The British designer Jeremy Hackett told me recently that he started his international and eponymous clothing company by refashioning vintage suits from Portobello Market. He gave these gently-worn threads a contemporary alteration and began selling them successfully to fashionable Parisians. Like Hackett, most Londoners love to find a vintage bargain or a castoff gem. While it can be a challenge to find standout clothes in charity shops, reputable boutiques and markets have collections curated by smart, fashion-savvy buyers. Of course, when David and Victoria Beckham donated clothes to the Red Cross last year, there were queues around the block. But for the patient shopper, even everyday thrift shopping has its rewards. Keep watch for genuine vintage items and for items that are a fashionably worn-in and loved. An afternoon trawling the vintage stores of hipster central in East London will certainly yield some vintage chic treasures.
Relik opened up shop in 1999 and sells clothes from the 1930’s to today. Here, lucky buyers have found such treasures as outfits worn by Madonna in Elle and featured in Vogue. The store is housed in Trellik Tower—an iconic 60’s block designed by the man who inspired the Bond villain, Erno Goldeneye—and designers sold here include Vivienne Westwood, Alaia, and Comme des Garcons.
Brick Lane Market
From Friday to Sunday, specialists come from all over the UK and Europe to sell their modes in the bustling marketplace. I have picked up a fabulous white, wool winter coat, ever-chic from old high street label, Chelsea Girl, as well as secondhand glitzy diamanté costume jewelry. Come prepared for serious shopping, and an empty stomach: right around the corner is the city’s best Indian street food.
Beyond Retro has three branches all over the capital and four in Sweden. It has a handle on the upscale-end of the market and suggests current trends for women with pointed, sometimes humorous styles: Flapper, prom girl, or cute-weird-cool. For men, the look is consistently Hawaiian or branded-streetwear. Both men and women can find a generous selection of 90’s-wear.
Paper Dress Vintage
The Vintage Guide to London proclaimed Paperdress Vintage as the city’s best womenswear shop. It stocks period pieces from as far back as 1900, and the owner refuses to stock clothing from the 90’s. She claims the clothes are still, to this day, giving her fashion-nightmares. At night the store turns into a bar and music venue, remaining open most evenings until 11.30 PM.
Portobello Road Market
Get ready to rummage down the Westway end of Portobello Road, nearest to Ladbroke Road Tube Station. Here, vintage clothes sit cheek by jowl with new, upcoming designers: artfully displayed in attractive boutique windows or spilling out of roadside carts. This is where Paul Smith, Myla, and Joseph launched their careers by selling their own designs. Fuel up on good value snacks at The Tabernacle.