London isn’t only a center of government or a global financial leader; the capital of the UK plays an important cultural role too, especially in the fashion world. Aside from the designers, models, bloggers, and writers who flock to the city for fashion week, the city is a mecca for any lover of fashion. The sheer number, and variety of shops in London allows the city’s visitors and fashionistas to dress from head-to-toe in high street fashions, or source ensembles entirely from secondhand and vintage shops. London is a fashion mecca, and while this guide can’t begin to cover everything you need to know, it does offer key places to help you put your most fashionable foot forward.
The mix of shops in Covent Garden means there is a little bit for everyone. Big spenders can browse through Burberry, while those who are a little more economical can peruse the racks at Zara. Ted Baker is down the street from Jack Wills and a short trip away from the markets of Covent Garden. On Mondays, antiques take over the covered marketplace, offering vintage bags and jewelry.
Wander a few streets away from Covent Garden and you’ll find yourself in Seven Dials. Like Covent Garden, there is a hi-low mix, but with a unique vibe. On Monmouth street alone you can find the designs of Orla Kiely, Pop Boutique, a shop specializing in looks from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s; Orion London’s vintage inspired designs; and Cro’Jack, a brand specializing in traditional outerwear handmade with British fabrics in the UK.
The price tags are likely to induce sticker shock — especially if you’re converting pounds to dollars — but as a window-shopping experience, it cannot be passed over. Clothing is only one aspect of what is stocked at the store, which has seven floors, totaling 4.5 acres. If you ever wanted to gaze at, touch, or even try on a Saint Laurent dress, Alexander McQueen top, or Chloé skirt, this is the place to go. For those who cannot afford such big ticket items, solace can be found in the chocolate hall.
The neighborhood is home to Harrods, but the department store isn’t the only game in town. Another luxury department shopping option is Harvey Nichols, but buyers beware — the store changed but the prices didn’t. On Sloan Street, the high life continues. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Dior, and more all find a home on this fashionable thoroughfare.
If the preceding options have left you wanting a better mix of glamour and affordability, Oxford Street brings together the varied aspects of Covent Garden with the historic past and brand name of a Harvey Nichols. Selfridge & Co, or Selfridges, hasn’t been around quite as long as Harrods, but it is an icon in its own right. Started by an entrepreneurial Chicagoan, the doors opened in 1909 and the store sells top name brands like Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo, and Tom Ford.
Just outside the department store are shops for all budgets. Primark, Forever 21, H&M, and Marks and Spencer can all provide the most recent trends at entry-level prices. Lovers of timeless, classic fashion can idle away the time at Massimo Dutti, and the slightly edgier will find shopping success at Topshop’s flagship store.
In the market for a bit of alternative fashion? Look no further than Camden. Darkside is known as the first goth store to open in Camden, and those wishing for rock-inspired outfits should head to Dragstrip. At the British Boot Company, you can pick up a pair of Doc Martins or similarly-styled boots, and Over the Top sells more punk wardrobe wear. Hippy-styled threads are available from stalls throughout Camden Market and at Gekko.
A “car-boot” is the British term for a trunk, and second-hand steals can be found at these sales, which take place throughout the city. Not all deal in fashion, and some come with an entry-fee. It is a small price lovers of vintage goods, or unique pieces pay to keep their wardrobe suited exactly to their styles.
On Fridays, Old Spitalfields Market is devoted to fashion, and art, allowing you to browse wares by designers or resellers. No matter what day of the week, the market also has shops with clothing ranging from contemporary to classic. Iconic British brands like Fred Perry rub shoulders with independent stores. Collectif Clothing, for example, recreates pieces from the 1940s and 50s, giving lovers of vintage styles the ability to be the first wearer of an article of clothing.
The same eclectic, independent vibe continues outside the market throughout this East London locale. Blondie can fill your need for truly vintage finds, and if you’re missing the touch of luxury promised by Harrods, you can head to 11 Boundary. Start is a boutique offering the latest, trendiest designers, and Boxpark expands the popup idea from a shop to an entire mall.