Finding cheap clothes shops in London
A quick guide on where to find the best thrift stores in town
Watching all the Gucci-clad lads and lasses of well-heeled West London pass by, iced frappucino in one hand and designer pug in the other, we Londoners can become a little disenchanted with the cash-consuming shopping experience on offer here. Everything that’s nice enough to be worth buying seems astronomically expensive, and much of what remains is decorated with minions and looks highly flammable. But there is a solution to this problem! To find thrifty threads which look good and last, we turn to the great vintage stores, charity shops and second-hand markets that are often tucked away in unexpected places. Below we’ve outlined some of our favourite places to find solid clobber (check your cockney dictionary) without breaking the bank.
Spitalfields and the surrounding Shoreditch area has long been known for its clothing shops since at least the 17th century when it was the centre of the cloth and silk trade in London. The reputation has persisted thanks to the dozens of vintage and second-hand clothing shops to be found around market and along Brick Lane (nearest tube stations Shoreditch High Street and Aldgate East). Some, such as leather goods store Oceanic Creations (168 Brick Ln, E1 6RU), specialise in a particular material or type of clothing and others take a more generalist approach. The two most famous are certainly Rokit (101 Brick Ln, E1 6SE) and Beyond Retro (112 Cheshire St, E2 6EJ), both of which have become successful enough to open shops elsewhere in London. They’re certainly better organised, so if you’re looking for a specific item, these are the ones to go for. Blitz (55 Hanbury Street E1 5JP) is also worth checking out - their sale section has produced many a surprising delight, but be prepared to to delve through dusty old piles of disney t-shirts before you find what you’re looking for.
Also, if you’re visiting the area on a Thursday then take a trip over Commercial Street to Spitalfields Vintage and Antiques market. Although a little more upmarket, there are some haute-couture gems to be found at remarkable prices, especially after a bit of haggling!
But the East End doesn’t hold a monopoly on garish cut price garms. Another major source which often goes untapped by tourists and locals alike is the great range of charity shops in London. If you take a trip to the posher areas in the west of town then you’ll find a surprisingly high quality of clothes on offer for a great price. The shops in Kensington, Chelsea, and Notting Hill are all worth visiting for their well-heeled throwaways. In the winter months you’ll see nice warm Barbour coats and pullovers, and when it’s warmer there are often well-made shirts and sleek accessories to be found. A few of the best include Fara Foundation (10 Elgin Crescent, W11 2HX), Cancer Research UK (183 Portobello Road, W11 2ED) and Octavia Foundation (3 Bute St, Kensington, SW7 3EY). Shop here and enjoy the double pleasure of helping the cause and copping a bargain.
West London too has a well-stocked array of choices for the discerning garm-hunter. The famous Portobello Market boasts an impressive number of vintage clothing stalls, and there are great permanent shops nestled around the fringes of the area too. One of a Kind (259 Portobello Rd, W11 1LR) is a great little boutique with friendly staff willing to help you out sorting through the slightly bizarre items on offer, though make sure not to confuse it with its far more expensive neighbours on either side.
It’s also worth popping on the Victoria Line and getting down to Brixton, another area teeming with bountiful charity shops and thrifts stores. Two of our favourites down here are the Barnardo’s charity shop (414 Brixton Rd, Brixton, SW9 7AY) and Make do and Mend, just round the corner (Brixton Station Rd, SW9 8PQ). Barnardo’s is a massive space full of everything from cut-price high street brands through to high end designer labels. As with many of the other recommendations here, you do have to put the work in to find the needles in the haystack, but there’s a tremendous sense of reward once you emerge, sweaty and knackered, clutching a £12 Hugo Boss v-neck in your fist. At Make do and Mend, however, they do all the hard graft for you, selecting and displaying only the best quality items in their charming showroom, so this may be the one for you if you’re a little less time-rich.
Remember, this list is far from exhaustive, and new locations pop up every day in London. Walking through a leafy residential neighbourhood you may well stumble on a cool new spot that even city-dwellers haven’t picked up on yet. Get out there and explore - you’re sure to find a quirky new stall of some kind and end up buying a tiara or a pair of ski-gloves which, strictly speaking, you don’t “need”, but which will have you looking fabulous as you strut through town.