From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

How to Shop Like a Londoner

We asked four locals for their shopping strategies at iconic British department stores.


Alfredo Paredes’ American Dream in Provincetown


Alfredo Paredes’ American Dream in Provincetown

Ralph Lauren’s longtime creative officer brings his rugged American aesthetic to...

How (and Where) to Shop Like a True Parisian


How (and Where) to Shop Like a True Parisian

Marie-France Cohen, the creative force behind Bonpoint and Merci, reveals the best...

Double Vision


Double Vision

In the hills of Los Angeles, two designers inhabit a modern bohemia.


The international Instagram star (known as Susie Bubble) and fashion writer finds Ukrainian designers and ’40s gowns in the West End.

Everyone has an entrance preference into Liberty. For me, I always check out the exhaustive magazine stand on the corner of Argyll Street and Great Marlborough Street before crossing over directly to the main entrance. That way you enter via Liberty’s scarf hall and can then look up into the impressive central atrium of this unique 1920s Tudor-revival building. After looking at jewelry, I begin the ascent.

What I love about Liberty is that it isn’t an “easy” department store. There are no escalators and few lifts. The beauty of the store is the feeling of discovery as you walk up the creaky staircases to see what’s in the little nooks and crannies. I stride straight up to the second floor to scope out the buy-in designer fashion and make note of the glittery striped pieces by young Italian designer Marco de Vincenzo, as well as a blue Lurex coat with a frilled hem by new Ukrainian designer Paskal. A frayed pink denim jacket by this year’s LVMH Prize–winner Marques’ Almeida is also on my mental shopping list. If you’re using Liberty’s pretty personal-shopping rooms, allow Monique and her photographic memory of the store’s inventory to help you.

Next, I head to Designer Vintage—eclectic and surprising, with anything from 1940s Schiaparelli to early-millennium Marc Jacobs. I always look for Ed Marler, a young designer who happens to work there a few days a week. He points me toward things like a turquoise 1990s Chanel jacket that looks like an 18th-century frock coat.

Of course, I have to stop by the haberdashery department—not because I’m going to actually sew anything but because I love browsing at all the Liberty fabrics with names like “Lord Paisley.” On my way out, I usually stop by the Shu Uemura counter on the ground floor to say hello to Nozumi, who has taught me to apply the perfect liquid-liner eye flick. Oftentimes, while trying to exit onto Carnaby Street, I’m lured back in by the ghoulish-food purveyor Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, which has taken up residency in Liberty’s chocolate department. Anyone up for fudge that’s masquerading as cubed earwax? That’s Liberty idiosyncrasy at its finest. Regent St.;


The menswear consultant discovers new names and old favorites on Oxford Street.

I’ve lived in London now for about ten years and I remember discovering Selfridges the first year I came here. I was walking down Oxford Street and was shocked, in a good way, by these amazing window displays. It was some sort of Star Wars theme, with lasers and sci-fi stuff and these incredible McQueen and Givenchy gowns. The windows continue to impress me. Another thing that really sets Selfridges apart is how fast and current they are—every time I come there’s something new to see. I think that’s unique in a large department store, that they’re constantly keeping up and experimenting with what’s new and up-and-coming.

I love going to the first floor, where they have the best of the men’s collections. It’s a good mix of brands: established ones like Saint Laurent and Prada, niche ones like J.W. Anderson and Kolor, and more-traditional ones like Belstaff and Barbour. I’m Japanese and they have a great selection of Japanese brands, so I always like to check out what they have from Junya Watanabe, Sacai, and Yohji Yamamoto. The floor itself is quite beautiful: fantastic marble floors and very well-considered lighting. The men’s private-shopping lounge is a hidden gem. Indeed, there’s a secret entrance so someone like Daniel Craig can come and go discreetly. Inside, there’s a fantastic library and you can hang out, have a drink, and try things on at your leisure. It feels like a real gentleman’s club. 400 Oxford St.;

Harvey Nichols

The author of Make Life Beautiful heads to Knightsbridge for Alaïa—with a side of sugar.

Harvey Nichols is like a very stylish signpost with Kings Road to the left and Mayfair and central town to the right. Avoid the main entrance, where you’re sure to get assaulted by perfume sprayers. I prefer to go in the side entrance on Sloane Street and zoom in the express lift straight up to the fifth floor.

Five is where you can buy gifts and powdery pink marshmallows. It’s a high-fashion candy store. My favorites are flying saucers: two pastel circles of rice paper filled with sherbet—a toxic childhood dream. But I don’t dawdle. I head down to Four. (This is where you can dump the boyfriend or pick up a new one.) It’s the men’s floor, but don’t get distracted by the boys—by the time they’re done picking out a tie you could have done an entire outfit.

I like to skip Two and Three, with all the grungy moody-French-girl labels, and go down to One for the main attraction: shoes. This is where Louboutin has a fabulous little Fabergé egg of a shop-in-shop. I tend to flirt with the Kirkwoods in the main atrium—I was recently seduced by a pair with a sleek curved heel and a pearl hidden underneath the arch—or indulge the glittery magpie in me with Miu Miu. But I must admit, I’m a Manolo girl at heart. (To truly satisfy that addiction, I recommend you hop in a cab after, to his Chelsea boutique—it’s only five minutes away, or a ten-minute sprint.) Then, I arrive: the highlight of Harvey Nichols, the shrine of Alaïa, also on One. It’s the largest selection in London—and Europe: all the crisp white shirts, and the full spectrum of dresses, from black and blue to rust and white. The largest rack, and my personal favorite, is all black. Here you have Alaïa pieces you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a unique offering that’s only for London—and the largest in Europe. It’s been this way ever since they wore them in Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video, it seems. You’ll see the in-the-know London girls here.

After my Alaïa fix, I need to go back up to Five to recover with a tea. If you buy an Alaïa dress, you can’t do much else but lie on the carpet! I might get a little shaky postpurchase and need a sugary tea to be rehabilitated. But if I still need more of a fashion fix, I’ll flick through the rails of Proenza or Thakoon or pop down to the ground floor to pick up a Tom Ford lipstick.

One last thing I love about Harvey Nichols: the shopgirls. They’re pretty, thin...and they completely ignore you. I think it’s a wonderful thing. You can walk around completely unaccosted and actually shop and make your own decisions. Let’s face it: If you’re going to spend that much, you don’t want someone goading you. In America, it’s all nail-biting with shop assistants pursuing you. At Harvey Nichols, you’re paid no mind! The mannequins Harvey Nichols employs can be seen two ways: If you need help, it’s awful, but if you don’t, it’s perfect. I’ll take the latter. 109–125 Knightsbridge;


British GQ’s deputy editor gets his hair cut and browses Bond gadgets on Brompton Road.

I spend half my life in department stores across the world and can say there’s nothing quite like Harrods. It’s a bit like going into international departures at an airport; you’re sucked into the sheer theater of entering Harrods long before you’ve even stepped foot over the threshold.

If you really want the social safari that’s to be enjoyed at Harrods, it’s best to come around four in the afternoon. The ground floor has the major men’s fashion brands and the lower level has the more directional men’s edit, which is fantastic. Jason Broderick, their menswear buyer, has created an incredibly vivid expression of what’s available in menswear at the moment. At the end of the main-floor corridor, I like to descend down into the Gentlemen’s Lounge, where the male fragrances and the barbershop are. It’s always good to see who’s gathering there; it’s a bit of a need-to-know place. So, I go to the Gentlemen’s Lounge and have a haircut and a manicure and then slowly move up the building.

I wouldn’t necessarily eat in the Food Hall (because I oftentimes have a reservation upstairs at Chai Wu), but I always walk through. Harrods is truly the local department store in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, South Kensington, and there are many people who use it as such. This becomes clear when you enter the Hall, which is one of the few places that take you back to Edwardian England in a real sense. There’s still the meat-and-game room, the seafood room, the vegetable room. As much as people are there buying their weekly roast or their nightly dinner, there are people imbibing Champagne and enjoying oysters.

From there, you step right into the high jewelry-and-watch department. You see some wonderful pieces there because, it’s no secret, if a brand has something particularly special to offer, they’re better off having it at Harrods than elsewhere.

Then, from the first floor, I’d make my way up to explore the tech area on the third floor. There’s a great shop called Spymaster that sells James Bond gadgets, whether it’s a submarine or an invisibility suit or a camera that shoots in the water—the sort of weird and wonderful gizmos that guys love to look at.

Around 6 P.M. I present myself for dinner at Chai Wu, on the fifth floor, a Chinese restaurant opened by a great chef called Ian Pengelley. I can’t overstate the number of great food options available at Harrods. And Chai Wu is one of the best Chinese restaurants in London right now. It’s got its own private elevator so people can come and go even once the store has closed. 87–135 Brompton Rd.;

American Express Platinum Card® Members receive an exclusive suite of benefits with an average total value of $550 when booking FINE HOTELS & RESORTS® with American Express Travel. Explore FINE HOTELS & RESORTS in London.
*Average value based on FINE HOTELS & RESORTS bookings in 2016 for stays of two nights. Actual value will vary based on property, room rate, upgrade availability, and use of benefits. Terms apply.

American Express Platinum Card® and Gold Card Members receive a room upgrade, when available, and a $75 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities when you book your stay with American Express Travel and stay a minimum of two consecutive nights. Explore Hotel Collection properties in London. Terms apply.

Discover more trending destinations for 2018.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.