London's coolest shops
Quirky concepts, unique wares and painfully hip staff – get a little something extra for your money at the capital's best boutiques
You don't need a fat wallet to get something out of London's coolest shops. Bold design concepts, one-off pieces and some of the city's best people-watching mean even browsers ought to take a tour. Although we should point out that if you do end up blowing your savings on a vintage Gucci cocktail dress that's been untouched since the 60s, it's not our fault.
Opening Ceremony, one of the world’s most eagerly watched, tastemaking brands, arrived in London with great fanfare in 2012. Founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have stuck to the template that has worked so well in LA, Tokyo and New York, presenting small runs of unique apparel that they've co-designed with big labels, sourced from young, emerging designers or chosen from cult streetwear labels. It means you might come across a moss green Proenza Schouler handbag at £1,500, or a design by long-time collaborator Chloë Sevigny’s – perhaps a beautiful fluffy cardigan in pink leopard, with a price tag of £340. A collection of new, cutting-edge brands are presented alongside OC’s own in-house label, and its many collaborations with classic brands like Keds, Gitman Brothers and Pendleton. While many brands rely on trend-prediction agencies, a team of buyers and a sideways glance at what’s happening on each other’s catwalks, Opening Ceremony goes on its founders’ own ability to spot the next big fashion thing. If they think it’s cool, it most definitely will be.
- 35 King Street, WC2E 8JG
It’s not often that you have to book an appointment for the privilege of entering a shop, but then LN-CC is no ordinary boutique. The jaw-dropping interior, which is somewhere between the set of Red Dwarf and a futuristic tree house, is located underneath a drab office block, which you enter via a very ordinary side door. Inside, the avant-garde designer stock is creatively merchandised and separated into themed zones by art director Gary Card and brands include Balenciaga, Haider Ackermann, and Dries Van Noten. There’s also a record and book store, and an in-house disco with the odd event (invitation-only, naturally) taking place for the privileged few.
- LN-CC, 18-24 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EZ
Stock for this boutique-like store is selected by streetwear obsessives/owners Kyle and Jo with items weighted towards Japanese independent labels. Knits and T-shirts from Australia’s Rittenhouse are particularly strong, while other hot picks from the well-edited selection include shirts and tops for men from Norse Projects, womenswear from APC Madras, and supremely covetable pieces for both men and women from Peter Jensen and Wood Wood. A cabinet full of reasonably priced watches, sunglasses and jewellery makes this a great place for pressies for hard-to-please hipster boyfriends and girlfriends, while the limited-edition Vans will have trainer nerds frothing at the mouth.
- 41 Coronet Street, N1 6HD
Henry and George Graham, owners of eclectic Notting Hill boutique Wolf and Badger, have opened a new central London flagship. The spacious, two floored new premises will shift the focus of the original store to tiny, undiscovered labels- allowing the new boutique to showcase more established labels from the NEWGEN stable- think Bora Aksu,Mark Fast J JS Lee and Jasper Garvida. The boutique is elegant but unintimidating; all black walls, artfully placed designer lights and backlit contemporary jewellery. There is a great menswear offering, with a good mix of relaxed tailoring, swimwear, and bow ties in graphic prints by the likes of Drake. In contrast, the basement (which has its own street entrance) has retained the original white walls and floor, and will continue to be used as a gallery space. Expect pop ups and installations from Wolf and Badger's favourite designers in here, as well as evening launches celebrating the frequent arrival of new labels and collections.
- 32 Dover Street
The London outpost of New York's legendary skate shop brings together the cult brand's skatewear including apparel, accessories and decks. Ongoing collaborations with musicians, artists and designers ensures Supreme maintains the edgy style it originally made its name with back in 1994.
- 2-3 Peter Street, W1F 0AA
Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo’s ground-breaking six-storey space combines the edgy energy of London’s indoor markets – concrete floors, tills house in corrugated-iron shacks, Portaloo dressing rooms – with rarefied labels. All 14 of the Comme collections are here, alongside exclusive lines such as Lanvin, Givenchy and Azzedine Alaïa. Dover Street’s biannual ‘Tachiagari’ event sees the store close while designers make changes to their concessions, ensuring the space is constantly evolving. There’s a Chalayan area with exclusive pieces, as well as areas devoted to Celine, McQueen and Rick Owens to name a few. Pieces by edgy jewellery designer Noguchi, as well as Azature, Waris and Repossi, are available on the ground floor. Once you’ve taken it all in, have a sit-down in the Rose Bakery on the top floor.
- 17-18 Dover Street, W1S 4LT
It's understandable to expect great things from the first stand alone shop from the shoe designer championed by Isabella Blow and Philip Treacy - whose heels are worn by fashion's most adventurous elite- and you're unlikely to be disappointed. The store, in salubrious Mayfair, showcases his award-winning, architectural designs in a gallery like space- all white walls and angular lighting, with shoes 'floating' in stylish space. Rotations of around three months see new installations in the building, so it merits repeat visits. The studio is above the shop so particularly keen beans can look out for the designer himself.
- 5 Mount Street, W1K 3NE
While not everyone is at ease strolling into a Chanel fashion boutique, the pop-up make-up store is designed to be a fun, accessible and fully immersive experience. First opening in July 2012 as a temporary venture, it shows no signs of clearing out. Indeed, the whole place is being given a make-over for 2013. Not only has the imaginative Chanel creative director designed exclusive studio products for the project, like a new double ended lip colour for summer, but nail art chieftains Marian Newman and Sophy Robson will be coming up with avant-garde catwalk creations with a large dose of subcultural inspiration, running workshops offering quirky on-brand activities. These vary from week to week, having featured camelia drawing classes in the past, and now promising in-store Chanel calligraphy. Pretty much every big name in make-up and nails is expected to give masterclasses (£25, redeemable against product) with the likes of Kay Montano, Florrie White, Mary Greenwell, Lisa Eldridge, and Sharon Dowsett hosting in-store sessions. As well as the UK's first Chanel nail bar, where customers can book in for manis at £25 (redeemable against product), there are now make-up sessions for six girls at a time, a flower stall linking with all the Chanel fragrances and, in autumn, a vending machine for nail polishes. Keep checking in for news of a BIG facialist joining the store later this month.
- Unit 3, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 8RF
Blitz opened in 2011, and instantly put the other vintage shops in the capital to shame. This is a vintage department store, covering all floors of a glorious old furniture factory. The building itself is jaw-dropping, and has been renovated beautifully by the Blitz team. Floors are clearly merchandised with a furniture selection from Broadway Market’s The Dog & Wardrobe, an accessories floor, a book collection and rails and rails of neatly presented fashion. Buyers Jan Skinners and John Howlin look to nearby Brick Lane for their inspiration, buying immaculate seersucker blazers, coloured denim, brogues and silk kimonos for their fashion focused clientele. The selection is all killer and no filler – and cleaned, steamed and folded before it hits the shop floor. To see our video of Blitz, go to www.timeout.com/blitz
- Blitz, 55-59 Hanbury Street, E1 5JP
In an airy art deco garage on the King’s Road you’ll find this chic lifestyle boutique. Owners John and Belle Robinson (the people behind womenswear chain Jigsaw) may cite European concept stores such as Colette in Paris as inspiration, but there’s none of the froideur associated with such temples to avant-garde design. On display in the 10,000sq ft space is a broad selection of designer clothing, shoes, accessories, books, music (both CDs and vinyl) and the odd piece of furniture. The shop also boasts a spa offering shoppers the chance to unwind with a variety of treatments. There’s also a slew of hard-to-find niche skincare brands, including New York’s Bigelow, Ole Henriksen, DCL and Kaeline. Fashion is wide-ranging; London-based designers Emma Cook and Peter Jensen are to be found here, as are US faves Alexander Wang and Marc by Marc Jacobs and Japanese heavyweights Junya Watanabe and Comme des Garçons. Look out for lesser-known labels as well, such as the rock-inspired Rika and Isabel Marant, and vintage-inspired eyewear from hip label Prism. Cool denim brands also feature heavily, and there’s a trendy range of prints, coffee-table books and CDs.
- 350 King's Road, SW3 5UU
The Old Shoreditch Station (the artist formerly known as No-one) is the retail wing of the Jaguar Shoes collective which encompasses Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes (the arty bar over the road), Seventeen Gallery (a few doors up), and The Old Shoreditch Station Cafe. This was one of the first boutiques in Shoreditch, and its stark, arty aesthetic fits in perfectly with the rough-around-the-edges Kingsland Road. Owner Teresa Letchford (a former style editor) has a good eye for new fashions, the store was the first in London to stock the now ubiquitous Cheap Monday and Swedish Hasbeens. The Old Shoreditch Station is now stocking a great mix of London designers and global indies: from Hackney-based jeweller Noemi Klein (think beautifully crafted antler rings, £130) to American ethical urban espadrille brand Toms (£40). A must for the visitor seeking a slice of east London style to take home with them.
- 1 Kingsland Road, E2 8AA
FARM:shop is the brain child of three eco creatives, Andrew Merritt, Paul Smyth and Sam Henderson of designer agency Something & Son. Bringing together their knowledge in art, engineering and business they came up with the ingenious social initiative FARM in 2010, a concept which aims to encourage farming in the city and involves inspiring Londoners to grow their own food, fabric and medicine with the potential aim of selling it in the FARM:shop. Housed in a once derelict store, the shop grows-its-own (there's a fish farm, rooftop chicken coop, allotments and polytunnels on site) and both sells what it produces and uses it in its shop café.
- 20 Dalston Lane