London Shopping

The keyword of London shopping has always been "individuality," whether expressed in the superb custom tailoring of Savile Row, the nonconformist punk roots of quintessential British designer Vivienne Westwood, or the unique small stores that purvey their ownerss private passions, be they paper theaters, toy soldiers, or buttons. This tradition is under threat from the influx of chains—global

luxury, domestic mid-market, and international youth—but the distinctively British mix of quality and originality, tradition, and character remains.

You can try on underwear fit for a queen at Her Majesty's lingerie supplier, track down a leather-bound Brontë classic at an antiquarian bookseller, or find a bargain antique on Portobello Road. Whether you’re just browsing—there's nothing like the size, variety, and sheer theater of London’s street markets to stimulate the acquisitive instinct—or on a fashion-seeking mission, London shopping offers something for all tastes and budgets.

Although it's impossible to pin down one particular look that defines the city, London style tends to fall into two camps: one is the quirky, individualistic, somewhat romantic look exemplified by homegrown designers like Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood, and Lulu Guinness; the other reflects Britain’s celebrated tradition of classic knitwear and suiting, with labels like Jaeger, Pringle, and Brora, while Oswald Boateng, Paul Smith, and Richard James take tradition and give it a very modern twist. Traditional bespoke men's tailoring can be found in the upscale gentlemen's shops of Jermyn Street and Savile Row—there's no better place in the city to buy custom-made shirts and suits—while the handbags at Mulberry, Asprey, and Anya Hindmarch are pure classic quality. If your budget can't stretch that far, no problem; the city's chain stores like Topshop, Zara, and H&M, aimed at the younger end of the market, are excellent places to pick up designs copied straight from the catwalk at a fraction of the price, while mid-market chains like Reiss, Jigsaw, and L.K. Bennett offer smart design and better quality for the more sophisticated shopper.

If there’s anything that unites London’s designers, it’s a commitment to creativity and originality, underpinned by a strong sense of heritage. This combination of posh and rock 'n' roll sensibilities turns up in everyone from Terence Conran, who revolutionized product and houseware design in the ’60s (and is still going strong), to Alexander McQueen, who combined the Punk aesthetic with the rigor of couture. You'll see it in fanciful millinery creations by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones, and in the work of imaginative shoemakers Nicholas Kirkwood, United Nude, and Terry de Havilland—and it keeps going, right through to current hot designers Erdem, Christopher Kane, and Christopher Bailey, the latter responsible for making traditional label Burberry relevant again.

One reason for London’s design supremacy is the strength of local fashion college Central St. Martin’s, whose graduates include Conran, Kane, McQueen, his successor at his eponymous label—and designer of the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress—Sarah Burton, and Stella McCartney’s equally acclaimed successor at Céline, Phoebe Philo.

To find the McQueens, McCartneys, and Baileys of tomorrow, head for the independent boutiques of the East End and Bermondsey. If anything, London is even better known for its vibrant street fashion than for its high-end designers. Stock up from the stalls at Portobello, Camden, and Spitalfields markets.

Aside from bankrupting yourself, the only problem you may encounter is exhaustion. London's shopping districts are spread out over the city, so do as savvy locals do: plan your excursion with military precision, taking in only one or two areas in a day, and stopping for lunch with a glass of wine or for a pint at a pub.

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Spitalfields 4

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Antiques/ Collectibles 8

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Books/ Stationery 16

Ceramics/ Glassware 2

Clothing 61

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Household Items/ Furniture 12

Jewelry/ Accessories 15

Music Stores 4

Outdoor/ Flea/ Green Markets 7

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London Shopping

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Dover Street Market

  • Department Stores

With its creative displays and eclectic, well-chosen mix of merchandise, this six-floor emporium is as much art installation as store.

b Store

  • Clothing

Some people regard b Store as the best small clothing boutique in London. Head here for cutting-edge pieces from avant-garde designers...

Beatrix Ong

  • Shoes/Luggage/Leather Goods

This young designer trained under Jimmy Choo, and her collection is just as sexy and bold, with a ready-to-wear collection of strappy...

Koh Samui

  • Clothing

Named for a Thai island resort, this shop stocks designer clothes for the kind of hip young woman who thinks nothing of flying there...

Aquascutum

  • Clothing

Known for offering quintessentially British style at prices that are reasonable for this level of workmanship, Aquascutum carries timeless...

Jack Wills

  • Clothing

Jack Wills specializes in heritage and country sports-inspired styles, giving them a fresh, sexy edge. This means crowds of lithe young...

Start London

  • Clothing

An ever-changing roster of cutting-edge designers like Acne, Helmut Lang, and Alexander Wang is on offer here, and, for men (down the...

The Village Bicycle

  • Household Items/Furniture

With a style that might best be described as punk luxe , this "lifestyle concept store" offers witty, haute Goth homewares like a...

Matthew Williamson

  • Clothing

Sinuous, feminine, and floaty, and often incorporating bright prints and embellishment, Williamson's designs are the epitome of rich-hippie...

Virginia Antiques

  • Clothing

With perhaps the best collection of vintage clothing in London, Virginia Bates's shop offers dresses, hats, and accessories from the...

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