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London: fashion addict's paradise

Emma Vuletic
Thursday, March 1, 2007

Warning: shopping in London is addictive. So says Emma Vuletic, after her recent trip to the fashion capital of the world.

It may have inclement weather, over-priced hotels and poor coffee, but London is most certainly a heavenly temple to fashion and shopping. If heading out for a day on the plastic, then proceed with caution: industry insider Style.com recently claimed, "London is back on a fashion high that it hasn't seen for a decade." And trust me, this town's collective sartorial know-how does absolutely nothing to soothe retail cravings.

After all, this is the place where hip women and fashion-conscious men proudly parade the latest fashions straight from the catwalks. It's where bright young designers, such as Todd Lam and Christopher Kane, can hit the jackpot overnight, becoming high fashion fodder. And before you reach for your credit card, don't say we didn't tell you — London shows no mercy for the shopping addict.

Oxford Street
My time in London begins as soon as I disembark from the Heathrow Express and head straight into Top Shop. Top Shop is my grand excuse for crossing continents — what's a 26-hour flight when you have cut-price designer ranges waiting for you at the other end? I voluntarily ignore the fact that this legendary institution has just launched a new website, allowing us to click and buy (www.topshop.com). After all, ignorance is bliss … and so are the three levels of style-Mecca spread out before me. The enigmatic Kate Moss will be launching a range in May, while bright young things Christopher Kane and Marios Schwab have collections throughout February and March.

Soho
After three aerobic hours on Oxford Street, I wander through Soho's patchwork streets, drunk on this city's sartorial splendour. I head to Berwick Street and check out the bustling fruit and vegetable market. Tucked behind this is Flat White, a recently opened Australian-run café which promises the best coffee in London. You can sit outside on the wooden benches and enjoy your flat white as you watch the couriers and film editors lining up for their daily buzz.

Veer east to Old Compton Street and turn right into Greek Street, where you'll find the gorgeous Maison Bertaux, a little French patisserie with an upstairs tea room that doubles as a performance space in summer. Here you can have a pot of Early Grey tea and a freshly baked croissant — delicious.

Opposite is the hip Soho House, a private member's club where you might want to stop off for a spot of lunch and celebrity-gazing — unfortunately you must be, or know, a member to get in.

Covent Garden
Fuelled up and well watered, cross over Charing Cross Road to Covent Garden. There's busy Long Acre with its big brand shops, such as Campers, Diesel and Jigsaw. Tucked away behind this, you'll find chic places like the heavenly SpaceNK, with its luxe bottles of potions and lotions.

And don't forget Neal's Yard, the famous hippie hang-out from the sixties, a meeting of holistic therapies, meditation classes and whole foods. Head into Neal's Yard Apothecary for an extensive selection of natural alchemy and herbal tinctures; or go to the legendary Neal's Yard Dairy for a mouth-watering ensemble of cheeses.

Knightsbridge and Kings Road
If you're finding central London too hectic, you might want to head south. There's the famed Kings Road, starting at Sloane Square, which blossomed in the sixties before settling into high street popularity in the '90s.

Up at the north end near the Royal Court Theatre, there's Monsoon, Kenneth Cole, Jigsaw and English designer Karen Millen. Head further down Kings Road and you'll find Antiquarius, a vintage seventies antique dealer, as well as Moulton Brown and famed English homewares chainstore Habitat. Grab a map and explore Knightsbridge and Belgravia, where chic boutiques parade the latest fashions.

The East End
If you're wanting to get seriously hip, the East End is where it's at. A selection of shops and designers hang their hats in Shoreditch or Bethnal Green. There's 93 Feet East, the trendy club where you can dance all night, and the Bricklayer's Arms, where fashion models such as Erin O'Connor can be found sipping on beer.

Check out Brick Lane, where you can get delicious Indian food, or find vintage clothes shops and little art galleries. And head to Spitalfields markets on the weekend to find rare fashion delights. The Borough market near London Bridge is also worth checking out for its amazing array of gourmet and organic foods.

With so much fashion in London right now, it's the perfect time to have a shopping trip. Make sure you proceed with caution and keep that plastic tucked at arm's length.

Fact file Most airlines fly to London daily.

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