When pop star Lily Allen closed the Soho vintage boutique she’d set up with half-sister Sarah Owen, few Londoners were very surprised. It’s not that there isn’t a market for vintage – the problem is that there is one, and it’s already served by a small but well-loved troop of shops in the West End (it might also have been Lily and Sarah’s prices, but in fairness they’re still going strong online). Our pick includes a buzzy generalist with a 30-year history, an exchange that’ll buy your old clothes too – subject to them being any good – and finally an elegant store for menswear geeks.
Rokit Covent Garden
Rokit began life as a Camden Market stall in the late 80s, and has grown to a mini-chain of four stores across town. With a central team of buyers, finders and restorers, it’s a real generalist – expect rare denim, faded band t-shirts, glam dresses from the 50s, odd military pieces and much more. And it’s a fashion-conscious operation too (current trends they’re riffing include ‘90s Men’s Rave’, which we’re fully on board with), so you won’t find yourself digging through racks and racks of unwearable items before finding something you can picture stepping out in. Our local branch is on one of Covent Garden’s quieter back streets, near the fantastic Cross Keys pub.
Bang Bang isn’t just a vintage shop – it’s a bona fide clothing exchange that both buys and sells from its visitors. We’ve got two branches within walking distance: the Drury Lane shop around the corner caters for women only, while the Berwick Street shop over in Soho stocks menswear in the basement. The Bang Bang ‘look’ is eclectic, but tends towards the bright and bold; they also take in unworn samples from designers, so you’ve got a chance of finding some real bargains.
The Vintage Showroom
Stepping upmarket, here’s a very special menswear shop occupying a former ironmonger’s in Covent Garden. Initially formed as an archive for collectors Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett, the business started with an appointment-only showroom over in Notting Hill, adding this retail outlet at Seven Dials in 2009. It’s a nice space too, all bare floorboards, vintage photos and dark wood display cases, with particularly striking garments hung high on the walls. While less casual than Rokit or Bang Bang, it’s nevertheless fun to browse in, and real clothing geeks will be in seventh heaven.
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