Best for: Quality vintage stock that spans the decades
This Covent Garden gem has been peddling vintage threads for well over 20 years – long before retro became fashionable. Here you’ll find a wonderful array of dress-up clothes, from ‘30s cocktail frocks and Downton-esque beaded slips to slinky ‘80s numbers. Home to a mind-boggling 1,000 pairs of vintage shoes, the basement is well worth a careful rummage: the knowledgeable staff will help you pinpoint the perfect decade.
Best for: Unusual fragrances
This unisex fragrance store, with branches in Shoreditch and the West End, is not to be sniffed at. If it's a cheap scent you're after, go elsewhere. But if you want to enjoy the process of trying out high-quality, unusual perfumes and hearing from knowledgeable staff about how they've been created, this is the place for you. Bloom stocks niche perfumes from brands including Arquiste, Jovoy and Paul Emilien, and also runs regular events and courses so you can find out more about what you're buying. Smell yeah!
Best for: Little-known vineyards
Starting life as a stall in the drool-inducing Borough market, this independent wine shop is testament to London’s boozy ways, having grown to seven full-on shops in the capital, one in Hastings and one more on the way (location TBC). In the same vein this postbox-sized outpost of the brilliant wine shop carries an excellent edit of plonk from smaller producers and family firms, plus refillable glass bottles – it’s also very handily situated on the 38 bus route.
Best for: Crafty cards and gifts
This rustic gift shop on Exmouth Market is straight out of a home counties village high street, and that's why it's a treat to find it in Zone 1. All products here are hand-crafted and hand-selected by owner Alice, with many of the store's products being made on-site, either at the shop counter or in the downstairs studio. Alongside cards, textiles, jewellery and ceramics, Botanique offers bespoke floristry too, with same-day delivery available across the country. There's also second branch on Church Street, Stoke Newington.
Best for: Local history books
Bookshops are thin on the ground these days, which is why it's always a pleasure to find a longstanding local that's managing to hold its own. This little spot in the hipster heartland has been around since the ‘70s and in its present location for over decade. As well as the latest fiction titles, you can find a great selection of local and London history titles, all the photography and graphic novels the trendsters need, plus a small and lovely kids' corner. Staff are knowledgable and helpful, and look out for talks and other events.
Best for: Beautifully curated designer fashion
It was already one of the capital’s favourite fashion boutiques – with the founder Mrs Burnstein being one of first to support Alexander McQueen – but following its acquisition by Farfetch it has been reinvigorated. Serious investment has given it a much bigger buying team and a CEO who cut her teeth under Natalie Massenet at Net-a-Porter. With 70 new brands in stock since last year, the new team has been bloody busy. New lines include those by Vetements, Simone Rocha and Marques Almeida.
Best for: Luxury Brit clothing in jaw-dropping surroundings
For a heritage brand, Burberry is about as directional as you can get. The first London Fashion Week designer to live stream its catwalk shows – way back in 2010 – and then the first brand to retail straight from the runway. Truly consumer first, the Regent Street flagship store is an all-mod-conned ‘brand experience’ complete with interactive magic mirrors, a 38 square-metre video display unit and even digital rain showers. The full complement of menswear, womenswear, accessories, shoes and beauty is here, alongside a bespoke trench service and gifting department. Should you feel peckish after navigating the store’s four floors, Thomas’s Café offers posh British fare.
Best for: Well-priced arts materials
Hidden down an Islington back street, this cavernous store spans three large floors, and houses a stellar array of artistic materials from sable brushes and oil paints to Winsor & Newton inks, artist mannequins and even achingly on-trend colouring books for grown-ups. Markers, watercolours and fancy papers are available in every conceivable colour and finish, while crafty types could waste hours browsing the decoupage, calligraphy and model-making paraphernalia.
Best for: Weird and wonderful cheeses
If you're not from the area, it's worth making the pilgrimage north to this local cheese haven. Opened in the early Eighties by owner Morgan McGlynn, who is now the resident fromage expert on Channel 4's Sunday Brunch, Cheeses stocks a vast range of artisan products from independent dairies. The shop's less traditional offerings are a real draw too, like the Choco 21, an Italian blue cheese aged in chocolate liqueur. While samples are aplenty, the shop can also host bespoke cheese tasting sessions.
Best for: Smart stationery
It’s entirely possible to walk out of Choosing Keeping having just spent £45 on a stapler feeling like it was the smartest purchase you’ve ever made. The thing with this shop is that everything is just so damn beautiful: dinky rulers shaped like Toblerones, sinister hole punches that look like they were crafted in Soviet Russia, golden scissors that snap together to form the sleekest of lines. Visit when the tiny space isn’t crammed with flower-wielding tourists and you'll find yourself choosing to buy just about everything they sell.
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