Normal shopping service has resumed in the capital. Or the new normal, at least.
But there’s more to shopping in London than joining the queue for Primark. The pandemic has hit our homegrown independent shopkeepers the hardest – and there’s a wealth of truly brilliant boutiques right on your doorstep.
Of course, the key lies in knowing where to point your feet. Having called the capital my home for the past 12 years — and turned a love of shopping into a career for the past nine of those on the fashion desk of this newspaper — it’s fair to say that my own knowledge of the best tourist-dodging shopping streets is comprehensive. So much so that I’ve written a book about it.
In Shop London, my fool-proof guide to London-based retail therapy, no quiet back street was left untrawled in the search for the best, least-known and most unique boutiques.
If you want to while away an afternoon in a new part of town there’s a section dedicated to 12 of the finest, littlest high streets — from the eclecticism of Peckham’s Bellenden Road to the ridiculously tasteful indies of Clapton’s Chatsworth Road.
Or, if there’s something specific you’re in the market for, the book’s second half lists the choice haunts from a host of categories for which London is renowned, from bookshops to concept stores, kidswear to interiors. There are more than 200 outposts to choose from, but these are 25 of my top picks to get you out of the e-stores and out your front door. Comfy shoes essential.
Situated amid the hustle and bustle of Broadway Market, this beautiful boutique shows just how far ‘green’ has come since the days of sludgy hemp. Owner Merryn Leslie – a talented stylist and former fashion editor at i-D Magazine – brings together some of the best labels with good intentions including Riyka, Beaumont Organic and East London label Here Today Here Tomorrow.
Since reopening, you can pop in - NB only two people are allowed in-store at one time - or book a personal shopping appointment on the website and have the place to yourself for an hour. Hand sanitiser and face masks will be provided. Fittings rooms are open, but those who opt to try on at home have two days to return any unwanted items.
69B Broadway Market, E8, 020 7249 9655
This Shoreditch boutique is brilliant for discovering chic and affordable indie labels, from the local (E8 Miista, Elia B) to the far-flung (Minimum, Des Petit Hauts). There’s a wealth of menswear too - think Excelsior kicks and Rains anoraks – as well as homeware including Earl of East candles and Hoxton Mini Press books. The cute in-store café is also reopen for takeaway coffees. Open Thursday to Sunday only.
133 Shoreditch High Street, E1, 020 7739 2811
Former fashion journalist turned design golden girl Alex Eagle is as sharp eyed as her name suggests and her Lexington Street address is in the little black book of every arbiter of taste in London. Cottage industry design collaborations and price on request art works sit comfortably with Augustinus Bader skincare, Anissa Kermiche earrings and Eagle’s own line of silk separates and informal evening wear. Bespoke tailoring and private appointments are also available on request.
6-10 Lexington Street, W1, 020 7589 0588
The wealth of understated and well-priced streetwear labels is just one of the reasons why this menswear store continues to pull in a steady flow of shoppers. The rest is down to its artfully cool construction. Nested under a railway arch, Article’s second branch (the first is on Dalston’s Kingsland Road), ticks every box in the hip boutique handbook. The curved, corrugated metal roof and Scandi-minimalist strip lighting gives Brixton’s creative industry types a shop to admire, while the cycle-friendly Sandqvist backpacks and cheap Dickies chinos help to ensure they reach the till. The star of the show is Article’s hidden shoe room, which features a host of highly Instagrammable features, from the distinctive wood sculpture to the colour-coordinated selection of kicks. Now reopen Tuesday - Saturday for the new hours of 11am - 6pm.
61 Atlantic Road, SW9, 020 7274 5714
Having outgrown its original showroom above Bethnal Green’s Approach Tavern pub, modern tailoring outfitters Beggars Run have relocated to roomier premises befitting their growing reputation in nearby Old Street. While you won’t be able to pick up a pint with your made-to-measure suit, its moleskin bombers and relaxed take on formal will ensure happy customers. As always, the showroom remains a by-appointment-only operation and gloves and masks will be worn for every fitting, while rooms will be sanitised and garments steamed between appointments.
33A Charlotte Road, EC2, 020 8133 3466
Couverture & The Garbstore
Housed in a converted period townhouse, this cult concept store makes you feel like you’re wandering around an (exceptionally tasteful) living room. Set across three floors, this Notting Hill haven is actually two shops sandwiched together. The ground and galleried first floors make up Couverture and are dedicated to womenswear from strictly independent labels plus jewellery, accessories, kidswear and the odd piece of furniture. Meanwhile the basement is home to menswear brand Garbstore. Here, its own vintage-inspired buys for boys are showcased alongside a good selection of cult international brands, many of which are exclusive to the UK.
Now re-open 7 days a week, the shop is offering one-to-one personalised shopping experiences after hours each evening (between 5-7pm), alongside virtual shopping services via FaceTime throughout the day, both of which can be booked online.
188 Kensington Park Road, W11, 020 7229 2178
One of the original – and still one of the best – independent lifestyle boutiques in London, this Holland Park gem boasts well-selected womenswear, eclectic homeware and great gifts. But this shop is as much about West London’s smallest style set as it is their mums, with its hotchpotch of toy-box must-haves and mini-me pompom bags and Breton tops.
141 Portland Road, W11, 020 7727 6760
The passion project of three sisters Disha, Apee and Yukti – hence the name D.A.Y – who live locally and whose parents were shopkeepers for over 40 years, this pocket-sized shop in Peckham specialises in Scandi-chic labels and independent designers from the community of South East London creatives. Here you’ll find womens- and menswear alongside gift ideas and little treats for your home, plus a Little DAY section of cool and unusual kidswear from the likes of Our Little Tribe and Small Stories. The website also offers Shop the Look capsules of chic ready-made outfits. The post-lockdown lowdown includes a limit of two customers in store, while unwanted items are to be left in the fitting room after trying on for steam cleaning before being returned to the shop floor. The shop has also introduced private shopping sessions – book in advance for a slot lasting between 15 minutes to 1 hour and you’ll have the place to yourself.
143 Bellenden Road, SE15, 077 1949 7627
Since its conception in 2001 by Scotsman Cathal McAteer, this menswear brand has quietly established itself as a purveyor of unpretentious style. The airy, whitewashed shop displays its signature workman’s jackets and chunky ribbed knits in suitably industrial surroundings. The street is also home to the brand’s only dedicated women’s store at number 53.
The label’s shop in Shoreditch is also reopen for business, but boutiques in Kings Cross, Golborne Road and Soho remain closed for now.
49 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1, 020 7404 6458
The Goodhood Store
East London brand Goodhood reinvents the department store set-up for the Shoreditch crowd. Everything it stocks – from sweatshirts to tasteful smellies and stationery to stylish slippers – showcases its knack for the niche.
The shop is still shut for the time being, but plans are in place to open at the end of July. Watch this space.
151 Curtain Road, EC2A, 020 7729 3600
Founded by sisters Georgie and Lou, Hub has been dressing Sokey’s café-hopping residents for over 15 years. Threads by cult Danish label Ganni and homegrown favourite LF Markey are always in good supply, as is the shop’s own line Allsea.
49 Stoke Newington Church Street, N1, 020 72544494
Luna & Curious
This indie shop on Shoreditch’s cool Calvert Avenue was opened in 2006 by a collective of young artisans – ceramicists Polly George and Kaoru Parry and jeweller Rheanna Lingham. Their own stock of handmade mugs and acetate earrings takes pride of place in this miniature department store, alongside a melting pot of fresh homegrown talent. Architectural hoops from Dalston-based minimalist jeweller Jenny Sweetnam, knits from family-run Welsh label Mabli and a plethora of old school toys and modern kids’ books are just some of the reasons why this is a gift hunters dream. There are free masks and hand sanitizer on arrival and new opening hours span 11am – 4pm Friday – Sunday, though you can still buy online and collect from the store on Mondays and Thursdays, 12 – 4pm.
24-26 Calvert Avenue, E2, 020 3222 0034
Conceived by fashion showroom agent Maria Lemos, this bijou boutique is a celebration of understated luxury. Discover niche jewellers on the ground floor or descend the spiral staircase into a warren of tiny, tiled rooms that contain a concentration of under-the radar labels including draped dresses by Dosa and denim by 45rpm.
29 Chiltern Street, W1, 020 7224 4010
The Old Cinema
Housed in a former Edwardian picture house, The Old Cinema is billed as London’s only antique, vintage and retro department store and is home to a collective of dealers. Attracting a high class of international interior scourers, the variety of treasures in this family-run emporium is ever-changing and particularly well-versed in kitting out home studies thanks to its wealth of mid-century desks. They also boast a bespoke furniture workshop and an antique restoration service.
160 Chiswick High Road, W4, 020 8995 4166
Renowned for its understated aesthetic and dedication to British manufacturing, Hackney’s Percival is the work of a team of five who design, produce and shoot everything from their London studio. Collections are small and perfectly formed – think signature embroidered sweatshirts and hip-but-wearable houndstooth overshirts – and are sold direct to customers to keep middle man costs down. More of a showroom than a shop, visits to the HQ must be booked in advance in slots of 30 minutes via its website.
43 Berwick Street, W1, 020 7734 4533
This tiny yet enormously influential boutique, run by its famously fastidious founder Maureen Doherty, is one of the capital’s most highly rated cult shops among those in the know. Housed in a former dairy, Egg still retains its original blue and white tiles, wooden barn doors and sense of honest authenticity. Its USP is simple and sophisticated clothing with an arty schew, which is designed to be worn and loved forever – a sentiment that is reflected in the steep price tags. Comfort, quality and timelessness are key, with brands such as Sophie D’Hoore, Dosa and Casey represented. While nowadays Egg also has an ecommerce site, this is a shop you have to visit in person to appreciate fully. Frequent trips are recommended as Doherty routinely curates her wares as if it were a gallery.
For now, Egg is open for one on one appointments only, but is also offering digital appointments for those unable to travel. Call or email to arrange.
36 Kinnerton Street, SW1X, 020 7235 9315
The next time you want to brush up on your knowledge of little-known twentieth-century female writers, head straight for Persephone Books. Its picture-postcard storefront conceals a wealth of forgotten works by women, rebound in chic, signature grey covers, decorated with beautiful endpapers and ready to enjoy the cult following they deserve.
59 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1, 020 7242 9292
Present & Correct
Grown-up lovers of old school stationery will find much to line their pencil cases with at Present & Correct. This meticulously organised shop in Angel, founded by graphic designers Neal Whittington and Mark Smith in 2012, specialises in sourcing iconic and retro office supplies from Europe - some of them highly practical, others just aesthetically pleasing. Hermes baby typewriters site side-by-side with calligraphy sets, old-fashioned airmail envelopes and vintage erasers, while the ingenious keyboard brush from Berlin is ideal for sweeping out even the most deeply embedded Hula Hoop crumbs. If you need any further encouragement to overhaul your workspace, the range of Bakelite desk tidies, big brass scissors and 1970s click calendars are also guaranteed to induce colleague envy.
Open 12 – 6.30pm, Tuesday – Saturday.
23 Arlington Way, EC1, 020 7278 2460
The back room in this unassuming shop in East Dulwich is home to the biggest selection of rare and unusual perfumes in the UK – none of which you will recognise, but all of which have the potential to become your new signature scent. The front showroom also stocks the full range of Mrs White’s natural products: a cult line of old-school cleaning products and body lotions inspired by the owner’s great grandmother’s sworn-by recipes.
125 Lordship Lane, SE22, 020 8693 5150
The Third Estate
Best known for its selection of vegan leather shoes, this popular Camden boutique has an emphasis on cruelty-free and ethically-traded fabric and manufacture. The Third Estate also champions socially-conscious brands including sustainable denim label Mud Jeans and organic cotton shirts from Cologne-based brand Armed Angels.
27 Brecknock Road, N7, 020 3620 2361
Setting up shop in 2010, Trunk’s owner Mats Klingberg set a benchmark for one-stop menswear shopping. It’s two-storey boutique at number 8 was the first to bring respected international brands such as Beams+, Aspesi and Montedoro to London, while its accessories-focussed Labs offshoot at number 34 supplies all the finishing touches.
8 Chiltern Street, W1, 020 7486 2357
Wolf & Badger
Having started life as a small Notting Hill boutique in 2010 and later relocating to prestigious Dover Street, this ethical department store opened a huge new flagship in Kings Cross last year. With 12,000sq ft spread over three floors, the space is home to more than 600 independent brands from fashion to homeware and beauty, all with a strict no sweatshop, no fur, no animal testing and small production run only ethos. In essence, it’s an antidote to fast fashion. The in-store café is also reopen on the ground floor for takeaway coffees, grab-and-go sandwiches and picnic pre-orders, along with the top floor restaurant Hicce and courtyard terrace serving espresso martini on draft.
32 Dover Street, W1S, 020 3627 3191
Whether you’re after a hand-tied bouquet of blooms or a botanical gift fresh off the workbench, owner Alice, florist Pip and, crucially, shop dogs Goose and Bertie, are on hand to help.
This pretty plant shop specialises in potted succulents and contemporary arrangements — they offer home delivery to most central London postcodes too — while intimate floristry workshops span flower crowns and wreath-making classes.
Botanique also stocks a meticulously curated edit of treasures from local producers, including Hackney-based kidswear label What Mother Made and Netil Market’s dog-loving brand Fetch and Follow, while its own products are made during the day at the counter or in the studio downstairs. Add in its charming collection of handmade cards and you’ve got the perfect pre-party pitstop.
Social distancing measures are limited to three customers at a time and those who would prefer not to enter the shop can browse online for delivery or choose click and collect at checkout.
31 Exmouth Market, EC1
Conceived by three friends — Tori, Mary and Matthew — with a shared love of good design, Triangle on Chatsworth Road stocks all the barometers of taste (think HAY stationery, Fig + Yarrow bath soaks and striped Breton tees from the hard-to-find Form & Thread) alongside a steady supply of great-quality mid-century vintage furniture. In essence, it’s the sort of shop you could snap up in its entirety.
Plus, the shop will continue to offer free local delivery too.
81 Chatsworth Road, E5
The most distinguishable feature of this beloved Crouch End kids boutique - namely, the big yellow slide in the corner - may be temporarily closed, the shop itself is up and running and stocked to the rafters with pocket-money playthings, nostalgic wind-up toys and lovable clothing labels you won’t find anywhere else.
Currently, parents are also encouraged to shop alone and not as a family in a bid to help discourage unnecessary handling of products.
5 Topsfield Parade, N8
Shop London: An Insider’s Guide to Spending like a Local by Emma McCarthy is published by Frances Lincoln, £9.99. Buy it here.