In typical London in August style, after days of rain and gloom and wondering if indeed for once the coats and knitwear appearing on the high street may actually prove to be handy, this weekend we had the one-off scorcher. Which is all well and good for a Saturday when you have plans to meet up with old friends for lunch as those plans can quickly be rejigged to include a strappy summer dress, a BBQ and a paddling pool. Isn’t it exactly what you love about this country? For all the moaning about the weather, this sort of positive about turn puts a spring in everyone’s step and an opportunity to show off your holiday tan.
This week I have been writing a feature for London’s Time and Leisure magazine about the clutch of boutiques on the road where I live and so the shopping ban I put on myself after our return from Spain, had to be temporarily lifted. To be clear, I didn’t buy anything, my presence in these shops being of a purely professional nature, but it would have been churlish not to have tried on a little something in each of the seven shops.
So while I’m at it I thought I’d focus on the fabulous shops the British high street has – the best in the world – rather than their current stock which I’m trying to ignore for at least another month. Here are my absolute faves and the reasons why:
H&M – for their exciting designer collaborations, sheer magnitude of stock and the rock bottom prices – it’s always been you H&M. Great stuff for everyone from newborns to grandmothers, I will never not shop here. Not so great: very cheap looking shoes and disinterested staff.
& Other Stories – for a beautiful and expensive looking store design, minimal Scandi style, scrumptious body lotion and exclusivity (for now). From the same stable as H&M and Cos, this newish kid on the block hasn’t made it much further than London but it will. Not so great: not much here for curvy figures (other than the aforementioned body lotion.)
Asos – for speed, choice, refunds and user friendly website. As the frontrunner in affordable online style, there is nothing Asos doesn’t know about how to make the whole painful process of delivery and returns as smooth as possible. Also, the amount of stock this site holds is incredible. Not so great: the quality of the ASOS own brand is mostly well dodge.
TK Maxx – for genuine designer steals, kids’ shoes, cashmere and gifts. I know it takes a brave soul to hack through the rails and rails of rubbish at this horribly unattractive store but oh the treasures you can unearth! Go with a friend with stamina and take a deep breath. Even my son is in Stella McCartney thanks to the ‘Maxx. Not so great: lengthy yawnsome queues at the checkout.
Brandalley – for stock turnover, labels, website and a classy edit. Brandalley was my first flash sale site love and my first purchase earned my friend Kerry, who recommended me, a £10 voucher. What’s not to love? I am addicted to checking it daily. Not so great: delivery times can be ridiculously long.
Zara – for shoes, jewellery, having loads of fitting rooms and kidswear. Who doesn’t love Zara? There really is something for everyone and even the website is lovely. Deliveries are packaged beautifully totally belying the reasonable price tags. Not so great: lengthy queues at the checkout, don’t even contemplate them during sales.
Whistles – for jackets, tomboyish cuts and massive reductions at sale times. I have come to Whistles quite late on due to its sophistication that’s way ahead of me. I now walk past my local branch every day, how can I not be on its case? Not so great: for big boobs, the shapes at Whistles tend to be boxy and straight.
Reiss – for shoes, curvy dresses, brilliant sample sales and staff who are genuinely helpful and knowledgeable. Reiss cuts their clothes in a similar fashion to D&G only at a fraction of the price. It isn’t cheap but it’s achingly feminine and good quality. Not so great: consistency of sizes, I have Reiss dresses in three different sizes.
Calzedonia – for 3 for 2 on hold ups, beach cover ups and variety. I first discovered this brand in Milan and stocked up whenever I visited. Now it’s all over London and I couldn’t be more pleased. Spread the word. Not so great: Staff are a bit in your face, I was once asked if I needed help three times in five minutes.
Finery London – for contemporary pieces you won’t see anywhere else at reasonable prices. Finery isn’t the brand on everyone’s lips but it will be. The website is elegant and not overwhelming and the collections are grown up and yet fun. Amazingly it’s only £5 for next day delivery! Not so great: I haven’t any gripes so far…