Hot on the heels of New York, London Fashion Week is approaching for the showcase of the spring/summer 2024 collections, and what better way to celebrate than to dive into the history of one of the city’s most fashionable areas: Soho.
From the British brands to shop on the iconic Carnaby Street to the hotel that fashionistas flock to, to the seductive restaurant on everyone’s lips, Soho is where it’s at for retail therapy with a twist. Boasting an unrivalled energy, read on for our fashion editors’ ultimate 24 hours in the design-focused district.
Soho’s buzzing nightlife, sexy restaurants and pioneering fashion make it one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods, embraced by the elegance of Mayfair and upscale Covent Garden.
London, famous for its shopping experience, has many designer-clad districts, from Chelsea’s stylish King’s Road to Central London’s Bond Street lined with leading international designers, but the independent boutiques and up-and-coming brands are paving their way in colourful Soho.
As the birthplace of London’s Mod movement and the home of Skinheads, Punks and New Romantics between 1960s-1980s, Carnaby Street – which celebrates over 60 years as a style destination – has always been the epicentre of culture and lifestyle in London’s West End. Whilst Mayfair remained the centre of couturiers and Saville Row the hub for tailoring, Soho was catering for the edgy, off-beat youth consumer. It’s synonymous with the rise of Mod culture and the synergy between fashion and music is what attracted high-profile clientele with an exotic, bohemian taste. Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the Kinks all shopped in Soho, as did style icons Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor.
Competing with King’s Road as the only real fashionable area in London in the 1960s, Carnaby Street was deemed ‘Swinging London’ by Times magazine in 1966, emphasising modernity and fun-loving hedonism. This was also the year that Selfridges opened Miss Selfridge, the younger sister of the department store, inspired by the ‘Carnaby’ style and younger, fashion-conscious consumers. It was a vibrant hub that perfectly embodied the spirit of that era, becoming a gathering place for musicians, fashion icons, and trendsetters, who flocked to the street to showcase their individual style and enjoy the vibrant scene.
In the mid-1970s, the Punk era was in full swing. By day, Carnaby Street was selling clothing to rock ‘n’ rollers, and by night, those same band members were playing in the clubs. By the 80s, a new wave of British designers made their way into the area, with the likes of Vivienne Westwood renting a studio space and designers Mary Quant and Pam Hogg opening boutiques.
It was a vibrant hub that perfectly embodied the spirit of that era, becoming a gathering place for musicians, fashion icons, and trendsetters, who flocked to the street to showcase their individual style and enjoy the vibrant scene.
The V&A staged an exhibition ‘Streetstyle: From Sidewalk To Catwalk’ in 1994 which recognised the significance of Carnaby Street to subcultural style, and a few years later, the area was rebranded as solely Carnaby to encompass the 12 streets. It was in the 2000s that the area experienced a renaissance, with Kingly Court (now a three-storey alfresco dining destination) created in order to support emerging fashion talent.
Today, Carnaby Street houses independent boutiques that co-exist with major international brands spanning fashion, lifestyle, beauty and dining across 14 streets. You have the iconic Liberty London a stone’s throw away from ambitious new talent. But which shops make the CF cut?
British Fashion Award winner Rejina Pyo founded her London-based label in 2014 and has since become a cult name. Designed to transcend fashion trends, Rejina Pyo focuses on evolving with wearers of the brand, over time. Known for her considered silhouettes, playful details and topstitching, her collections can be described as contemporary, wearable, and effortlessly elegant.
This London-based label was founded by Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix over a shared love of vintage, and a desire to bridge the gap between unique print and the perfect fit. Renowned for its instantly recognisable vintage-inspired prints and 1930s silhouettes, Rixo is championing occasion wear globally. With one drop a month, and limited runs per item, it’s a great option for the fashion-conscious among us.
Annie’s Ibiza is a treasure trove from fashion darling Annie Doble. Originally launching in Ibiza Old Town in 2015, it has been one of fashion’s best-kept secrets, until launching in Carnaby in 202o. Alongside a cherry-picked edit of vintage pieces, you’ll discover the best in up-and-coming names from De La Vali, Cleo Peppiatt and Saks Potts.
Other stores to visit:
WHAT TO BUY
Although brimming with boutiques, Soho offers much more than just fashion. These are CF’s picks of the best places to stay, eat and pamper in the capital’s entertainment district. R & R incoming.
The Soho Hotel
Celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, The Soho Hotel is a popular choice for the fashion and entertainment crowd. Fashion Weeks see editors booking out rooms and it’s a favourite for music industry tycoons too. If you’re familiar with the Firmdale Hotels, you’ll know that the co-owner and creative director Kit Kemp is passionate about interiors and has led the design for all of their properties. Highly respected in the British art scene, it’s clear her eclectic interior choices were considered to match the energy of its location. Expect boldly decorated rooms with warehouse-style windows and rooftop terraces on the top floor suites. The urban aura and contemporary art is expertly mixed with a clash of country house chic soft furnishings. Every few months the hotel hosts a fashion screening at their on-site cinema and there’s a 24-hour honesty bar for discreet late-night tipples.
Event to know:
Fashion & Cinema: In conversation with Jacqueline Durran and Sarah Greenwood. Having worked together on titles such as Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina and most recently Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the evening will explore set design and costume and shine a light on how these much-loved stories were brought to life on the big screen. 24th September 2023. Book tickets here.
The perfect spot for an intimate date night or dinner with friends, Bar Crispin is a low-key eatery and wine bar serving seasonal plates and low-intervention wines. The younger sibling of their main restaurant Crispin in Spitalfields Market, this cool Soho set-up has a sharing plate concept that delivers modern European dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Savour house wines and epic food in this seductive, candle-lit location.
Cranking up regular facials with revolutionary technology, California skincare brand Skin Laundry is changing the way people treat and transform their skin through safe and effective laser facials. In as little as 15 minutes, you’ll walk out of their flagship clinic with freshly laundered skin and zero downtime. The perfect pre-event pick-me-up.
Ukrainian nail bar so. shell firmly takes the lead on delivering flawless nails. Attention to detail is what makes them so in-demand, with cuticle care at the forefront of their hyper-detailed manicures. The soft interiors and cosy space make it hard to believe you’re in the middle of London’s buzzy Soho. You’ll leave with an impeccably tidy manicure and the desire to never go anywhere else again.
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Our conclusion? Forget any preconceived notions of seedy Soho, it’s quite clear why this fashionable district has captured the hearts of Londoners and tourists alike.
Read more about where our Fashion Editor shops in London here.
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