The 100 best shops in London: 90-81
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
Beautiful Spanish-inspired clothing for little ones
The classy toys
Step inside mother-of-five Celia Muñoz’s own-label children’s boutique (ages 0-7) and you’re greeted by chic, minimal décor, impeccably turned out sales assistants and a muted rainbow of super-soft knits, smocked dresses and mini duffle coats. So far, so Hampstead – that is, until you clock the prices.
Beautifully finished Spanish-made jumpers and cardigans at £34 are an obvious winner, but the shelves of simple leather Mary Janes, ballet flats and desert boots at Clarks prices have ‘stampede’ written all over them. Well, not literally. Pack any accompanying children off to the play area at the back of the shop and stock up on perfect new baby gifts, sweet button-down shirts and top-quality tights and socks by fellow Spanish brand Condor.
Hot furniture and accessories for the home
The espresso bar tucked away in the kitchen department
Housed in an impressive Victorian-era former concert hall, Aria is one of London’s best design destinations. As well as mid-range contemporary designed kitchenware, clocks and lighting like Alessi, Marimekko and Kartell, there are some quirkier international treasures including vintage Indian trestle market tables and hand carved dark wood bowls. There are some unique textiles nestling downstairs amid the luxe toiletries as well; check out the Finnish folklore cushions from Klaus Haapaniemi.
The Rockman and Rockman tables
Striking geometrics, sharply defined graphics and avant-garde colours define the style ethos in this dark jewel of an accessory store. It’s no surprise that several of the key designers are also architects. Statement necklaces are a highlight – in particular Marion Vidal’s structured ribbon and bauble collars – while the brilliance of twentieth-century designer Ettore Sottsass is homaged with colour-block decorative plates.
Textiles are also impressive with monochrome tribal-inspired cushions edged in jade or coral piping a favourite. Blow-the-budget pieces include Jamie Julien-Brown’s head-height Totem lights: a hypnotic mix of pastel dream world and designer fairground.
Old school Brit fragrances
The bespoke fragrance making service
Enterprising young Spaniard Juan Floris set up his fragrance shop at 89 Jermyn Street in 1730, where Floris has been based and run by the same family ever since. Pay a visit and you’ll be following the noses of everyone from King George IV to Ian Fleming, who mentions Floris products in several Bond novels.
One imagines not too much has changed since then. Everything is placed behind glass cabinets and oak paneled counters in the manner of an old fashioned apothecary, and smartly dressed men and women gently guide you through the selection process. Much more civilised than a department store or duty free. There is also a fragrance customisation service which enables you to create your own scent assisted by a Floris perfumer.
Discounted wares from East London designers
The ever-changing weekly pop-ups
The Hackney Shop is a teeny premises close to a large branch of Tesco, and it’s handed over to a local fashion type every week rent-free. At the end of their week, each tenant hands it over to the next, meaning every time you visit you’ll find a completely different shop.
Considering that Hackney is London’s capital of fashion design, home to sartorial A-listers including Jonathan Saunders, House of Holland and Richard Nicol, you’re likely to find incredible catwalk clothes on the rails, and always for a discount. All three of the above have hosted the store at least once. But you might also find an amazing local newbie given retail floorspace for the first time – we loved the Swanfield Collective pop-up, which for one week only became the best place in the area to buy individual designs.
The archive featuring celebrity stationery
With its wonderful curved-windows, sleek shelving and old-fashioned customer service (the staff are impeccably dressed and greet customers with a ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’) walking into Smythson’s Bond Street store is a real treat. This – London’s poshest and best-loved stationers – is a paradise for paper-lovers. Established in 1887, the Royal-warranted brand made its name selling ultra-desirable pigskin diaries, notebooks and personalised stationery – they have designed invitations and notelets for everyone from the Queen to Stella McCartney.
Smythson has managed to keep ahead of competitors by staying abreast of trends – Rory O’Hanlon is the recently-appointed creative director and Samantha Cameron, responsible for best-sellers such as the fashion diary, has worked for the brand since 1996 and continues as a creative consultant. A stunning new store recently opened up on Sloane Street, catering for well-heeled SW1ers, and there are concessions in Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
Cool casualwear for him and her
The chunky, funky footwear for men and women
For a Brit brand fast approaching its 20th birthday, YMC (otherwise known as You Must Create) has always had a firm handle on contemporary, wearable style. Founded by Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins in 1995, the men’s and women’s clothing brand is a London classic. Its slightly creepy Poland Street store, packed with stuffed animals, wonky wooden mannequins and a mortuary slab, is the backdrop to their simple, offbeat designs, full of hidden detail.
Where other ‘90s brands couldn’t quite stay the distance, YMC has remained quietly relevant, and just that little bit more daring than its counterparts. And there’s always something new to talk about, from printed five-panel caps produced in collaboration with Liberty to hand embroidered sweats created with Paris brand Maison Labiche.
Chic designer heels
The store’s own range of leather ankle boots
Office has the high street stitched up when it comes to fashion footwear, but it’s got the upper end of the market covered too thanks to Poste Mistress. This Covent Garden boutique opened in 2001 disguised as a decadent boudoir. Floral wallpaper, velvet drapes and gilt-framed mirrors create enticing surroundings in which women can treat themselves to designer shoes.
Its own eponymous line sits alongside niche and quirky brands such as Opening Ceremony, Melissa, Dries Van Noten and Chie Mihara, but tempting shoppers into real sin are bigger brands including Miu Miu, Jil Sander and Vivienne Westwood. And tucked in the corner are some Converse – for femme fatales on the go.
The plumen light bulbs
The Design Museum philosophy that design should be innovative, intelligent and stylish is brilliantly apparent in the small but well-stocked on-site shop. There’s a pleasing mix of techy and decorative amongst the products and one of the best selections of design books in the capital.
Our recent finds have included Black and Blum’s slick stainless steel Thermo Pot with magnetic spoon – perfect for soup at the office desk. Similarly the ergonomic cake server and kitchen roll holder are subtle homewares that make life easier. We also like the flashes of humour in Hella Jongerius’s Elephant mousepad and the sartorial super trump cards.
Vintage men’s suits
Silk top hats
Authentic British country clothing is hard to find in London now. Most of what passes as country clothing from so-called ‘heritage’ brands is a pale imitation of the hardy, indestructible and brightly-coloured clothing that looks as good on a grouse moor as it does on Fulham High Street.
Yes, this is the home of the loud trouser. Fire engine red, lilac, turquoise and banana yellow, cut high on the waist and slim in the leg in heavyweight Brisbane Moss cloth, are a Saxby speciality. As are Norfolk jackets, plus fours, heavyweight linen jackets in bright pastels, tweed covert coats in bold checks and moleskin trousers with fishtail backs.
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