Take a detour from your favourite, tried-and-trusted, High Street spots, and visit the 12 more-exciting shops ahead. We found the best, quirky stores, including an esoteric, hidden gem, an institution imported from the U.S., a hipster haven, and more. All of them are unconventional, local, and brimming with fabulous merchandise. See you at the tills.
One part modern goth, two parts urban luxury, Celestine Eleven has a unique offering that includes everything from bridge brands to raw food powders to limited-edition photography. In addition to its buying team's serious taste, the store's premise is utterly refreshing: “With roots firmly founded in counter culture, the store offers you the means to live well in all spheres — aesthetically, intellectually, and spiritually.” Where do we sign up?
Celestine Eleven, 4 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3ET; +44 (0) 207 729 2987.
Epitomising the fearlessness that defines London fashion, Machine-A certainly isn't for the fainthearted — and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Stocking an energetic mashup of urban and avant-garde pieces, this Soho store celebrates emerging brands, like Nazir Mazhar, as well as edgy, more-established labels, like Ashish, Sibling, and Dominic Jones. "Too cool for school" would be an accurate descriptor.
Machine-A, 13 Brewer Street, W1F 0RH; +44 (0) 207 734 4334.
Couverture & The Garbstore
In its fight against The Man and all things cookie-cutter, Couverture & The Garbstore is fully committed to indie design and retail. The Notting Hill-based, three-level store is where we head for unique finds. You can pick up boyfriend shirting from Steven Alan alongside beautiful, embroidered, heart-shaped African cushions — and pat yourself on the back for not being like all the rest.
Couverture & The Garbstore, 188 Kensington Park Road, W11 2ES; +44 (0) 207 229 2178.
The Mercantile London
The original hipster stomping ground, Spitalfields isn’t exactly lacking standout boutiques, but The Mercantile London stands head and shoulders above most. The reason: its inviting, vintage vibe (which is quaint, but not pretentious), weekly new deliveries, and loyalty-card scheme. See, Tesco? Two can play that game. It also carries over 50 designers, from Second Female to Somedays Lovin, all infused with a cool, off-duty sensibility perfect for laid-back summer days.
The Mercantile London, 17 Lamb Street, E1 6EA; +44 (0) 207 377 8926.
The Goodhood Store
Exciting times lie ahead for The Goodhood Store. The retailer exclusively revealed to us that in August, it's moving around the corner to brand-new, even-better location. Until then, you can still pay it a visit on Coronet Street and go wild in the aisles for slick Scandinavian brand, Wood Wood, master of the cheeky separate, Peter Jensen, and trend-led sunnies label, Le Specs.
The Goodhood Store, 41 Coronet Street, London, N1 6HD; +44 (0) 207 729 3600.
Luna & Curious
Describing its offering as "a cornucopia of finely rendered objects and clothing," Shoreditch-based Luna & Curious has a lot to live up to. And, it does — in spades. With a ceiling peppered with upside-down umbrellas, white half-tables stuck to the walls, and a whimsical selection of offbeat womenswear, books, and home accessories, this is the kind of place you never leave empty-handed.
Luna & Curious, 24-26 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP; +44 (0) 203 222 0034.
Late Night Chameleon Café, or LN-CC, is every bit as edgy as its name suggests. The industrial-chic space, all mirrored glass and geometric wood, is an apt host for the super-modern brands inside — from clean, cool Acne to Fleet Ilya jewellery and its high-end-dominatrix vibes. The concept shop boasts a record store, gallery, and even a club space. The clothes alone are never enough these days.
LN-CC, 18-24 Shacklewell Lane, London, E8 2EZ; +44 (0) 203 174 1542.
A clean, uncluttered space inspires confidence — confidence that the curated selection display is the very best, confidence that you needn’t go elsewhere, and confidence that you don’t have to spend hours trawling through any sartorial chaff. Kj's Laundry is the master of this philosophy, offering choice pieces from cool, contemporary brands, like Vanessa Bruno Athé, IRO, and Clover Canyon. This is indie-boutique shopping at its best.
Kj's Laundry, 74 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2PW; +44 (0) 207 486 7855.
If you haven't visited Merchant Archive, we suggest you make some changes, stat. Founded in 2007 by Sophie Merchant, it began as a tiny collection of vintage clothing. It’s now a beautiful, Notting Hill boutique frequented by the style set and offering a mix of new and old womenswear, accessories, home goods, and other covetable trinkets. Sophie’s own retro-inspired line is also available.
Merchant Archive, 19 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU; +44 (0) 207 229 9006.
Nestled on Soho’s quaint and iconic Kingly Street is OTHER/shop, a beacon of independent design and contemporary style. Founded in 2012 by former b store directors, Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie, it’s dedicated to decking the good folk of W1 out in esoteric designers, like E.Tautz and Cedric Charlier, whilst feeding their minds via the bookstore and in-house exhibition space.
OTHER/shop, 21 Kingly Street, W1B 5QA; +44 (0) 0207 734 6846.
Fashion duos don’t get cooler, or more influential, than Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. They not only turned Kenzo into a cult classic, but also founded the now-legendary concept store Opening Ceremony. The NYC institution has made its way to London, where it stocks the edgiest fashion talents (Jeremy Scott x adidas rubs shoulders with Marques’Almeida). There's also a furniture-based art installation called Tinker and an in-house bookshop. This is an absolute must-visit that more than lives up to the hype.
Opening Ceremony, 35 King Street, WC2E 8JG; +44 (0) 207 836 4978.
La Portegna was founded in Madrid in 2009. The handcrafted-Spanish-leather brand is now setting up shop on Marylebone High Street, where it brings heritage-infused wares to Londoners. The luxurious, functional, pieces are inspired by the founder’s grandmother, who traveled throughout the '30s and '40s and was friends with Hemingway. Just a warning: This store will make you want to pack up and do a Walter Mitty.
La Portegna, 26 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4PJ; +44 (0) 208 001 7850.