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London has become a unique shopping city, showcasing some of the best brands in the world. You’ll find everything from luxe to high street and vintage to cutting-edge, giving you a taste of just how well London does fashion, food and furnishings.
Our city has always been about the high/low mix, we much prefer to mix up the latest designer purchase with a cheap find from the high street. So hit the well-known department stores – Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty or Harvey Nichols – who highlight the designers on show during London Fashion Week. Then peruse the best High Street in the world, with stores including Topshop and Primark gaining international recognition. If you’re in the mood for something a little different you’ll love perusing the best markets, seeking out wonderful vintage pieces and getting savvy at charity shopping.
Many British brands bring a rich heritage to London’s fashion scene. Veterans of British design, such as Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and Mulberry continue to influence global style trends. The best-known is Burberry, whose history sits comfortably with its beautiful modern take on design. But the city has a wealth of others – tailors have been working on Savile Row since the 1840s, and names such as Barbour (founded 1894) and Smythson (founded 1887) are quintessentially British too. For more affordable fashion, particularly appealing to the university crowd, Jack Wills epitomises what it is to be young and Fabulously British with its increasingly popular ‘Preppy’ look.
Possibly the most famous department store in the world and certainly one of the most varied, Harrods is a must see on any trip to London, even if it's just to browse the five floors of exquisite and surprising goods. The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things for All People Everywhere – and you can see why, with everything from fashion to food being showcased here. Make sure you stop by the toy kingdom, a multi-sensory experience for all ages. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, one of the world’s largest toy shops can be found on Regent’s Street. Hamleys features seven floors of pure play, with an astonishing 40,000 toys and games to discover. The second-largest department store in the UK, Selfridges, is located on Oxford Street – the busiest shopping strip in Europe. Home to hundreds of famous brands and shopping experiences including a Champagne bar, a personal shopper service and a hair and beauty salon.
Around the Bond Street area, you will find established labels such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and now Victoria Beckham recently opened her first store nearby on Dover Street, opposite the influential retail space. Mount Street in Mayfair is becoming the latest fashion hot spot away from the traditional style thoroughfares. Or head to London's Burlington Arcade – England’s oldest and longest covered shopping arcade, which opened in 1819, and favoured by royalty, celebrities and the cream of British society. Tradition matters here; so does craftsmanship, individuality and bespoke service. Housing over 40 luxury stores including Chanel, La Perla, Maison Michel and the world famous antique watch stores that house the largest collections of Rolex and Omega timepieces, shoppers with find the finest accessories, footwear, and a glittering array of fine jewellery and watch shops.
On the high street, Top Shop is the leader in affordable fashion, with regular collaborations with London style champions such as Kate Moss, and emerging new designers, such as Marques Almeida; the London-based label is the most directional name in denim for those in the know. Leading the way in ‘Cheap chic’ has to be Primark, offering the latest trends at a bargain price. Just be prepared for a very different shopping experience, as regulars try on and buy in bulk – resulting in long queues in the changing rooms and at the tills. But just imagine the satisfaction when you find that coveted item featured in virtually every fashion magazine. For staple wardrobe classics, Marks & Spencer still plays a fundamental role. However, if the fashion doesn’t quite hit the mark the food certainly will – their deli delights are perfect for picnics and their famed biscuit tins make great souvenirs to take home.
You don’t need to go far to find vintage in London and some of the best have made it to the West End. In Soho, check out Absolute Vintage for shoes and bags, and Peekaboo for those pristine occasion pieces. For something a little more quirky and fun, Wow Retro in Covent Garden is bursting at the seams, so you’re sure to find something to suit your style. ¬The vintage hunting grounds of Portobello and Shoreditch add another dimension to the city; try the weekend markets, or for a more upscale experience, House of Liza in east London and Merchant Archive in Notting Hill stock carefully edited quality vintage.
Charity shopping has long been hot on the heels of vintage, but it’s now giving department stores like Selfridges a run for their money. Location is of course the key to finding the best buys, so you need to be savvy about where you go. You generally find London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods have the most lucrative finds and, if you’re lucky, even celebrity cast offs hanging off the rails. If you want to make a morning of it, the Kings Road in Chelsea is a great starting point – the British Red Cross on Old Church Street is brimming with designer donations. Oxfam, at 432, looks more like a boutique with its black signage and Octavia Foundation is similarly renowned for stocking quality items. For that quick trip take a diversion from Oxford Street to Marylebone High Street and seek out the Cancer Research UK store – it’s long been a favourite with London College of Fashion students, who know a good thing when they see it.
Westfield London is the capital’s ultimate luxury shopping and leisure destination - the perfect place to shop, eat, and meet. With Westfield boasting stores such as Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Apple and Burberry there is something for everyone. Within Westfield London you will also find a Vue cinema with 17 screens and the child-sized city KidZania.
Westfield Stratford City, situated in East London, is the largest urban shopping and leisure mall in Europe. On top of the 250 shops within the shopping centre you will find a Vue cinema boasting 17 screens, Aspers Casino and the luxury All Star Lanes bowling experience. With the shopping centre next-door to the Olympic park there is so much to explore in the area.
Westfield is delighted that it can also offer all visitors:
The atmosphere of shopping in markets is something to experience and London offers some of the best. Whether you're looking for fashion or are in search of a unique gift, you're bound to find a bargain.
Borough Market on the South Bank of the River Thames is London’s gourmet food market. It sells everything from award-winning British cheeses to spiced cider, organic meats and delicious sweets and cakes. Even if you’re not buying, you’ll find plenty of free samples and the buzzing atmosphere is well worth experiencing.
Portobello Road buzzes with boutique shops, art galleries and quirky arcades six days a week, and on Saturdays opens to the world’s largest antiques market. The street is also home to the Grade II-listed Electric Cinema – one of Britain's oldest movie theatres. It has been a popular movie backdrop, featuring in films such as Notting Hill and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Famous for its world-class street performers and vibrant piazza, Covent Garden is shopping, dining, sightseeing, nightlife and entertainment all rolled into one. No trip to London is complete without a visit to this iconic shopping district, where you’ll be able to browse everything from High Street favourites and high-end designers to quirky boutiques and market stalls.
Brick Lane market, in the heart of London’s East End, will provide an authentic flea market experience, with an overwhelming mirage of stalls selling everything from antiques and clothes to the weird and whacky. However, it’s the Sunday UpMarket in the Old Truman Brewery that’s the real deal for avid shoppers allured by vintage, arts and crafts, and old vinyl. You must try the local curry restaurants, while you’re here too.
Camden Market is unique to London and is made up of three separate markets; Union St, The Lock and The Stables –attracting an eclectic crowd, from goth and punk to modern fashionistas. Take a tube to Camden High Street and walk towards Chalk Farm to fully experience the quirky atmosphere. Follow the canal or take a 10 minute walk via Regents Park village – a favourite home for artists, up to Primrose Hill to enjoy spectacular views over London.
Old Spitalfields market has been a permanent fixture for the past 350 years and is open seven days a week. From Monday to Wednesday there is a steady mix of stalls – often a good time to pick up a bargain before the crowds build up by the weekend. Every Thursday it transforms into an Aladdin’s cave of antiques, Friday is fashion day and vintage lovers flock on a Saturday. The highlight for most is Sunday, when you can pick up an original piece from up and coming young designers who are showcasing their wears.
London Fashion Week’s favourite front rowers tell us where they eat, drink, shop and stay in the capital.