The 100 best shops in London: 30-21

Going shopping in London? Plan where to head with our round-up of the city’s finest retailers, from cheap vintage shops to world famous department stores

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30

General Eyewear

Best for
Retro eyewear with an in-store optician

Don’t miss
The limited edition range of ’40s and ’50s style frames

How much?

 

Part vintage frame archive, part optical design studio and showroom, General Eyewear is a far cry from Specsavers. It has always been something of a fashion insider’s secret – you’ve probably already seen General Eyewear glasses at the movies as they supply film costumers with authentic period frames from their archive. And the place is pretty much on the speed dial of every major fashion magazine and stylist in the world.

A visit is an education, especially when looking at frames from the ‘70s and ‘80s. They have a glamour and eccentricity that is in stark contrast to more widely available – and largely bland – designer frames. Fashion designers such as Versace, Moschino and Christian Lacroix went to huge expense to create ornate and decorative art for the eyes and face. General Eyewear offers a glimpse of this flamboyance prior to things getting a great deal more boring in the ‘90s.

  1. Arch 67, the Stables Market,
    Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH
  2. www.generaleyewear.com
    Camden tube
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29

The Vintage Showroom

Best for
Vintage menswear

Don’t miss
A chat with the owners Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett

How much?

 

Inside the old F.W. Collins & Sons ironmongery on Earlham Street in Covent Garden is The Vintage Showroom, a tiny selection of Roy Luckett and Doug Gunn’s famous west London menswear archive, loaned out to a secret client base of big name designers, denim brands and vintage obsessives. With stock sourced from obscure locations around the world (Roy and Doug have a few hair-raising stories of their international dealings with collectors and hoarders), it follows that the pair occasionally find it hard to part with certain items, and they’ve been known to try to dissuade shoppers from buying the rarer pieces on display.

The shop certainly boasts London’s best men’s vintage collection, with an emphasis on Americana (denim, sweats, a few choice tees) and classic military and British pieces. The shop and studio team produce their own arty publication, Showroom, and their brilliant large-format book ‘Vintage Menswear’ – published by Laurence King – is a photographic record of men’s fashion history via standout pieces of the archive.

  1. 14 Earlham St, WC2H 9LN
  2. www.thevintageshowroom.com
    Covent Garden tube
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28

Habitat

Best for
Budget and trend-conscious homeware

Don’t miss
The Kilo nesting tables

How much?

 

A perennial Time Out favourite, Habitat’s appeal endures as the most dependable destination for contemporary but affordable furniture. The spacious store, though unchanged for years, effectively showcases new designs while the staff are on hand to help out with decision-making.

Lighting is excellent. We like the Ade table lamp – a simple coil of metal and Ribbon, a design classic – while for shoestring style you can’t go wrong with an oversized paper Boule Japonaise pendant. Bed linen is also covetable, with the yellow and grey Pixelate a refreshing break from all white.

  1. 196-199 Tottenham Court Rd, W1T 7PJ
  2. www.habitat.co.uk
    Goodge St tube
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27

The Mercantile London

Best for
Chic, relaxed womenswear

Don’t miss
The permanent sale rail

How much?

 

In a Spitalfields Market that is gradually being swallowed up by chain restaurants and brands, this independent boutique, full of independent labels (not to mention an in-store dog called Robert) is enough to restore your faith in the future of London retail.

Founder Debra McCann has a good eye for striking fashion that ordinary women will covet, so labels err on the side of tasteful rather than daft – think high-waist jeans, batwing silk blouses and cool ankle boots at sensible prices (£70-100 for a silk top, £150 for well-made leather boots). There’s also a permanent sale rail for an easily justifiable payday purchase. Good quality, fairly priced pieces from a host of European labels you probably won’t have seen before – it sounds like a simple formula, but its one that an infuriating number of boutiques can’t seem to hit upon.

  1. 17 Lamb St, E1 6EA
  2. www.themercantilelondon.com
    Shoreditch High St Overground
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26

J.Crew

Best for
American preppy style

Don’t miss
Crew Cuts, the cool kidswear collection

How much?

 

America's hottest fashion export – a firm favourite with Michelle Obama – landed in London in winter 2013. Located half-way down Regent Street, J.Crew is handsomely-designed and easy-to-navigate – think the average size of a Gap store but with posher decor.

Women’s clothing is on the ground floor and includes plenty of classics-with-a-twist like neat fitting blazers with school-boy-style piping, cosy cashmere knits and chunky ankle boots. Upstairs is the lovely-but-expensive Crewcuts kids’ range, which caters for 2-14 year-olds and features cute stripy tops with neat floral flourishes, neon Fair Isle knits and padded jackets. Menswear is on the first floor too – it’s the place to come for luxurious everyday pieces like the ultimate pea coat or chunky merino knit.

  1. 165 Regent St, W1B 4AD
  2. www.jcrew.com
    Oxford Circus tube
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25

Browns Focus

Best for
Cutting edge designer labels

Don’t miss
Exclusive designs by Jeremy Scott

How much?

 

What’s the point in London’s creative designers churning out dramatically different, adventurous clothing and accessories if no one will take a chance on stocking them? Without Browns Focus, many of our more edgy brands would die a fast retail death. This is the gutsy, punky younger sister and next-door-neighbour of the more sedate Browns fashion store established by Joan Burnstein in 1970, and it’s the best place to find a hot-off-the-catwalk design that will impress even the most discerning sartorialist.

A 2013 refresh has seen the boutique given a nightclubby feel, with black walls and neon pops. That zeitgeist feel extends to the range, with club kids Sophia Webster, Ashish and Kenzo all represented on the rails. The highest of high fashion doesn’t come cheaply, and this isn’t a place to come if your focus is on your purse strings rather than your ‘IT’ bag. But window shopping doesn’t get much more fun than this, so don’t let that put you off a visit.

  1. 24 South Molton St, W1K 5RD
  2. www.brownsfashion.com
    Bond St tube
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24

JJ Fox

Best for
The ultimate cigars

Don’t miss
The museum at the back of the shop

How much?

 

There are a million ways to waste your money in Mayfair, so why not set fire to it? There are other cigar shops in London, but Foxes is the grandest and most storied. Oscar Wilde died owing money here and the iconic image of Winston Churchill with a cigar clenched between his teeth is down to the fact he used to buy his Montecristos here. It’s worth a visit just to see the clientele: a curious mixture of aging Euro playboys, old Etonians and Mayfair gents. They come to get away from the world for 20 minutes or so, wreathed in sumptuous blue smoke.

  1. 19 St James’s St, SW1A 1ES
  2. www.jjfox.co.uk
    Green Park tube
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23

The Conran Shop

Best for
High-end homeware

Don’t miss
The design classics range

How much?

 

The Conran Shop presents a knowledgeable edit of investment pieces like Arne Jacobsen’s Egg chair and reinterpreted Chesterfields in the flagship Michelin House store. Its less well-known strength is the unusual and beautiful collection of decorative wares from international designers. We particularly like Kate Hume’s hand-blown glass pebble vases in muted jewel hues, the stunning La Volière Table Lamp – inspired by a vintage birdcage, complete with kaleidoscopic birds – and the whimsical Italian pink sand hour glass. It’s also the best London design shop for children with Anne-Claire Petit’s stripy crochet homewares, re-issued tin toys and a brilliantly extravagant tree-house bed leading the charge.

  1. Michelin House, 81
    Fulham Rd, SW3 6RD
  2. www.conranshop.co.uk
    South Kensington tube
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22

Beyond Retro

Best for
A vast array of second-hand clothing

Don’t miss
The store’s own vintage-inspired collection

How much?

 

The impressive frontage of this vast branch of Beyond Retro looks temple-like – a fitting building for London’s vintage devotees who shop here religiously. Housed in an old suit factory (which was used as a Cuban cigar factory in James Bond’s ‘Die Another Day’), the impressive Stoke Newington megastore is packed with prom dresses, army jackets, attractively scuffed tees and sweats, denim, eye-popping knits and Beyond’s own brand of vintage-edged accessories and staple pieces.

There are some upscale brands in stock, and it’s not exactly cheap, but Beyond is still pitched to a young crowd – students and local Dalstonites – who come for the clothes and stay for the odd beer and free gig performed on the in-house stage. There’s an on-site café with vintage tea sets, old Singer sewing machines for tables and free wi-fi, and the friendly staff claim to have the most tattoos between them of any other store in the Beyond Retro chain.

  1. 92-100 Stoke Newington Rd, N16 7XB
  2. www.beyondretro.com
    Dalston Kingsland Overground
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21

Topman General Store

Best for
Cheap, hip-looking menswear

Don’t miss
The Pendleton accessories

How much?

 

This swankier brother to the high street king, Topman General Store is the joint project of Topman’s creative director Gordon Richardson and Matthew Murphy, founder of b Store and OTHER/Shop. Both are all-round London men’s fashion movers and shakers, and together can claim much of the credit for the blossoming of London Collections: Men, the biannual catwalk showcase of the best in British menswear design. Their taste is impeccable and their experience of the field unrivalled, and they put both to good use by cherry-picking the best bits of Topman’s range and combining them with select extra brands such as Supreme Being and Quiet Life in a luxuriously laddish setting.

The shop is kitted out like a proper menswear designer store in every way but the prices, meaning you can enjoy a premium shopping experience but get a pleasant surprise at the tills, rather than a horrendous shock. We’ve long been campaigning for a Topshop General Boutique, and there are rumours that it could become a reality in 2014. Fingers crossed, purses at the ready.

  1. 98 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
  2. www.topman.com
    Liverpool St tube
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Continue to numbers 20-11 in our list

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