London is rightfully known as a shopper’s paradise, with everything from mega malls to sassy street markets and bijou boutiques. Read our editors' guide to find the best shopping streets where you can shop to your heart’s content.
Oxford Street is officially Europe’s busiest shopping street. Londoners have a love-hate relationship with the road, but what Oxford Street does better than anywhere else in London is give you a mile-and-a-half-long supply of high-street stores. Many of these offer catwalk-inspired pieces at affordable prices. There are reliable brands, from Marks and Spencer to H&M, and iconic department stores such as Debenhams (which underwent a £25 million refurbishment for its 200th anniversary), and John Lewis, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.
The street is also home to one of the world’s most iconic stores: Selfridges. Built in 1909, the shop has enviable designer names, the world’s largest denim studio, an irresistible food hall and even its very own cinema.
There are plenty of popular stores: Primark, which now has two branches on the street, is all about fast fashion; HMV is one of the few places you can still buy CDs; and The Disney Store is a paradise for children.
A stroll down this elegant street can feel like you’re name checking some of the biggest brands in the world. The south end, running from Oxford Street to Piccadilly Circus, is the stuff that luxury dreams are made of. With its curved layout, listed buildings, Art Déco designs and (during September) pop-up art installations created by RIBA architects, Regent Street makes for a pleasant walk. The oldest stores here include Liberty with its mock Tudor exterior and wood panelled walls, and mega toy shop Hamleys, which set up shop in Regent Street in 1881.
Heritage brands include Burberry’s flagship, the largest in the world, a fashion store screening catwalk shows, live concerts and a recently- opened café. Even the changing rooms have had a digital makeover: pick up an item and hold it in front of the mirror, and watch as videos begin playing of the item on the runway.
It’s also about the new. Karl Lagerfeld and J Crew opened their new shops here, plus a huge Apple store and upmarket restaurants and spas. A "hands-free-shopping" service means you your shopping bags can be delivered straight to your hotel.
When James Bond needs a new suit, there’s only one place he will go: Savile Row tailors have been dressing the discerning gentleman for more than 200 years. The founder of Gieves and Hawkes (at no1) worked for the tailors who made Admiral Nelson’s uniform. So synonymous is the street with quality suits that the Japanese word for the garment is a ‘Sabiro’.
The street has changed with the times. In the 90s a new generation of tailors introduced a more youthful style, dressing musicians and film stars: Ozwald Boateng (no 30), Richard James (no 29) and Timothy Everest, now on nearby Bruton Place, were featured together in Vanity Fair in 1997. Alexander McQueen began his career here, working for Gieves and Hawkes and Anderson and Shepard.
That quality now extends to other types of clothes. Gaziano & Girling (G&G) were the first shoemakers on Savile Row (no 39). Nooshin, Katherine Maylin, and King & Allen (no 9-10) offer bespoke tailoring for women. The world’s oldest hatters, Lock & Co., who created the bowler hat and who supplied Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill, are based in nearby St James’s Street.
This was where the '60s swung. The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix all shopped here, and comedian Mike Myers chose to locate Austin Powers’ 1969 ‘pad’ in his spy spoof right here. Carnaby Street was pedestrianized in 1973, and became associated with the Jam and other mod bands in the late ‘70s. Its spark was rekindled in the 90s, with a revival in the Britpop music scene, and now fashion and beauty chains co-exist with trendier boutiques, skate style and urban fashions.
Among the many shoe shops are skater footwear from Vans (no 47), tough and rebellious Dr. Martens (48), the all-purpose shoe shop Office (16) and wild styles from Irregular Choice (36). Youthful British fashion is in Pretty Green, the label founded by Oasis’s lead singer Liam Gallagher (57); and Ben Sherman (50), still fresh after five decades. There’s casual Italian fashion at Lambretta (29) and Replay (11-12); Scandinavian style from Cheap Monday (38) and Monki (37); find trendy British souvenirs in We Built This City (57).
The King’s Road
Walk down the King’s Road now and it’s hard to believe this was once the centre of fashion revolutions. In the 60s Chelsea was a bohemian haunt of musicians, writers and artists. Mary Quant, inspired to create the mini-skirt by King’s Road girls, had her shop here. In the 70s it was the epicentre of punk. The Sex Pistols was a manufactured ‘boy band’ recruited by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood from customers at their shop SEX, in order to showcase Westwood’s punk fashions. They repeated the trick in the 80s with rock group Adam and the Ants, who helped launch the New Romantic look.
Westwood’s shop still stands at no 430, now named World’s End. Little else of the King’s Road’s bohemian past survives. It’s still a great shopping street, but mostly for chains such as Whistles, Space NK, Office and Banana Republic, with Peter Jones department store at the eastern end. Look out for an exciting new arrival in September: the celebrated milliner Jane Taylor, who makes hats for Beyoncé, Kate Moss and the royal family, opens her first UK shop at no 253.
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