Shop til you Drop? An Alternative to Black Friday

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Head to Spitalfields Market to avoid High Street mania

Fashion in London is unavoidable. Between the Fashion Weeks, Oxford Street offers a beacon of trend inspiration and even taking a tube journey, the sheer variety of clothes is amazing. London is the ultimate melting pot of styles and looks, creating a sense that you really can wear anything (although the leopard-print unitard clad woman in Stratford caused me doubt this slightly, I must admit).

With Black Friday mania from America gradually becoming a similar mad shopping day full of deals and steals, high streets are cottoning in to the fact that this is the time to persuade shoppers they NEED that dress. (I am still fairly convinced it’s only called Black Friday from the sheer amount of black eyes acquired from wrestling fellow shoppers to the floor to get half price TVs: shopping is dangerous, people)

This week, BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour has been running a series of broadcasts on the theme of appearance. Whilst some may shun this focus as ‘shallow’, it cannot be denied that how we feel, how we see ourselves, and how we judge others is influenced by what we look like. The pressure to look a certain way, to follow the newest trends and buy the latest pieces is an everyday occurrence, arguably intensified by the growing role of social media and its increasing influence on our fashion choices .

In the city, style tribes are inevitable; it’s fairly easy to tell a Shoreditch hipster from a Kings Road fashionista, but there is a great deal of looks that are unique mish-mashes of trends and pieces:  London is arguably the most diverse fashion cities  in the world.

Not only is there a wealth of high street shops and chains, but London also plays host to a good few markets and independent boutiques where you can find something a little different. I say, avoid Black Friday, shin the crowds and head to my pick of some of the city’s more unique shopping destinations to find some Christmas presents: (Note: I am not in any way pretending to be any kind of style blogger, so take my suggestions with a pinch of salt/glitter)

 

For an arts and crafts market with a bit of vintage: Spitalfields

Artisan jewellers and up-and-coming designers collide daily in Spitalfields Market, near Liverpool Street. Find vintage furs amongst one-off dresses, hand embroidered scarves mingling with leather boots, and all of the accessories. Daily, with special markets on certain days.

 

 For a fashion pop-up: Favotell 

The huge number of art students and creatives in one place is bound to create some innovate mixes and merges. One such merge which has so far been little explored is the link between Shanghai and London, which is where Favotell comes in. Favotell is the brainchild of Central St Martin’s graduate Kong Jialin who saw a gap in the market for a cultural bridge between the two cities. From December 1st until the 4th, Favotell are running a pop-up store near Oxford Street at Gallery Different (14 Percy Street, London, W1T 1DR) which could be the perfect opportunity to get your hands on some Shanghai-inspired outfits.

 

For shops with a bit of an edge: Carnaby Street

Just off Oxford Street sits this legendary fashion haven, with shops such as Monki and Muji that offer a welcome break from the madness and size of the stores on the main drag. Kingly Court is also a fab place to stop for a bite between shopping, and there’s some great coffee spots around there too.

 

For hit and miss bargains and a few rummaged gems: TK Maxx

This well-known chain is a favourite amongst bargain hunters for quality and designer items often at half the price. There is no guarantee of size availability, or that the same thing will be there next time, so it’s a case of grab it while you can. Shoppers must be willing to do a bit of digging!

 

For Vintage heaven: Brick Lane

Just by Spitalfields you’ll find Brick Lane, hipster central and THE place for vintage pieces. As well as the Sunday market, there are a fair few vintage shops such as Rokit and Blitz which have rails and rails of everything from sequinned dresses to lumberjack shirts and retro Christmas jumpers. At the stalls, it is always worth haggling – start low in the hope they will meet you in the middle.

 

P.S. I wish you luck on your present buying/fashion finding/Black Friday avoiding mission.

SACRED, Carnaby Street: A chain-free caffeine hit in Central

Carnaby Coffee

Fuelling up with a Flat White

Fuelling up with a Flat White

Stepping off the tube at Oxford Circus is an ordeal that occasionally requires therapy. The crowds of tourists, taking selfies outside Topshop; the steel pan musicians, providing a soundtrack to the street; the Hari Krishna’s parading with their instruments – this is a flippin’ busy place.

Rather than negotiate the heaving throngs of people, or barge your way into a shop/cafe of your choosing, I suggest wandering down Little Argyll Street, which will take you to the (hopefully) quieter, and (definitely) cooler Carnaby Street.

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See – they do alcohol too!

Don’t be lured in by the Starbucks or Pret which grace the beginning of this iconic street: hold tight a few minutes longer and turn down Ganton Street, making your way to the haven that is Sacred.

Granted, a caffeine hit here may set you back a few more pennies than your usual latte at a chain, but it is most definitely worth it. The coffee is rich and velvety, the decor cool and quirky (take a look downstairs…), and they even do cocktails if you’re feeling truly traumatised by your brief foray down the Street of Streets. In fact, I bet their Espresso Martini is something else (note to self: try this next time).

Friendly service provides a welcome change to other cafes you may frequent, and the fact you can sit outside (should this British weather ever offer some relief from the cold/wet) means that this little gem is a perfect stop off.

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Q: Is it a bird, is it a plane? A: No, it’s a leaf (obviously)

If coffee’s not your thang, their loose leaf tea selection and incredible antique teapots are an experience. If tummies are rumbling, there are various nibbles to be had (I’ve been reassured their tapas board is a winner). Sit back, delight in the SACRED atmosphere, take in some proper coffee, and try to pluck up the courage to tackle the busy streets.

*disclaimer: PTSD therapy not supplied following a trip to Oxford Street