From the finest designer shops and luxury department stores to edgy boutiques, London is every global traveller’s ultimate shopping destination. British Vogue's fashion features director offers you a helping hand around this unique capital
From the finest designer shops and luxury department stores to edgy boutiques, London is every global traveller’s ultimate shopping destination. British Vogue fashion features writer Sarah Harris offers you a helping hand around this unique capital
Status bags at Harvey Nichols
From the comfort of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, you don’t have to look far to find desirable shopping destinations. In fact, walk down the front steps (or look out of your hotel room window, depending on which tantalising view you have) and you’ll find it impossible to miss Harvey Nichols, which stands in all its imposing glory directly opposite. With eight floors of men’s and women’s designer fashion, beauty and home collections, it conveniently caters for most (if not every) shopping requirement.
London is an accommodating city to shop in. If the idea appeals, it’s possible to shop in all its best districts by foot, via Hyde Park – Mandarin Oriental’s back garden – which links Knightsbridge to Mayfair. Easy to navigate, every shopping neighbourhood feels like its own unique city – choose from polished Knightsbridge, smart Mayfair and vibrant Notting Hill. The stores are just as varied, from those steeped in history to the new wave of über-fashionable design emporiums and quirky, off-beat boutiques. Shopping here is as diverse and cosmopolitan as Londoners themselves, and it’s not surprising that this city has long been tagged the epicentre of cool.
Harvey Nichols is a good place to start. In addition to offering the biggest selection of Lanvin and Balenciaga, there’s always an exciting launch or exclusive product line selling here. Take full advantage and book Mandarin Oriental’s ‘Harvey Nichols 100’ package. Guests receive luxury overnight accommodation with views over Sloane Street (naturally) and a £100 shopping voucher to spend in the store. There is also the opportunity of a late check-out to maximise shopping time. No doubt you’ll need it.
A Lanvin display at Dover Street Market
Stroll further down Sloane Street to Roger Vivier for a couture-worthy selection of shoes, including the famous Belle du Jour buckled styles, and patent, silk and crystal-embellished clutch bags. Harrods is a minute’s walk away (use the side street, Hans Crescent, rather than brave the bustling walk along Brompton Road). It’s a gargantuan store that requires a good sense of direction as it covers 4.5 acres, with more than one million square feet of selling space, made up of 330 departments. No matter how many times you visit, it’s impossible not to get lost, but there are far worse places to be lost in. At Harrods anything is possible. This is the store where Noël Coward was once bought an alligator for Christmas from its Pet Shop, where Ronald Reagan was on the receiving end of a baby elephant named Gertie, and from where Alfred Hitchcock had fresh herrings flown to him in Hollywood. It even looks magical with its twinkling façade made up of 12,000 lightbulbs.
The quirky Hut Box at Dover Street Market
Browsing at Dover Street Market
Here, anything can be customised, from chocolates to luggage. In addition to offering a monogram service, Italian luggage label Valextra (synonymous with jetsetters Aristotle Onassis and Grace Kelly) can custom-make a bag or suitcase in any choice of leather and colour. Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Anya Hindmarch also offer made-to-order items here. Other highlights include the Shoe Boudoir, which is dedicated to the world’s finest shoe experts including Christian Louboutin, Rupert Sanderson and Giuseppe Zanotti. If it’s all too overwhelming, enlist the help of the award-winning By Appointment, a complimentary service with a dedicated team of personal shoppers. If you’re shopping for gifts, don’t miss the new master wrappers, Wrapology. Choose from hand-painted or mock-croc paper, or even wrapping designed by the London-based award-winning fashion designers Basso & Brooke.
Clothes by Tao Comme des Garçons
An Asprey window display
For something entirely different, head over to the revolutionary Dover Street Market in Mayfair. This 13,000 sq ft, six-floor design emporium is the vision of Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo and her husband and co-founder, Adrian Joffe. The place is designed like a street bazaar with fashion, taxidermy, homewares, books and curiosities all jostling for space. It’s no wonder DSM is currently one of London’s hottest shopping destinations. The designers, including Alber Elbaz and Azzedine Alaïa, all build their own shop fits or ‘stands’, coming in personally twice a year to merchandise and shift things around. They all shop here, too, and it’s not unusual to find Marc Jacobs or Stella McCartney browsing. Current highlights include Ronnie Cooke Newhouse’s ‘Ronnie Loves’ stall, Pierre Hardy’s shoe boutique, vintage clothing label Decades and the LA-based Cameron Silver line. But the beauty of this store is that it is ever-changing, with new ‘curators’ invited to set up shop every season. Don’t leave without sampling the Rose Bakery (Rose is Joffe’s sister) on the fourth floor for fig-packed scones, brownies and deep-filled quiches – it’s all delicious.
The beauty of Dover Street Market is that it is ever-changing with ‘curators’ setting up shop
From Dover Street turn into New Bond Street, where you’ll find every high-end designer from Louis Vuitton, YSL and Gucci to Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Alexander McQueen, but first, prioritise a visit to Asprey. This British luxury house (resplendent from a recent overhaul by Sir Norman Foster) is over 225 years old, but is getting a new lease of life from its newly appointed creative director Hakan Rosenius. Head to ready-to-wear – Rosenius’ first collection – and don’t leave without buying at least one of the gold-crested belts boasting Asprey’s coat of arms.
Housed in a Grade II-listed building, Grays Antique Market is a short walk away. Here you’ll find antique jewellery (it’s renowned for sensational engagement rings – John Joseph at stand 345-346 has the best selection). You’ll stumble across vintage clothing, rare books, coins, medals, paintings, drawings, collectable ceramics and curiosities from more than 200 dealers.
Silverware at Grays Antique Market
The interior of Asprey, designed by Sir Norman Foster
Selfridges should be your only stop on Oxford Street (it’s Europe’s largest high street so you don’t want to spend too long here, and Selfridges is the very best it has to offer). The Wonder Room is a 19,000 sq ft luxury emporium on the ground floor. Set out like a souk, it’s home to trinkets by Chanel, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co and Chrome Hearts. There are unusual finds, too, such as Japanese toys, an 18m wall bedecked in sunglasses, a wine vending machine where you can buy tasting measures before you buy the bottle, and a space where every couple of months an artist or designer is invited to display their own seven wonders.
Shopping here is as cosmopolitan and diverse as Londoners themselves
Finally, take a taxi to Ledbury Road, which runs off the delightfully pretty Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, and is home to some of London’s finest boutiques. Make Matches your first stop. It is home to menswear as well as womenswear, and there is no designer left unturned by owner Tom Chapman’s beady eye. Highlights include Zagliani bags in super-soft metallic snakeskin and crocodile, Lutz & Patmos knitwear (this season’s collaborating celebrity guest designer is Julianne Moore) and Matches’ own label, Freda. More labels are conveniently housed opposite, across the road in Matches Spy. Don’t worry about splurging either, as you don’t have to carry your shopping back. If you are a guest of Mandarin Oriental, Matches will courier your purchases to your hotel room. Even better, they will come to you so you can shop from your room. Call the store with a list of items you want to try or tell them the event you need to dress for, and a personal shopper will arrive and set up shop before your very eyes.
Stella McCartney at Selfridges
Cupcakes at the Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road
Westbourne Grove is also home to Mulberry, the all-year holiday boutique Heidi Klein, Lacy Gallery (a small store packed floor-to-ceiling with antique Venetian and gold baroque frames in every shape and size), Nicole Farhi (home to the 202 Café, which invariably attracts the West London chic set) and Wint & Kidd, the fine jewellery boutique (a treat to visit with its Matthew Williamson-designed interior – all black lacquered screens, gold bamboo gates and oriental wallpaper). Coloured diamonds are its speciality. If you can face the crowds, Portobello Road Market is a fun place to stroll at the weekend. The top of the road, from Westbourne Grove down, is home to antique dealers. Be sure to stop off at The Hummingbird Bakery for a butter-iced cupcake, but expect to queue.
If you are a guest of Mandarin Oriental, Matches will courier purchases to your hotel
Jewellery designer Tara Agace in her mews house/workshop
Tara’s raw materials
Finally, Tara Agace is a jewellery designer who works on a by-appointment-only basis from her charming mews house off Ladbroke Grove. If you can’t find anything from her own designs (it’s unlikely, with everything from delicate gold and white-gold chains to elaborate chandelier earrings), she has her own wonderful collection of antique jewellery and is happy to see it go to a good home.
Make The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park your last stop of the day. After a dip in the vitality pool (you’ll be surprised at how quickly a day’s shopping fatigue washes away), book in for the 50-minute Padabhyanga Foot Therapy treatment. Your feet are rested on heated pebbles, then bathed in warm water while a therapist exfoliates and smooths them, along with your ankles and lower legs. Bliss.