With the doors to London retail leaders like Browns and Dover Street Market tightly roped off to newcomers, it seems nearly impossible for up-and-coming designers to even get one foot settled. And yet, a host of original boutiques are now opening up across London, supporting amazing talent that’s both homegrown and from abroad. With years of fashion experience and retail presence, these retailers welcome a refreshing mix of designers that cater to a given market—from wealthy Notting Hill or rapidly developing Shoreditch. Here is a quick shopping guide to London’s coolest boutiques.
Owners Samir Ceric and Zoë Knight have been transforming London’s retail scene with Wolf & Badger, their innovative concept store, since February. Designers such as Helen Ruth and XXMiles rent a dedicated space for as little as £35 a week, and, in return, receive unlimited advice with regards to manufacturing, business strategy and placement on the e-commerce site. “Our role is to help and aid them. I’m a sound board,” explains Knight, a former handbag designer. Wolf & Badger’s approach to retail is a breath of fresh air not only for their Notting Hill clients, but also for the 70 young designers they represent. The two-story shop on Ledbury Road holds a charming mix of ready-to-wear, accessories and jewelry, including Chelsea Rebelle’s adorably structured cocktail dresses, Gisele Ganne’s Divorce knuckledusters and Carréducker’s Winkers tweed slip-ons for men. “The experience at Wolf & Badger has been and still is extraordinary,” adds designer Tamara Sariachvili of Tosha. “Having just graduated a year ago it was a great opportunity and it gave me great insight into the real fashion world.”
Steve Davies and Eddie Prendergast, the former pioneers of British label The Duffer of St. George, are the founders of quality menswear store Present in Shoreditch. Their shop stocks a balance of both niche and established brands that cater to the area’s newfound appeal among the stylish bankers and media types who have recently moved into the neighborhood. “We wander around the world, have been doing it for the past 25 years, finding built and established brands,” says Prendergast. “Some come to us.” The smart and trendy space houses both international and British brands such as Yuketen leather shoes or bags and Hartford clothing. And, while sitting at the indoor café, customers can also check out the Apothecary section or accessories like Happy Socks and array of cow hide leather wallets.
Stavros Karelis’ Machine-A in Central London houses the future Gareth Pughs and Hannah Marshalls in one small gallery space. This shop supports London’s freshest crop of forward-thinking designers—mostly students and recent graduates. Some are as young as 17, like Rhiannon Jones of Bolshie, and all are London based in order to offer full access to the gallery’s resources. This outlook has led to designers like Charlie Le Mindu and Celia Arias creating controversial window displays and exhibitions that bring in stylists and most of East London to see the eclectic mix of unique designers. “The presentation is always the same everywhere else,” Karelis says, adding: “Here we want to be free.” Void of Course’s latex studded separates are a hit with Japanese tourists, hipster twenty-somethings and la Lady Gaga, while prices range from about £50 for brand t-shirts to £350 for a Euphemia by Millie Cockton mesh dress.
These progressive shops are moving retail forward and cementing London’s reputation for innovative fashion. As Karelis points out: “I couldn’t do this in any other country. London is so creative.” Perhaps boutiques in other cities will follow suit; as these shopkeepers have revealed there is an abundance o profitable yet untapped designers around the world.
Wolf & Badger, 46 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AB
Present , 140 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JE
Machine-A, 60 Berwick Street, London W1F 8SU