The word “London” conjures up images of red double decker busses and iconic telephone booths, dashing boys with accents that make women everywhere weak in the knees and tea with Her Majesty. London is the epitome of all that represents class, manners and old money. When I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and accented this past summer I embraced it with open arms. While London is basically every tourist’s dream, what with photo opportunities around every corner, museums for days and a thousand and one activities to do, it is also a thriving hub for all that is fashion and beauty. As much as I appreciate a good tourist attraction (I had difficulty picking my jaw up off the floor when I saw Buckingham Palace), what really makes a city is the inhabitants.
THE Buckingham Palace
As I travelled around a city literally steeped in history (you knew a tea joke was coming so we might as well get it out of the way), I couldn’t help but admire, question and in some cases stare the outfits and getups of people, both London natives and tourists alike.
Seeing as London is made up of several neighborhoods and hamlets each one carries a different subculture that is clearly expressed by their inhabitants. The busiest area of London, and a haven for tourists everywhere, is West London. It has a multitude of tourist attractions and with tourists comes multiple nationalities dressed in sensible shoes, the dreaded fanny pack, khaki shorts and wielding their selfie sticks like a light saber.
Aggressively posing beside every statue and travelling in packs they are a force to be reckoned with.
It was hard to spot the London natives amongst the tourists, probably because the London natives do not spend time at Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. It’d be like living in Ottawa and spending all your time at Parliament Hill.
My hotel was located in Fulham, a quieter section of the city, about a forty minute tube (subway) ride from central London. This is suburbia with an English twist. While there aren’t many white picket fences and families adorned head to toe in polo wear with exactly 2.3 children this is the place where London natives live with their kids. Think many young professionals in business formal clothes toting uniform clad children on their way to school.
The London Suburbia that is Fulham.
The Chelsea district of London is Instagram in real life. The majority of the residents can only be described as high functioning hipsters. Think of young twenty somethings wearing tastefully coloured suit jackets and women in tall boots and slim fitting jackets. Chelsea is an area for up and coming business professionals and is riddled with pockets of mid level designers and couture stores. Their residents take full advantage of the proximity of these labels and can be seen strutting the streets wearing the latest fashions from multiple designers like Chanel and Prada.
A street in Chelsea.
The wealthiest parts of London – Knightsbridge and Hyde Park – were among my favourite areas. Harrods, an iconic department store is housed in Knightsbridge, as well as the most expensive flat in London worth 221 million American dollars located at One Hyde Park. Harrods is a fashionista’s fantasy housing every brand, every style, and every beautifully hand crafted garment you could ever want- it is consumerism presented in the most luxurious way. Although the only thing I could afford was a handshake, you best believe I would have bought it. These neighborhoods drip of old money and exclusivity. Women toted Chloe and Birkin bags like it was their day job. I was seeing red after the amount of Louboutins that I noticed casually walking the streets. Designer stores displayed windows selling items hot off the runway. Places where a dress could easily go for three thousand pounds and a pair of shoes for twice that and I reveled in every moment of it.
The beautiful Hyde Park
Harrods in all of its glory.
The London fashion scene is as diverse as the people and the neighborhoods themselves. From seeing Fendi as a stand-alone shop at the side of the road to people causally walking the streets rocking everything from creepers to capes. London is not a melting pot where individuals come to adopt a general style, it is an immediate meeting of tradition and modernism; rather than the two competing, they meld together while incorporating and enhancing international influences. I don’t mean to romanticize London, there are some areas that are less posh than others and I did see some outfits that I would happily be separated from by the Atlantic Ocean but overall it was a memorable experience. I recommend it as a travel destination and although I spent way more pounds than I intended (that exchange rate is steep) it was worth having the opportunity to breathe the same air as Kate Middleton and basically be Royal – by a very distant association.