Discovering the hidden gems is hard enough in any city, let alone in the vast, sprawling behemoth that is London. Having lived in the city all my life, I can probably claim to have mastered this more than many, but even a seasoned native such as myself has much to learn, as the Fox&Squirrel fashion walk proved.
Lead by JoJo, a stylist with a keen interest in London’s ‘fashion boroughs’, the walks navigate their way through London regions, taking in stylish hidden boutiques and concept stores that all cater for the discerning shopper looking for an experience not to be found on the high street.
Part specialist sightseeing tour, part personal shopping experience, the Fox&Squirrel Lifestyle Walks are tailored to the individual client’s needs. For someone who prefers their shopping to be of the more niche variety, away from the hoi-polloi of areas such as Oxford Street or Covent Garden, it’s ideal. Be warned – if your taste and budget doesn’t extend much past Topshop, this may not be for you.
The boutiques that we visited on our whistlestop tour of East London’s sartorial emporiums offered innovative, diverse fashion, each with its own unique feel. Away from the big department stores all flogging the same pieces from each brand, the imagination and creativity of the buyers of these boutiques is refreshingly palpable.
Rather than just letting us loose in the shops in the hope that we might buy something, the Fox&Squirrel walk meant that we were formally introduced to each shop, sometimes by the manager, sometimes the head buyer, and were given a real insight into the concept behind the varied selections on offer. One boutique we visited, Keep Zero Gravity, boasts a cardigan that can be worn a mind-boggling 25 different ways, and items made from an experimental type of cotton that actually changes colour with heat.
In the same way that one might take a tour of a design museum, or an art gallery, we were shown round another concept store nearby, 123 Boutique. 123 stocks only London based designers, and often only one-off pieces; a mixture of vintage and new, with a café in the basement, it’s a real lesson in East London lifestyle.
After a short bus ride (another archetypal East End experience), the tour finished at what has recently become the mecca for the fashion hungry of East London, the appointment-only LN-CC (Late Night Chameleon Café). With an interior designed by artist Gary Card, this underground wonderland stocks some real heavyweight designers, the likes of are still relatively unavailable in the East End. I had been once before, but it’s still a relatively well-kept secret, which is one of the joys of the walks that Fox&Squirrel offer – discovering secret treasure troves that you can return to again and again.
For information about the fashion walks, visit Fox&Squirrel’s website.
Keep Zero Gravity
20 Hanbury St
123 Bethnal Green Road
18 Shacklewell Lane
Image by TPWP courtesy of Flickr