London is one of the world’s great shopping cities, though not the cheapest. Tempting luxury goods can be found throughout the center, so the problem becomes narrowing down where to go.
Eliminating the stretches of luxury chains is no great sacrifice, since places like Regent Street and Old Bond Street can be found in major cities around the world. Instead, I recommend concentrating on the clusters of interesting independent stores. These sets of shops were especially fun to browse.
The bespoke suits of Savile Row remain as alluring as ever, but the well-dressed man should also consider a stroll along Chiltern Street, best known for the trendy Chiltern Firehouse restaurant and hotel. Nowadays, several attractive clothing boutiques line the street, along with a handful of other impressive independent businesses.
This Savile Row-style shop makes stylish made-to-measure (custom machine-made) and bespoke (custom handmade) suits, which start at $1,550 and $5,500, respectively. The engaging creative director, Karl Matthews, formerly worked on Savile Row. Matthews tries “to make the whole experience fun,” and after chatting with him a few minutes, I have no doubt that he does.
58 Chiltern Street. Tel. (44) 20-7486-5558
This eclectic menswear shop dates to 1955, and its owner is the subject of a recent documentary, “John Simons: A Modernist.” He showed us around the store himself. At first glance, it doesn’t look especially noteworthy. But closer inspection reveals high-end Japanese denim and well-chosen traditional sport coats.
46 Chiltern Street. Tel. (44) 20-3490-2729
The owner of Trunk is also a partner in Monocle, a worldly media company with a bright café on Chiltern Street. This shop carries mostly smart, casual menswear from a range of independent brands as well as Trunk-branded merchandise. The boutique also offers made-to-measure suits. Its sister store, Trunk LABS, at 34 Chiltern Street, sells carefully selected shoes, luggage and other accessories.
8 Chiltern Street. Tel. (44) 20-7486-2357
After all that shopping, a drink is in order. This family-owned company dates to 1842, and it’s one of the few whisky-focused stores left in London. In addition to a vast range of brands of whiskies (as well as some rums), Cadenhead’s bottles its own range of cask-strength whiskies. A cozy tasting room in the basement can hold up to 12 (see the website for the tasting schedule and to book), but if the proprietors have something open, they’re likely to give you a sample or two.
26 Chiltern Street. Tel. (44) 20-7935-6999
Between Regent and Old Bond streets is the historic Burlington Arcade, lined with pocket-size luxury boutiques, including a number of major brand names, like Vilebrequin for stylish swimwear and Ladurée for those less worried about their appearance at the beach. They’re perfectly lovely, but it was the arcade’s unusual wealth of jewel-box fragrance shops that caught my attention. Some of them offer perfumes and colognes that are gender-specific, but the trend seems to be toward unisex scents. Smell how you want to smell.
Atkinsons started rather inauspiciously in 1799 by selling men’s grooming products, focusing on scented bear grease (rendered bear fat was once used to treat hair loss). Since then, it has counted notables such as Beau Brummell and Queen Victoria as clients. Its year-old Burlington Arcade flagship store has an exquisite art deco-style lounge for fragrance consultations upstairs, and downstairs is a one-chair barbershop.
40-41 Burlington Arcade. Tel. (44) 20-7998-6166
This company started as a barbershop on Jermyn Street in the 1870s, but it now ranks among Britain’s most important fragrance companies. I liked the interactive touch screen, which helps narrow down the wide choice of fragrances, but those who prefer the human touch can schedule a fragrance consultation in the plush lounge upstairs.
16-17 Burlington Arcade. Tel. (44) 20-7629-1416
L’oscar hotel’s bath products have scents by Roja Dove, and I can see how their extravagant aesthetics work well together. Like Atkinsons and Penhaligon’s, Roja’s Burlington Arcade boutique has a lavish lounge for private fragrance consultations.
51 Burlington Arcade. Tel. (44) 20-7629-2510
A short walk from the arcade is one of London’s best department stores, which makes it one of the world’s best department stores. Its high tea is famous, but for something a little less dainty, descend into the basement, home to Fortnum & Mason’s superlative wine bar. It has a large selection of sensational English sparkling wines by the glass — they rival, and sometimes best, Champagne — and the adjacent wine shop sells them by the bottle.
Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly. Tel. (44) 20-7734-8040