As you well know, I was totally stoked for the shopping opportunities in London. Oxford Street, Topshop, H & M, Markets, Opshopping, Goldhawk road (fabric shopping)… It was going to be Amazing.
Well, I may have over-hyped the shopping. Everything in London is expensive. Like, really really expensive. You’d look at the price of something in GBP and think, “thats not bad.” Then you would convert to NZD and think “OHMYGOD!” Converting was a mistake.
Also, there was nothing on sale. Like, nothing. One of my first days there I was in topshop and there was a bunch of stuff on sale. But it was early in the trip and I wanted to do more shopping at the end of the trip. I went back days later – Sale Over. Nothing left. Just gone. Not a single item on sale in the topshop on Oxford Street which is 3 stories and includes a tattoo parlour, hair salon and a cafe. Apparently London has such high stock turnover, there just aren’t sales racks like there are in the US and NZ. How was I to know?
Needless to say, topshop did not get any of my money on this holiday.
So if you’re after a bargain, where do you go in London?
Camden Market. I scored a dress for £12, and 3 scarves for £1.50 each. Admittedly, Camden is mostly full of Asian imports these days, there were still some vintage stalls, stalls selling handmade leather goods (definitely the place to pick up a leather satchel in London!). Camden is just awesome and makes for a great afternoon (or entire day in our case!). Also, the basement tea room is another highlight, with £2 milkshakes and beautiful little cakes. They do full english breakfast and afternoon teas as well, but sadly we didn’t quite manage to squeeze one in!
Op Shops. I went to the Salvation Army just off of Oxford Street as I had read online that it’s near the Vogue Headquarters and occasionally gets some very cool items. I did pick up 2 dresses there (one Dorothy Perkins and one Topshop). D found some books. They also have a loyalty card, and you get a discount if you use their reusable bag and drop off items! I did see several pairs of 7 for all mankind jeans in store (sadly for me, they were all men’s jeans!) and some, uh, “funky” dresses. The major downside of this store is there is no fitting room. So you either try things on in the store, or guess. Although if you’re looking for super cheap things, you may find that even the op shops are pricey (I did!).
Brick Lane. D and I went and had lunch at Brick Lane one day as it’s known for having great Indian (and it’s a bit like Lygon Street in Melbourne, where all the restaurants compete for your business and offer you free drinks, etc. to get you in the door). However, I saw a sign advertising a weekend Vintage clothing market. Sadly, we were there on a Tuesday or something, so I made a mental note to come back. We ended up returning on Easter Sunday and the Brick Lane was in full swing. Food vendors, antiques, vintage clothing stalls (vintage dresses for £20)… But I was determined to find the vintage clothing market! I wasn’t disappointed. It was overwhelming again, with dozens of stalls, tons of menswear, vinyl records, military jackets… And the only dress that I had seen an liked (apart from a ~£200 in Anthropologie, but there was no way I was paying $400NZD for a dress, no matter how cute!). Anyways, I had been searching high and low for a black or ivory dress that would be suitable for my graduation. And I found a black Chloe dress which fit the bill and the budget! Is it vintage? I’m not sure. But it’s Chloe so apparently that is kind of a big deal. So that was a shopping success. I also scored a totally sweet skirt which you will eventually see.
So to sum up – London is tricky for the bargain inclined. I did a lot of shopping, but not a lot of purchasing. I guess I’d rather buy something on sale from a more upmarket store than something full price in H & M or Primark (although I did try on the most beautiful tan and black suede leather jacket in H & M which I now kind of regret not trying harder to find in my proper size – oh well). Even H & M wasn’t as cheap as I remember (from 10 years ago). Yes, Topshop has some cool pieces… but nothing that was cool enough for me to shell out full price for. Maybe I should have tried harder to get to some of the boutique shops, but I doubt they would have been in my budget.
That is not to say I didn’t have some successes. I did find a graduation dress. I bought scarves for £1.50 each (thanks to my sister for that tip)! And I finally bought a handbag. But that story will have to wait until you see it…