The 100 best shops in London: 80-71
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
Fri Feb 7 2014
Kate Sheridan’s beautiful bag collection
A north-east London gem with three shops in the area, Stoke Newington boutique Hub is the ideal place to cultivate that casual, not-trying-too-hard look – an art made easy with its edited selection of mid-market heritage and emerging labels.
At No. 49 on the posh Stoke Newington Church Street, ladies can snap up Sessun coats, Petit Bateau shirts, jeans by Dr. Denim and handsome carryalls by Great Plains in a decidedly un-feminine shop, while dapper gents can stock up on Barbour jackets, Herschel backpacks and Wolsey hats at No. 88. There’s also a men’s and women’s shop on Broadway Market.
The owners are involved in the community, and it’s worth checking out their Hackney Independents initiative, which aims to celebrate the area’s independent creative institutions.
Brit style on a budget
Classic macs at discounted prices
The surprise is not that the rest of Britain’s luxury brands are clustering around the phenomenally successful Burberry factory shop in Hackney, it’s that it took them so long to have the idea. The Aquascutum Outlet is bang opposite Burberry’s, meaning it gets a nice cut of the tourist traffic that comes to this unlikely spot in east London. But in many ways, the Aquascutum store is superior to its popular neighbour.
For a start, it’s cheaper – a perfect cashmere knit with a discreet logo is around £70 (from £230), knitted ties £40 (from £85) and a classic Harrington jacket £150 (from £300) – making it great gift-spotting territory. Often sale shops are crammed with tat and inferior made-for-sale product. This one is like a luxury store, with classic, desirable products at extremely fair prices.
The store is part of an initiative to turn the area into a fashion hub, and has been staffed via Ways Into Work, a collaboration with the council to get disadvantaged youths into employment. So not only are you getting a bargain when you buy, you’re helping support new jobs in the area.
Colourful, floaty womenswear
The cluster jewel necklaces
Though the only affordable items may be the scented candles that adorn the walls (which, incidentally, are no longer for sale), the Matthew Williamson flagship in Mayfair is magnificent – standing out against neighbours Isabel Marant and Kenzo as a stellar example of British design talent.
Massive and airy with colourful chaises lounges, the current collection circles the space on neon racks, while glass tables in the centre showcase accessories, handbags and wallets. A jungle atrium near the back of the shop signifies the entrance to the evening gown selection, and at upwards of £1,000 they are justified in their fabulousness.
Rows of mirrored changing rooms give you ample space to try on whatever you choose – intent to purchase is your prerogative. There’s no snooty doorman to make you feel less than superior, and you just may find that perfect cashmere sweater for a couple of hundred quid.
The gait analysis service
For the knowledgeable and caring staff of this specialist store, running is a way of life rather than a mere sport. Spiritual guru and ultra-distancer Sri Chinmoy (‘Run and become, become and run’) is their inspiration – the Battersea Park events organised in his name are even called ‘self-transcendence’ runs – and a willingness to share expertise across all athletic disciplines has been to the fore ever since the store opened more than four decades ago.
All major brands and the latest trends in footwear, clothing and accessories are acknowledged, but you’ll only be sold the pricey shoes with the go-faster stripes if scrupulous analysis shows they’re definitely the right ones for your feet.
Sexy undies and naughty accessories
The plethora of colourful vibrators
Sh! owner Kathryn Hoyle set up this girly pleasure purveyor after a disappointing trip to Soho’s many sex haunts, where she found ‘the only women welcome were the blow-up variety’. Sh! is the antidote to that kind of seedy, cheesy retailer – aimed at women’s tastes and comfort zones, and designed to be inviting and fun rather than embarrassing and odd.
The main stock in trade are sex toys, and plenty of them – from best-selling slimline vibrators to more exotic accoutrements such as a raspberry-shaped vibrating butt-plug called the Assberry. These take centre-stage on a large central table on the ground floor, and no-nonsense, witty staff can talk women through their options – or leave them to quietly browse.
Crucially, although you don’t have to be a woman to shop here, you do have to be accompanied by one – a policy that sets the feminine tone of the place. Downstairs, the S&M department caters for the ‘Fifty Shades’ brigade, with made-in-London spankers and paddles beautifully designed in quality leather and attractive colour combinations. But the service extends beyond just products to perk you up; with its sexual health advice, upbeat attitude to sex, and erotic workshops for women and couples, Sh! has been keeping London’s women happy for more than 20 years.
Laser-cut perspex jewellery
On-the-spot perspex name necklaces
Shoreditch pioneers Tatty Devine (AKA art-school pals Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden) began making and selling their distinctive Perspex jewellery back in 2001. In the decade-plus since they opened a bijou Brick Lane boutique, they’ve opened a second shop in Covent Garden (44 Monmouth Street), a so-successful-it-had-to-go-permanent pop-up in Selfridges, collaborated with everyone from Ashish to Rob Ryan, and seen their designs sold in over 200 shops worldwide.
As well as now-classic perspex pieces like the anchor and dinosaur necklaces (£15 and £125) and volume-control brooch (£18), you’ll find rings, cufflinks, necklaces and earrings in enamel, wood and silver. The recently added Charm Collection (an imaginative array of charm bracelets and necklaces) looks set to give their iconic name necklaces a run for their money.
Posh pet gear
The leather dog collars and leads in a rainbow of shades
Like the Conran Shop of the animal kingdom, Mungo & Maud redefines the pet store as a luxurious shopping experience. It focuses on cats and dogs, offering their owners the chance to shower them with gorgeous essentials and indulgent accessories. It would be a very lucky pooch indeed that got to sleep in a 100 percent quilted cotton bed, or walk around on a pretty leather lead.
Cats can toy with knitted playthings and sport a collar with lucky charms. Humans, meanwhile, can also get in on the action, as Mungo & Maud makes beautiful bags, blankets and clothes (puffer jackets, scarves and the like – ideal for dogwalking), as well as lovely gift items, from cards and books to dog fragrances and treat jars.
Hip, Scandi-orientated homeware
The designer furniture and home range for children
There’s a definite Scandi-slant to north London furniture store TwentyTwentyOne. Set over two spacious floors the sleek lines, muted colours and clean outlines display minimalistic furniture, accessories and ceramics at their most appealing. We love the functionality of the Lonneberga Wood stacking beds, which will transform a study into a guest room, and the off-kilter angles of Martino Gamper’s colourful Arnold Circus stool. The El Baúl golf ball-like storage box is perfect for hiding kids’ toys somewhere chic. You can also find the world’s most stylish smoke alarm here – a tactile pastel ingot that simply sticks to the ceiling.
Old-fashioned toys and kids’ clothing
The exclusive Honeyjam Merrythought teddy bears
This Notting Hill independent toyshop is a veritable treasure trove brimming with pirate ships, old-fashioned dolls, bath ducks, fairy dust and a healthy dose of nostalgia. Bright orange dinosaur costumes hang from the ceiling, toy mice peep out from trays of wooden play food and a kid-height central table is stacked with pocket-money novelties including jumping frogs, temporary tattoos, mini magic wands and retro jokes.
Owners Jasmine Guinness and Honey Bowdrey have seven children between them, so you can rest assured that when they say the Pucket elasticated table game (£44.99) is capable of tempting a teen away from his Xbox, they are speaking from experience.
Edgy, bespoke clothing and accessories for men
The adjoining Florentine-style apothecary
A dark-edged, moody-looking cult menswear store in Shoreditch with very big ambitions. In August 2013, the three-year-old Hostem announced plans for a two-floor extension to its perfectly placed site on Redchurch Street. Already selling rare and unusual labels like Rik Owens, Ann Demeulemeester and S.N.S. Herning, the store is adding extra space for its new womenswear division.
Its current incarnation is unique enough, with a traditional shop concept on the ground floor and a hidden basement space, the Chalk Room, which houses a rather upscale multi-brand made-to-measure service where you can book fittings for bespoke footwear or Casely-Hayford suiting, or discuss the colour palette for your new S&M starter kit. It’s all done with an air of supreme fashion seriousness and a level of service appropriate to Hostem’s average lofty price tag.
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