If you’re choosing a location for a city-break for its retail opportunities, then it’s fair to say you really can’t go wrong with the UK capital. Its possibilities when it comes to shopping are never-ending. High-street big names, department stores, trendy boutiques, giant out of-town-style malls and even outlets hidden away in former shipping containers (hello, Shoreditch’s Boxpark!); London has it at all. And yet, what if money’s, well, almost no object – or if you want to do some top-of-the-range window shopping? Where should you head for the proper luxury retail experience? Well, don’t doubt it; London’s West End is the answer, all right…
(30 Bruton Street W1J 6QR)
The ace designer actually has two stores in the capital, but this one – right in the West End’s retail hub – is perfectly placed, being that it’s to be found in the heart of majestic Mayfair. Yes, it’s filled with Ms McCartney’s stylish creations (all casual separates, knitwear, swimwear and lingerie) but it’s also terrific for some aspirational, sophisticated window shopping too.
Dover Street Market
(17-18 Dover Street W1S 4LT)
With its purity-seeking (and attaining?) minimal white interior, this high-end fashion destination just off Haymarket – so down the road from Piccadilly Circus – is where to come for collections from hot-to-trot designers like Jil Sander and Christopher Kane. Yet that’s far from all, for this highly stylish place is home not just to excellent fashion but also installations and fine views via its rooftop-based Rose Bakery.
(Great Marlborough Street W1B 5AH)
Proudly standing on the same spot it was when first opened by Mr Arthur Liberty way back in 1875, this deluxe department store is an ever enduring favourite with all shoppers – wherever they hail from in the world and whether they’re staying in one of the top West End hotels like The Montcalm London or not – thanks to its irresistible black-and-white-wood-panelled mock-Tudor exterior (which was actually built from the beams of two old-school ships). Yet, to step inside is to discover a world populated by fabulous fabrics, precious prints and delightful objets d’art, as well as opulent and exotic clobber of all kinds. As far as shops go, this one simply is beautiful inside and out.
Burlington and Piccadilly Arcades
(51 Piccadilly W1J 0QJ/ SW1Y 6AH)
With their roots in the very beginnings of the luxury urban retail experience back in the Georgian age; these two arcades are sumptuously ornate examples of shopping from a bygone time, all right. The Burlington Arcade’s all about Regency-era elegance, its exquisite little outlets specialising in jewellery and trinkets, while the more than 100-years-old Piccadilly Arcade – which runs between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street – is particularly good for more masculine-themed gifts (ranging from beautiful blazers and socks to packs of delightful toy soldiers).
(24-27 South Molton Street W1K 5RD)
Despite having started out nearly 50 years ago as a single boutique, Browns has now grown into an unequivocal chain of stores offering outstanding female fashion and women’s footwear, yet its flagship store strewn across several Mayfair townhouses remains an unbeatable retail experience. And that’s because it’s less about simple shopping than it is checking out the latest, white-hot designer trends and offerings almost in an art-gallery-like manner. And let’s be honest, can you really turn your nose up at the chance of visiting the place where the UK got its first taste of Armani, Donna Karan and Missoni?