Quality over quantity is certainly what springs to mind after a visit to Circa. With prices ranging from £60-£1200 it’s unlikely you’ll walk out arms heaving, but what you do purchase will be the very best. This lovingly sourced and stocked boutique, which has been around for more than 40 years, has experts on staff to restore items to near enough their original order. With pieces from the 1900s to the ‘80s – including embellished ‘20s flapper-wear, ‘30s silk gowns and 50s cotton dresses by designers such as Chanel, YSL, Lanvin and Valentino – you’re guaranteed to find something unique to wear for a wedding or special occasion.
‘It’s like walking into grandmother’s attic!’ shrieks an American girl as she crosses the threshold of this Portobello Road stalwart. We think she was referring to the Aladdin’s cave layout of this treasure filled shop. 1920s beaded dresses dangle from the ceiling, psychedelic ‘60s garments are hung so high that you need a step ladder to reach them, while pulling back a rack of fur coats (£350-£750) we wondered if we might find ourselves stumbling into Narnia. If you’re a bit of a magpie or enjoy a rummage in a jumble sale you’ll love sifting here but while the shop lacks a high end boutique layout, it does carry high end prices – a factor that doesn’t seem to deter tourists buying Chanel handbags at £1600 a pop.
When Lady Gaga is making secret midnight trips to check out a vintage shop you know it’s worth a visit. Rellik has long been the destination for A-listers from Kate Moss to Kylie Minogue, seeking out beautiful and original pieces with a history. The shop is run by three former Portobello market stallholders – Fiona Stuart, Claire Stansfield and Steven Philip – and their different tastes mean there’s a good mix of pieces by the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chloé, Ossie Clark, and Yohji Yamamoto. While most items on sale here are from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, you’ll also find more contemporary pieces, as the focus is as much on a garment’s quality as its provenance. Glam accessories, such as enormous Hermès sunglasses, have their own dedicated wall. Despite the high-end boutique design, neither the shop nor its price tags are intimidating. Got something specific in mind? Ask Fiona, Claire and Steven who’ll be more than happy to track it down in their archive.
Part of the Music and Goods Exchange which includes Retro Man at number 34 Pembridge Road, as well as branches in Camden and Soho, Retro Woman is a cross between a vintage emporium and a pawn shop. As such, any decade goes; you could buy or sell Victorian jewellery as easily as last season’s Marc Jacobs. Prices reflect the designer stock on offer with customers paying up to £700 for high end handbags. There’s nothing pretentious about the premises though: it feels a bit like a charity shop, but one where you’re guaranteed to find Vivienne Westwood, Rupert Sanderson, Viktor & Rolf, Proenza Schouler and Alexander McQueen. There are some real designer bargains to be had too, from box fresh Jimmy Choos for £140 to a nearly new Richard Nicoll coat for just £100.
This roomy and artfully arranged store in West London’s Whiteleys shopping centre fashions itself as a boutique appealing to the same shoppers that might browse the centre’s designer and high street labels. Apparel is of exceptional quality, men and women being equally well catered for. Choice retro garb including carefully selected dresses, shoes and jewellery join furs (mink and fox in particular) as well as gent’s suits, formal wear and dapper accessories selected by Jake Hammond, a clothes trader with years of vintage experience. Founders Zoe Plummer and her sister Rebecca do a great job of keeping the stock fresh and though items here may be pricier than more jumble-like shops in the East End, you’re paying for real vintage know-how and hand-picked pieces.