Shop til you Drop? An Alternative to Black Friday

spitalfields.jpg

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.

London in a Day

Only got one day in the big bad city? Don’t waste it getting mowed down by school trips and tourists, seeing the obvious attractions (that you’ve probably seen before) or being disappointed by mediocre meals. Check out my suggestions for when time is tight…

spitalSpitalfields Market

24 Hours in London

London is about far more than Big Ben, the London Eye, M+M world and Piccadilly Circus. Away from the black cabs and tourist traps, avoiding the Steakhouses and Starbucks that litter the streets, there is a London with quirky cafes, hidden museums, historical pubs and scintillating stories. But is it possible to get a taste of this underground-London in only 24 hours?

A sensible starting place would be Liverpool Street; a perfect doorway to the city. Begin with a hearty breakfast at the Bishopsgate Kitchen (if chorizo hash or eggs Benedict appeals), people-watch by way of the café’s glass front , and pick from a selection of teas to set you up for the day ahead. Old Spitalfields, which is right outside, is a haven of crafts and creatives; depending on the day, this could be the home of a rotating flea market, vintage record sale, or art stalls. For a peek at Hipster Central, take a nose up Brick Lane, and try on a couple of 70’s outfits in Rokit if you’re feeling brave.

A tube journey to Charing Cross will site you in the perfect location for a free lunchtime concert at St Martins in the Fields, where a spot of classical tunage will add some cultural scope to your day. Heading up to Covent Garden from here is a short walk, and allows you to take in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and the ever-changing Fourth Plinth. The BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is a chance to absorb a variety artwork without trekking around the entire place if time is tight. By this time, I imagine a nibble might be in order: sample an array of salads, divine cakes and bakes (ginger and salted caramel loaf, anyone?) proper coffee and friendly staff at Black Penny Café to fuel you up for further exploring.

Explorers keen on bizarre Korean and Japanese nik-naks should have a deco in Artbox, a crazy stationary shop off Neal’s Yard where you can buy a notebook unlike any other to jot down your memories of the day. At Holborn, step back in time with a trip to Sir John Soane’s Museum (free), where worldly treasures and an insanely cool picture room (authentic Hogarths, and opening walls) is enough to make you feel as if you are in a novel. The first Tuesday of each month offers an evening candlelit tour of the place, which, trust me, is definitely worth a half hour queue (and surely queueing is part of the London initiation?)

A swift pint in The Princess Louise, a pub with nooks and crannies that are ever appearing provides the ideal precursor to an imaginative cocktail at Merchant House, where jazz music and a speakeasy feel accompany concoctions featuring everything from chamomile tea to chocolate bitters. Sit back in the vintage Chesterfield sofas, soak up the Mad Men vibe: exhausted, satisfied, enlightened and enthused, you’ll wish you had more than a day to spend in the Capital of Capitals.