Chic but cheap
For vintage clothing, Fridays are best at London’s legendary Portobello Road Market on Portobello Road (get there by 8 a.m. for the best selection). Start at the undercover market, alongside Cambridge Garden Road, where you’ll find fab vintage clothes, shoes and accessories, antique textiles and bric-a-brac. And don’t be shy about trying to strike a bargain. Then toward Golborne Road, where you’ll find stores stuffed with antiques alongside great Portuguese and Moroccan cafés. Walk farther and you’ll be rewarded with Rellik (8 Golborne Rd.), a fabulous but pricey vintage clothing store with an amazing Vivienne Westwood collection. Keep your eye out for Kate Moss, who’s known to riffle through the racks.
In London’s West End, Topshop (photo to right), in Oxford Circus, is a fashion mecca: runway and trend-driven looks arrive in record speed and you’ll find them here at the best prices. Really, no outfit is complete without a bit of Topshop’s cheap frippery thrown in for fun. And celebs know this, too—although they go undercover or send their stylists to do the gathering.
Scent Systems, 11 Newburgh St.—a tiny jewelry box of a store—is owned and run by ex-Torontonian Hiram Green. The collection of perfumes he carries fits with his purist aesthetic for innovation and quality (we were intrigued by Absinthe by Aftelier). Prices start in the affordable low 20s and exceed £200 at the top end. Or book off time from your shopaholic schedule to create your very own bespoke scent; expect to spend £150 for just over 17 mL.
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If Brit/homegrown labels appeal, head for Wigmore Street, where you’ll find Margaret Howell at number 34. Fans of Paul Smith love this label, too, which was launched in the ’70s. The men’s and women’s collections are as true to the designer’s classic vision as ever, with lovely fabrics, simple detailing, precise cuts, relaxed tailoring and quirky touches. Get your decor fix while you’re here: this flagship store houses mid- to late-20th-century-designed furniture, home-accessory classics and a concise selection of design reference books.
For a different flavour, try Marylebone High Street, where you’ll find stores with a well-heeled, typical Brit feel. Look in on The White Company, 12 Marylebone High St., for quality chic fashion and housewares.
Looking for the designers with street cred? Head to the hottest department store: Selfridges (photo to right), 400 Oxford St. The ground floor houses Spirit—key collections from all the hot high-street names in women’s wear and shoes: Topshop, Warehouse, French Connection and more. Don’t miss the best of high design and high fashion on the other floors. If you’re in need of still more designer retail therapy (Dries Van Noten, Marc by Marc Jacobs or See by Chloé, anyone?), check out Liberty, 210–225 Regent St. Walking through that Tudor black-and-white frontage on Great Marlborough Street makes you feel as if you’re as unique and eclectic as the department store itself.
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If you want to feel like a character from an Agatha Christie novel, then stay at The Savoy (photo to right). You’ll feel transported back to Art Deco London from the lobby all the way to your room’s bathroom. This is the place to try out that Greta Garbo 1930s glam you’ve had tucked in your closet. Prices start at £239 per night (but don’t scrimp and go without a view of the Thames). If money is no object, check into the deluxe £1,399-a-night two-bedroom river-view suite.
And there’s no need to look beyond (Michelin-starred) The Savoy Grill for dinner. Recommended: the tasting menu for £65 (including hand-dived scallops, pan-fried sea bass with smoked eel and rack of Cornish lamb with celery-leaf gnocchi).
For those who prefer to save their pounds for London’s finer boutiques, there’s the funky Guesthouse West. This sexy little B&B is located perfectly: close to fab local shopping and great places to hang. The Edwardian building has been transformed into a clean and simple yet quality-filled bijou residence. Prices start at £145, including your own en suite bathroom and breakfast. Recommended: grab a latte and breakfast out front on the terrace and watch oh-so-trendy West London go by. (Heads up, Sienna Miller may just stroll past.)
One thing to remember while experiencing this city: whatever you do, do it with conviction—stride down Oxford Street, drink your tea with dedication, hail a black cab and shop with abandon. London is grand whether you take the luxe route and blow the bank or choose a slightly less plastic-melting path. It’s up to you.
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