WWKD Contributor C.C. is an American girl who loves to shop. Through her experiences in London, she shares Kate’s favorite places to shop, and the best of London’s shopping secrets. Read on to learn more…
In order to write this series, I’m going to have to admit how much I love to shop, and how much I love to shop in London most of all. I’m going to have to reveal that I once went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and never got out of the gift shop, that I once spent an entire day—sunrise to sunset–in Kate’s favorite department store, Peter Jones, and that, on my last visit to London, I had to buy an extra, larger-than-I-care-to-admit suitcase to cart home my too many pairs of new LK Bennett shoes. (They were on sale!)
I blame my mother. It was she who taught me that shopping, if done correctly, can get you off the beaten track, take you to neighborhoods you wouldn’t ordinarily see, and give you a glimpse of a local’s life wherever you go. I think this is especially true in London, where the main tourist attractions are grandly historical, set apart from residential neighborhoods and the rhythms of everyday London life. Of course you should see as many of them as you can, but for a Kate fan, a full shopping day (or two, or three), can give you a revealing look at part of her London life.
Our first American Shopaholic in London day takes place in Chelsea, the neighborhood in which Kate lived after graduating from university, and where she is still photographed shopping regularly. Our route will be King’s Road, from Kate’s first London apartment on Old Church Street to her favorite department store, Peter Jones, in Sloane Square. You can walk the 2.1 miles in 30-45 minutes, but there are so many stops along the way, that I recommend 2-6 hours for this adventure, depending on how seriously you want to shop. You’ll need comfortable shoes and an oyster card, if you want to break up the walk with rides on the bus. Serious shoppers, I’m warning you: you will want at least 4 hours for this trip, and maybe a full day.
Not-so-serious shoppers, I encourage you to take the walk anyway! Chelsea is a comfortably chic residential area that many tourists don’t explore, despite the fact that it was the hub of mod culture of the 1960’s and punk counterculture in the 1970s. Thomas Arne is believed to have written “Rule Britannia” at Number 215, and Ian Fleming chose a flat off King’s Road as James Bond’s fictional home. The Saatchi Gallery is here, which I highly recommend, and if you get tired of the bustle of King’s Road, you can turn off at any cross street to wander past some of London’s most charming townhouses and leafy squares.
But enough history! Without further ado, let’s start the day bright and early with breakfast at the Bluebird Café. The Middleton women have all been spotted here, in fact, photos of Pippa and her now husband eating in the outside courtyard started rumors about their rekindled relationship that turned out to be true! Bluebird is a large compound with a fancy restaurant on upstairs, an airy café on street level, and and a wine store/coffee bar across the umbrella-filled courtyard. I recommend the Café, it’s casual and quick with good coffee and avocado toast. You can also explore The Shop at Bluebird, which is frightfully expensive, but full of super interesting fashion and jewelry. (Be sure to check opening times if you want to eat and shop here—the café opens earlier than the shop.)
Fortified for your adventure, head across King’s Road to stop at the British Red Cross Charity Shop on the corner of Old Church Street. There’s no proof that Kate ever shopped here, but I have—it’s where I found both a full-length wool/cashmere Gucci coat and a wool and leather duster by Herve Leger for 99 pounds each.
Next, turn right up King’s Road. You’ll see a few lovely home design stores and can peek in the window at Jane Taylor Millinery. The best shopping surprise on this part of King’s Road, though, is the LK Bennett Clearance Store (239 King’s Road at Bramerton Street). I can’t overstate the fabulousness, here. No matter the season, you’ll find incredible deals on shoes, bags, and dresses—both day and formal. I recently scored a dress to wear to a black-tie wedding for 79 pounds, down from 495. This is where I also bought three pairs of the same suede driving loafer in different colors, each for 39 pounds (plus the price of that extra suitcase). You’ll see 2-3 more LK Bennett stores as you traverse King’s Road, but, for the price, this is the best one of all.
King’s Road shopping is in full swing, with stores like Zadig and Voltaire, Anthropologie, Ash, Maje, etc. I won’t cover them all, but I will point out a couple of stores you won’t find in the U.S. First is Tabio, a Japanese sock store (yes, it’s a whole store that sells only socks). It’s not a Kate favorite that we know of, but it’s a perfect place to buy gifts for yourself and others that won’t take up too much room in your suitcase. Be sure to check out their cashmere socks, “house socks”, and new line of children’s socks, which are adorable. They will monogram any pair of socks for you—this is my go-to gift for my friends who already own anything they could think of wanting.
Up ahead, At Jubilee Place, you’ll find British stalwarts Waterstone’s Books and Ryman Stationery, and at Markham Street you’ll find another quintessentially UK shopping experience: Marks and Spencer. Known as Marks and Sparks to locals, this is the place to go for a more affordable shopping experience. They have a full line of men’s and women’s clothing (including a great plus-size department), a nice food hall, and a good selection of skincare lines like Pixie, Ren, and Skyn Iceland. In the fall and winter, they have great-quality cashmere for a fair price, and this spring I found thick, beautifully seamed linen shirts in exciting colors for everyone in my family priced at 35 pounds. This is really shopping like a local, and you shouldn’t miss it.
A three-minute walk up King’s Road takes you to Reiss, Hobbs, and Russell and Bromley (for Kate’s Aquatalias and Stuart Weitzmans), and then the next important stop on our tour: Duke of York Square. In this lovely courtyard you’ll find the Richard Ward Salon, birthplace of Kate’s signature bouncy blow-out. There is also a huge Zara with a home section, a brand Kate reportedly used to furnish George’s nursery. Monica Vinader is here, if you want to pick up Kate’s Siren earrings, as well as a flagship Jigsaw, the brand for which Kate had her first job, as an accessories buyer. Finally, The Square is home to the Saatchi Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibits in a modern space. It’s an easy gallery to see in 45 minutes, and a nice place to find air conditioning if you’re walking around on a hot day.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve gained real insights into Kate’s style and history. You’ve seen the streets and stores that shaped her aesthetic, and that I believe will continue to, even as she gravitates to a more luxurious, couture life. You’ve earned a glass of wine and a croque madame at Colbert, where you can sit outside and people watch over Sloane Square, pondering whether you might, like me, need a new suitcase to get all of your Very Very Kate purchases home.