfortable clothing. Her shop also carries her spare but lovely home collection.
Nigerian-born Duro Olowu, 2005’s New Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, opened this store that carries his fabulous offbeat clothes as well as colorful fabrics, African prints and Turkish rugs. By appointment only.
A shoe star in the making, Olivia Morris is known for her unique heels with quirky detailing. Picture strappy sandals in candy colors and sexy pumps with patent leather detailing and you get the idea.
One of a Kind
This vintage shop is said to have been the inspiration for retro collections seen on the runways of New York and Paris. The owner makes a virtue out of cool vintage clothes.
Paul & Joe
A French line that is a favorite with many of the set that regularly prowls Sloane Street and Notting Hill for the latest Continental look. This shop carries the casual cool pieces that go well with jeans and right out to dinner, effortless chic. You may bump into models like Kate Moss and Laura Bailey or former model Cameron Diaz who love the flirty fashions.
Sir Paul brings a quirky spin to classic British tailoring. Colors are confident, patterns eye-catching. His shops are equally stylish and fun with overstuffed club chairs and eclectic art on the walls, giving them the air of an eccentric, uncle’s home.
Shopping in London got a whole lot simpler with the opening of the Paul Smith boutique in Claridge’s, the iconic British designer’s first shop in Mayfair. In keeping with its elegant partner, the Paul Smith boutique is decorated in sumptuous Art-Deco style. Cheerful pink- and cream-striped walls and Murano glass chandeliers set the tone, while two large, tiered central tables draped with white pleated tablecloths showcase Smith’s latest bags and small accessories. Carefully selected catwalk pieces, shoes, bags, jewelery and accessories will adorn the pretty shop. And best of all, customers can enter via Brook Street and exit via Claridge’s lobby, the perfect excuse for a relaxing cup of chamomile tea.
With its rainbow displays of leather goods in dozens of colors, this shop, whose main branch is tucked in the Burlington Arcade, offers a seductive array of gorgeous accessories and handmade leather luggage. And if you don’t find exactly what you want, they will custom make a bag with compartments designed to your wishes or copy a favorite bag or briefcase in any color or leather of your choice. The leather gloves lined in cashmere make great gifts as do the passport sleeves, photo albums and travel clocks.
The flagship of the cult label founded by a couple from the Isle of Man, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, carries their romantic Victoriana looks. The sexy women’s line has been given a higher profile by young leading ladies such as Sienna Miller, Kristen Dunst and Scarlett Johansson.
Mayfair is even more dazzling since top designer Roland Mouret set up shop. The French designer, who is adored by A-listers, converted a six-story townhouse opposite the Connaught into a lavish flagship, which houses retail space for women’s and menswear, a design workshop, showroom studios and a private atelier.
Selfridges known as one of the less high-end department stores but it is bright, modern and fun, and in the same way that Gap mixes with Chanel, so does Selfridges basics mix with Burberry.
Update Fall 2010: Selfridges vast new Shoe Gallery is bigger than the Tate Modern’s echo-filled Turbine Hall and has some 4,000 pairs of shoes, 120 labels and 30 exclusive styles available only on Selfridges’ 2nd floor. From Balenciaga to Zanotti, from Lady Gaga towers to Ripetto flats, from Ugg boots to Jimmy Choo and Louboutin stilettos, there’s a permutation for every footish desire. Selfridges hired Tate St Ives architect Jamie Fobert to design the shoe hall, which now features six specially decorated salons and ten bespoke boutiques styled to resemble small apartments. The one occupied by Ugg resembles a ski chalet, Repetto gets a girly ballet studio, and Christian Louboutin a mini replica of the designer’s Paris home, complete with wallpaper and chandelier.
Skins makes a virtue out of cool vintage clothes. Young and trendy, we’re talking retro streetwear rather than Pucci. There are PussyCat tracksuits and historic sneakers by Puma.
Steinberg & Tolkien
A vintage clothes hot house founded by two American siblings that spans the 1940’s to the 1980’s, selling everything from punk leather jackets worthy of Mick Jagger to preserved pieces from Pucci. John Galliano pops in for inspiration, and supposedly, Kate Moss is a regular shopper.
The Cross Shop
This has swiftly become a cult boutique despite its rather small space. The boutique is beloved for its cute children’s clothing, unusual designer pieces and scented candles, but not always for the staff who can be unwelcoming to non-regulars.
Turnbull and Asser
Turnbull and Asser produces sharp shirts cut from 400 fabrics and worn by the likes of Prince Charles and Al Pacino.
Rem D. Koolhaas has taken his inherited love of architecture (his uncle is Rem Koolhaas) and applied it to footwear. With his new shop, Koolhaas showcases such shoes as ‘Eamz,’ designed after an Eames chair leg. The shoes are not just interesting: the clever architecture makes women’s feet appear smaller.
This great little shop in Paddington is right across the street from Cocomaya. Sara Laughlan, the ex-buyer of Paul & Joe and Notting Hill’s The Cross Shop, Notting Hill, has assembled a great collection, mixing vintage (i.e. YSL) and fun, emerging designers.
Stocks wonderful vintage clothing – lots of frills and lace—in a boudoir setting.
The rocker Brit look owes a lot to the grande dame of King’s Road. Vivienne Westwood opened her first shop in the ‘70s, selling leather jackets with zippers and chains. The Sex Pistols wore her duds at their punk debut. In the years since then, she’s embraced tweeds and shoulder pads, lace and taffeta. At her iconic boutique, high drama meets outrageous tailoring. It’s fun to look even if you don’t buy.
Wolf & Badger
A high-end version of an indoor market, this new boutique is owned by two brothers, Henry and George Graham, who seek out up-and-coming UK designers. Offerings include unique jewelry and quirky home wares. With cutting-edge Dover Street Market a few doors down, and adventurous designers like Issey Miyake a short stroll away, its location couldn’t be hotter for hip hunters.
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