Sure, come to London for the clothes, but skip the central crowds and megabrands and discover the thrill of the city’s classic and vintage neighbourhood stores.
Mad as a Hatter for vintage clothing!
One of the oldest hatters in London, Bates has held a spot on Jermyn Street since 1898. Once a store the size of a broom cupboard filled with tottering towers of trilbies, bowlers and fedoras, it looked like something out of a Dickens novel, complete with venerable gentlemen servers. Proving that hats never go out of fashion, a bigger space now awaits a few doors down.
House of Vintage is smack in the middle of one of the city’s most creative and quirky neighbourhoods, around Brick Lane (not far from Hotel Indigo London – Tower Hill). Moving the quality and price notch up a little, this Canadian emigré boutique concentrates on classic mid-century threads for dolls and guys, with offerings like an exquisite 1930s crepe blouse and a shiny Asian-themed trucker jacket.
With its funky flared trouser suits, 60s British boutique fashion and even the odd original folk costume, Deborah Woolf Vintage is the place to kit up before hitting the antiques paradise of Church St, Marylebone (another essential stop is the pre-loved design emporium Alfies, trading here for 40 years). Rhinestone jewellery from the 50s and 70s statement necklaces are accessories highlights of respected collector Woolf’s brilliantly curated little shop, recognisable by the original Joe’s Confectionary Stores signage above the display window.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up – vintage with modern
Also in Marylebone, William Vintage (a short walk from Hotel Indigo London – Paddington), exists in a different universe from other vintage clothing stores. In its haute couture section, a 1970s Cardin gown poses elegantly alongside a 1960s Balenciaga number and a Versace little black dress (with ruffles) from 1993. None of these superbly aged outfits will leave you change from £1,000 (or much more). Multi-floored high-end interiors emporium The Conran Shop is just around the corner.
To the north, in yummy mummy-ville Stoke Newington, Mint Vintage Clothing takes a “trend driven” approach to recycling clothing, with a strict selection of bright, eye-catching items for women and intriguing outerwear for men sourced from all over the world. One of London’s most thoughtful, sanely priced secondhand clothing stores, it’s only a short bus ride from the artist hangouts of Hackney.
In central London, Covent Garden is another neighbourhood celebrating individuality in fashion, art, food and lifestyle. In a street running off the ancient Seven Dials intersection, The Vintage Showroom feels as much a fashion museum as a men’s boutique. Come here for classic Brit bloke wear like tweed and striped college jackets, genuine boater hats and mid-century halfbelt leathers.