Tips for a fashionable weekend in London
Forget Big Ben and Madame Tussauds: if you’re a style lover, here are the places you should visit and the things you should do
Consignment store Bang Bang on Berwick Street
Strut on Broadway Market
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington
Return of the Rudeboy, an exhibition at Somerset House. Photograph: Dean Chalkley; creative direction Harris Elliott
London, one of the most culturally and historically significant cities in the world, also knows the value of a fashion statement.
From the postwar Teddy boys and the Swinging Sixties to being the centre of fashion commerce and experimental craft it is today, London hasn’t been having a fashion moment as much as a fashion century. You couldn’t possibly stuff everything into one weekend, but the following recommendations should help you make a valiant effort.
You’ll have to fortify yourself first. The Breakfast Club, with locations dotted around the city, is perfect for a hearty breakfast. Its eggs are legendary (try the huevos rancheros with homemade chorizo). For those with a sweet tooth, the pancakes are all-American, airless wonders served with real maple syrup and crispy bacon.
Burgers are enjoying their 15 minutes in London, with US transplants Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Shake Shack, setting up in Soho and Covent Garden respectively. In the West End, Meat Liquor serves up arguably the best burger in London. In all three, prepare for queues.
With full bellies and hearts full of hope, shoppers are ready to face the day – and have all their hopes and dreams savagely stamped out on Oxford Street. The main shopping thoroughfare is best avoided, except for an early-morning pilgrimage to Topshop’s flagship four-floor store.
Oxford Street is also home to several branches of Japanese chain Uniqlo, which stocks the best cheap cashmere and cotton in the country. It also offers a free next-day alteration service for those short in leg and pocket, and is the only place to stock up on non-grannyish thermal underwear.
Late May and early December are the sample sale seasons, with designers selling their past-season or one-off catwalk goodies at up to 80 per cent off. Sales are usually held in offices and vacant spaces, and are promoted by word of mouth, so keep an eye out.
Cut-price designer goods aren’t just for sample sales, however. Consignment stores Bang Bang on Berwick Street and Strut on Broadway Market buy and sell designer and vintage goods at half the original price.
For a healthy dose of window-shopping, take a trip to Dover Street Market. This London market, which also has branches in Tokyo and New York, is the original and best home for up-and-coming and established designers, including our own Simone Rocha. It is spread over six floors, each with a different concept. Nothing is affordable but everything is beautiful.
Fashion trainspotters would do well to visit Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road. Filled top to bottom with art, fashion and photography books, many of which are out of print, it is a style nerd’s fever dream. The shop also stocks magazines that will shock and astound your friends back home; much better than a Big Ben keyring.
Fashion exhibitions are in vogue this summer. Two major fashion exhibitions are happening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington: The Glamour of Italian Fashion chronicles the postwar building of a fashion empire, while Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 is a chance to gawp at gowns belonging to Kate Moss, Dita Von Teese and other brides.
There is a retrospective of French designer Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican Centre. Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith, a look into the creative mind of the designer, runs until June 22nd at the Design Museum. Fashion Rules, an exhibition looking at the wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana, is at Kensington Palace. The photography exhibition Return of the Rudeboy – which looks at one of Britain’s more enduring subcultures and is sartorially sharp enough to cut cloth just by looking at it – is at Somerset House from June 13th.
The London Edition hotel, just off Oxford Street, has been open for less than a year and is already the place to book for Fashion Week parties. The hotel’s wood-panelled, reservation-only Punch Room is a cocktail bar with a twist, devoted to rehabilitating the tarnished legacy of punch.
The just-opened Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone, the latest venture by André Balazs, is already a favourite of Cara Delevingne and Lindsay Lohan.
The best margaritas in town can be found in cocktail king Dick Bradsell’s Pink Chihuahua, a late bar hidden away in the basement of Mexican restaurant El Camion in Soho. It is members-only, so sign up before entering.
The Zetter Hotel and its sister hotel, the Zetter Townhouse, are within a stone’s throw of each other in Clerkenwell and are an easy walk to and from Soho. The Zetter Hotel has perfectly appointed, soundproofed rooms – all luxe furnishings, exposed brick and blissful silence. The Zetter Townhouse is smaller and trendier. The 13 rooms of the converted Georgian building are individually decorated, with four-poster beds, heavy drapery and claw-foot tubs in very British colour schemes. The beds are very comfortable: one good night’s sleep and any shattered shopper will be ready to hit the streets again.