I'm super excited about my upcoming trip which includes a short stop in London. Naturally, I'm looking forward to the city's famed museums and historical sights but I'd be lying if I said a major appeal of a trip anywhere, especially London, wasn't shopping. Of course since I'm a retrophile, I'll be checking out area vintage shops, but part of London's uniqueness is its many many many markets. I've done some research and compiled a list of interesting places. Of course, I'd be lucky if I made it to even a few of these so I'm not going to spend my whole stay running around from shop to store to market. Even so, I'm sharing some of my research with you, just in case....
Probably the most awesome thing I've come across is the London Vintage Fashion, Textiles & Accessories Fair. This fair draws dealers from all over the U.K. and has, I'm guessing, spectacular finds worth the admission price. It take place about once a month but sadly not while I'll be in town. I'm likely to plan my next trip to London around this event because it seems not to be missed. Well, not to be missed twice anyway.
London's markets can provide you with everything from apples to accordions! A lot of the markets I've researched carry second-hand clothing but only a few have a reputation for being a good place to be on the look out for vintage clothing. The two that keep popping up again and again are the Greenwich and Portobello Road markets in the south and west, respectively. Although an honorable mention must go out to Camden Lock and Alfie's Antique Market.
If you don't want to waste too much time walking around and rummaging, I've also compiled a list of some one stop shops for vintage finds. I've looked up several "best of" lists and there are five shops, or shoppes if you please, that continuously earn praise. They are, in no particular order...
Beyond Retro, tube: Old St. This is a huge warehouse drawing a fanbase that includes celebs and specializes in "American Retro", whatever that is. Cowboy style?
Steinberg & Tolkein, tube: Sloane Sq. I couldn't find a website for this shop, but it had mostly very high user reviews. The only complaint seems to be about price, but most costumers view it has a fair trade off for getting something one of a kind. Apparently the staff is a treasure as well!
Butler & Wilson, tube: South Kensington This store has two locations but I provided the tube stop for the one in Chelsea to make it convenient to Steinberg & Tolkein. Those looking for jewelry and accessories have hit the jackpot with this store.
Rellik, tube: Westbourne Park Rellik carries a nice assortment of vintage and designer couture pieces. Apparently stylists use this place as a source, so it must be good?
Palette London, tube: Islington This shop gets rave review after rave view for its vintage as well as contemporary designers. Bonus points for cleanliness and pristine condition.
A warning, a disclaimer, and a shrug of my shoulders: The places I've listed above are just the most commonly praised and mentioned on various website, such as urbanpath and timeoutlondon. I have never been to any of them and to not make any claim to their value or integrity. I also recognize that I may have left off some great gems, which I'd love to hear about. I've also come across some warnings, online and in travel books, about problems with authenticity with London vintage. Apparently some places are misleading about what is vintage and include items from earlier this decade in a retro style but at an inflated cost. I've also read warnings of London shops being stocked from American and Canadian companies much like our Gabriel Brothers chain. I'm not saying that this is true or not true. Just be careful, (at home, online, and abroad) and know what you are getting before you buy it. Also, perhaps because of currency conversion, the comparative cost of vintage clothing is much much higher in London that here at home. (Unless maybe if you live in New York or LA?) So be smart and have fun. Sometimes just looking can be as enjoyable as buying.