London Shopping: Carnaby Street

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Carnaby street, London. Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo. C.C.LicenseFor shoppers who are adverse to long queues for dressing rooms and tills, weekend crowds on the high streets and outrageous prices of designer digs, the village-y atmosphere of pedestrian-friendly Carnaby Street is a perfect alternative. Tucked around the corner from Oxford Street, it is a hidden shopping oasis full of independent stores with their own unique personalities.

In the 60s, when little villages could be found in every borough, Time Magazine called Carnaby “the swinging city.” And it has since retained its chilled-out feel with a mix of eclectic individuals and shop owners hosting new boutiques and old favorites.

From street-wear and designer corsets to vintage clothing and house wares, there are a wide variety of authentic, and usually affordable, pieces for men and women just waiting to be uncovered in this little bungalow.

Patrons can custom order their own leather bags at Bleach in Kingly Court, peruse the impressive dated collection of vintage shoes and dresses at Marshmallow Mountain, and search through a collection of contemporary designers at Beyond the Valley.

The crowd and traffic-free streets of Carnaby do have some more established names like Muji and Diesel, but many of them have items that you can’t get at any of the other locations – originals that are a bit more street-styled.

“People come to the West End and it’s all designer,” said Jenny Kite, who works in Carnaby. “We have Ben Sherman, but we’re had him since the 60’s and it still has the ‘mod’ edge to it.”

Most of Carnaby’s patrons tend to be regulars – those who have been visiting or living in the area since its prime and a younger hip crowd that appreciates the music and art-themed area – but tourists and trendy shoppers are catching on.

There are several unique places to take a break from shopping, as well. At Sacred, patrons can drink teas and coffee is a cozy environment filled with authentic teapots decorative artifacts from India. La Trouvaille offers an authentic French dining experience with a lovely romantic atmosphere. And Miranda Club and Attica offer dancing and clubbing to an exclusive crowd.

Lauren Burke