London is and always will be the nerve centre for the most groundbreaking fashion. The city that popularised culture-defining trends such as punk, mod and even the modern wedding dress courtesy of Queen Victoria is one that prides itself on genre-smashing experimentation, cohesion and - always - beauty.
Fashion is so central to London’s identity that it valourises shopping cleverly on a budget, but don’t be fooled: there are plenty of designer stores, as well as boutiques that transcend mere shopping to become experiences.
Shopping is a core part of any weekend getaway, and as Jen Zamparelli proved in her jaunt around London with The Saturdays' Vanessa White, you’d be hard pressed to find a city with as diverse, surprising and stunning a selection of stores as London has.
So whether you’re looking to reinvent yourself, or just want to play dress up in one of the world’s most important fashion centres, look no further. We’ve selected our top picks for where to shop ‘til you drop in London.
1. Beyond Retro
Vintage will always be popular, no matter what the year, but as climate change prompts more people to consider their carbon footprint and scale back on purchasing fast fashion or non-sustainable materials, vintage clothes are perhaps more popular than ever.
Beyond Retro is arguably the mecca for London vintage. With three stores in the city alone, and another four in Sweden, it is an expertly curated and bewitching treasure trove of fashion gems. An idle dig through one of its racks could bring up anything from original cheerleader costumes to intricately sewn lace wedding dresses.
Their collection includes pieces from every era of the 20th century, and mostly at very reasonable prices so they won't break your weekend getaway budget.
They also have an upcycled range, pieces reworked by the store's own seamstresses, as well as the Homage collection featuring t-shirts with Louis Theroux, Leo DiCaprio and a range of 90's television classics.
2. Dover Street Market
Practically shorthand for cutting-edge London fashion, Dover Street Market is the hallowed creation of Rei Kawakubo, the mythic and exalted founder of Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons, and her husband Adrian Joffe. Part extreme luxury boutique, part interactive installation space, it is a shopping experience unlike any other.
Created in 2004, the store aimed to push the limits of what a typical clothes shop could be, operating more as a place to showcase young and diverse talent and creativity, while selling you some of the most sublime works of fashion in the 20th century. As one of the first upmarket locations to merge streetwear with luxury brands, it's an iconic spot for fashion lovers.
In addition to selling the Comme des Garçons ranges, you'll also find classic houses such as Gucci and Balenciaga alongside younger emergent brands like Cecilie Bahnsen, Even if the prices are eye-wateringly expensive for most, it's worth a visit just to take in what the store is doing creatively.
A self-described "progressive retail concept", LN-CC is clearly in the mold of boundary pushing Dover Street Market, but with an ethos and aesthetic all its own. Less of an installation space, LN-CC merges its physical store with a club, library and record store, less of a lifestyle store than a store to live in. If you want to learn more about fashion, and especially London fashion, this is the place the spend a day in.
The latest creations by fashion giants like Fendi, Maison Margiela and Acne sit alongside the darlings of the Instagram set like Off White and Vetements.
This careful and rich curation continues right through the library and record store, both of which offer rare books and vinyls respectively, focusing on fashion, art and a selection of some of the most exciting musicians in the city and beyond.
Again, for many of us the prices can be hair-raising, but to spend an hour or two in here is to curate a new perspective on fashion and culture that goes with any outfit.
4. Spitalfields Market
A London landmark in itself, Spitalfields Market is a true melting pot of everything that makes London fashion the thrilling, unexpected smorgasbord it is. With an array of independent traders, the market is much like it has been for the past 350 years, although many of the vendors setting up their stalls are among the most cutting edge and chic in the city.
Open everyday, the market features everything from handcrafted jewelry to bespoke dog's clothes. No matter what you're after, you'll find it in the covered shelter of the market, and the real joy is in going in blind and optimistic and finding a true treasure.
As well as this, there are countless food trucks, restaurants and drinks stalls to keep you fed and watered.
While Goodhood shares some of the same brands as Dover Street Market, it shines in its curation of comfortable and luxurious clothes that are unlike anything you'd find on the high street.
Ideal for a bit of upmarket Christmas shopping, its selection of jumpers in vivid, unusual colours like violet and dresses in architectural yet wearable shapes mark it as a shop for people who know what they like and aren't afraid to experiment. Very London.
The choice of men's clothes is also sublime, with exuberantly patterned shirts and chic matching suede suits, it's a must for the style conscious with the limited time of a whirlwind London getaway.
Aer Lingus is proud to sponsor the new series Jen’s Weekend: London. Just like Jen, you can enjoy great four star service on your weekend away to London with Aer Lingus. Choose from up to 50 flights departing daily from Dublin, Cork, Knock, Shannon and Belfast. Fares are from €27.99 one way. Smart flies Aer Lingus.
Watch Jen’s Weekend now on RTE Player.