My absolute favourite place to browse is Labour of Love. I remember this shop when it was a very well established lingerie and hosiery shop, with piles of fantastically colourful and amazingly cheap tights, stockings and underwear on every available surface! It was a sight to behold, and I think I still have some neon lacy tights purchased from the helpful and aging owner at the bottom of my underwear drawer. I felt quite upset when it closed and thought the history of the place would be torn out and replaced by a sterile, shiny new coffee chain or high street store. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find this little gem in its place, stocking ecclectic pieces of clothing, jewellery and accessories compiled by the owner, Francesca Forcolini, a designer herself. She lovingly restored the shop, keeping some of the original fixtures and fittings and uncovering a beautiful old gold sign over the door, which reads 'Berwick' - a little tip if you are trying to find the shop, as it can be confusing!
I am drawn to the strange yet desirable products within and Forcolini's eye appeals to me; her choice of knitted products is interesting and eccentric, which I adore, with brands such as Lowie, Peter Jensen and Kind offering unconventional designs which are still easy to wear. The Labour of Love label also follows these same rules of classic pieces with a sense of humour, with kooky yet wearable styling, which give the shop such a unique and exciting flavour. My favourite item when in at the weekend demonstrates this completely: a beautiful Peter Jensen cream dress with warm tone houses printed onto it complete with a little cape.
Across the road on Canonbury Lane is the delectable Palette, a melting pot of vintage and contemporary labels meticulously handpicked by the owner Mark Ellis, who if you are lucky enough to find in store when you visit will happily give you an interesting low-down on each piece or label as you try them on. I swear by the gorgeous Becksondergaard eel skin purses they stock. I bought one years ago and rather than declining it seems to get better and better with age!
Diverse is another great boutique along Upper Street. There are separate men's and women's stores a few doors away from each other. The ladies' boutique is two floors of desirable high end labels including my favourites A.P.C., Melissa and Vanessa Bruno. I must also point out that they do wonderful sales, where I purchased my gorgeous Chloe tights last year at a bargain price!
As a little aside, when you want a little break from your tiring shopping, there are many places to take refreshments such as cocktails, tea and cakes and all sorts of cuisine from all over the world. There is a fabulous whiskey bar, Slim Jims, on Upper Street and a more traditional style pub, The Old Queens Head on the Essex Road which often has crafty events as well as great djs, so check out the website.