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In this installment of College Fashion Spotlight, I'm focusing exclusively on Londontown, a mecca for shopping for wacky, one-of-a-kind vintage garments, separates from High Street and custom trenches from Burberry.
When you're roaming the London streets this fall, you'll be hard-pressed not to step into one of these choice boutiques, department stores and/or markets:
1) Agent Provocateur- 6 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1 (and other various locations in the city, including inside Harrods, Selfridges and Heathrow).
Offering sometimes outlandish and kitsch designs with a racy, tongue-in-cheek attitude, this is the store to grab sexy under-things to surprise and delight someone, or yourself. The store is lushly decorated with velvets and lace and ribbons, evocative of a underground cabaret or brothel a la Belle de Jour.
2) Monsoon- 110-112 Westbourne Grove, London W24RU
An H&M meets BCBG mega-brand with stores splashing every street corner, Monsoon offers affordable street wear for men, women, and children with colorful accents and North African and Asian influences. They even offer fair-trade jeans and t's for the eco-conscious shopper, and when I went there I grabbed a dress from the Originals line that could have easily come straight off the Lanvin Spring 08 runway. The menswear is perfectly straight-forward and almost all the pieces mix-and-match, so any style-challenged man can navigate the oft-dangerous waters of fashion.
3) LK Bennett- 43 King Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JY
Although there are other locations for this chain of affordably posh dresses and separates, this location wins as the favorite. Bypass the probably too conservative clothing range and stock up on the incredibly chic and cost-conscious shoes, clutches and accessories.
4) Portobello Road Markets
Every week outdoor antiques and vintage clothing retailers line up neatly in Notting Hill to offer goods that honestly cannot be found anywhere else. Pricey, but sooo worth it, since vintage Chanel bags in pristine condition and Alaia frocks are hard to find. Also, while you're there, grab beautiful, classic English tea sets, unique jewelry and fun art supplies.
5) Dover Street Market- 17-18 Dover Street, London W1S 4LT
The Comme des Garcons flagship and uber-cool boutique that includes 6 floors of individual spaces based on concepts of the respective designer(s) and even a small cafe. CDG designer and creator Rei Kawakubo is behind the idea of "the best shop in the world." Browse only for inspiration and visual excitement, because most of the garments sell for top dollar. Still, it's worth your time if you're a true lover/devotee of the arts.
6) Topshop/Topman- Picadilly Circus location, A4, London, W1S
This flagship store proved to be a real adventure for me as I spent the entire day endlessly plucking dresses off the rack, pulling jeans off the shelves and shoving colorful mountains of scarves and strappy sandal flats into my arms. This is a veritable hot spot for all 20-something college students looking for the latest fashion trends. If you're not traveling to London anytime soon, fear not for us Yankees are getting our very own Topshop come October in New York's SoHo.
7) The World According To- 4 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F 0SB
At this location, quintessentially British labels such as Silas, Eley Kishimoto and Vivienne Westwood hang alongside SONIA by Sonia Rykiel and Cacharel, as well as the occasional brands and trends from Japan. While most of these items are quite expensive, this is the place to go if you want to splurge on pieces that will remind you of your London experience.
8) Annie's Vintage Costume & Textiles- 12 Camden Passage N1, London
This space is dominated by a trove of beautifully preserved and cared for dresses from the 1920's and 30's, but they also sell a stock of textiles from the 1880's. I came for the dresses, but I left admiring the vintage scarves and a wide assortment of rosary beads.
9) Harrods- 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL
Umm -- you have to go! The world's most famous department store is certain to delight even the most discerning shopper, as well as his or her shopping-averse companion. The expansive space has survived 150 years by offering opulent childhood luxuries such as mini-Hummers and playhouses (or ships) as well as every designer label could name. The gourmet food store, multiple cafes, tea parlors and restaurants will please any epicurean, and the gadgets, which run aplenty, will beg tech nerds to test them. It's sheer bliss in capitalist heaven.
10) Wink- 105 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3JD
Clothing, scarves and other accessories clutter this small space for designer goods and original designs for women, men and children. Fans of Eighties tees rush here to search through the latest stock, hoping to impress fellow pedestrians.
London-ers have a decidedly different approach to dressing than most Americans. I noticed a lot more freedom with prints and color, as well as a heavier hand in accessorizing, which -- let me just say -- isn't always a bad thing. Layering, rain boots, trenches and chic umbrella options also play a more prominent role in day-today wear since the city certainly lives up to its reputation as the "Rainy City."
Schools that feature prominent study abroad programs and internships in London include BU, Drexel, Syracuse, George Mason, SUNY Oswego, Temple, University of Miami, NYU, University of Connecticut and Loyola Marymount.
So, if you go to one of these universities and have an affinity for fashion, you might want to consider studying in London before you graduate!