High street brands I love
The high street in London is like a jungle: the variety of choices, stores and brands available, online and as physical shops is so wide that sometimes is overwhelming. When I first came here I was thrilled because I grown up in a small town on the coast of Tuscany, we definitely don't have the same absurd quantity. I was shocked also to find amazing pieces at reasonable prices basically everywhere. There is not the huge gap of price that you find sometimes in my country if you want to buy quality items. You just need to look harder and make some researches but you can definitely purchase stunning, durable items for honest prices. In these almost 3 years I have tried more or less all of them and I would like to share with you which are my current favourites and what I like to buy in each of them.
H&M was not a new in for me, but I recently started to appreciate more their Premium collection and the Conscious. I bought several pair of skinny jeans, the white pair is for sure my favourite. Their sizing is still a bit funny in my opinion as often I needed to try random ones to get the right one. They are making good denim and cotton basics that wash well and the feel nice on the skin. Lately I have been buying some nice blazers as they are doing more natural fibres ones. For instance, I have been wearing endless times my mustard mixed linen relaxed one this summer and I found that helped me create more interesting outfits. They are still heavy on man-made fabrics and therefore I am not buying knitwear and coats as they don't keep me warm enough. I am curious to try some of their new lingerie, the last time I browsed in store I found some nice lace bras that were really tempting me!
Mark and Spencer is a typical English brand and the first time I run into it I was doing my grocery shopping. The style might seems mumsy and a bit grown up but I found out they actually have some really nice things. Basic cotton underwear is the first thing I will mention. Nobody here in London can do that better than them. I used to wear thongs on a daily basis but I discovered at my own expenses that it is not healthy, so I tried some of their white cotton knickers and, although I must admit they are not the sexiest thing on earth, they are super comfy and the fabric is very skin-friendly!
Another key item they master is linen. It is not easy to find 100% linen shirts and trousers at reasonable prices in London and they also have a fair range of colours to choose from.
Same for Cashmere. Their basics jumpers are incredible quality (I worked for a cashmere brand before so I am an expert), they last season after season and they are simply the best choice for winter layering.
Talking about Christmas, I ended up buying several nice little gifts for colleagues and friends as they have very pretty sets and boxes that are not tacky, they don't look cheap and they are affordable.
Moving on to another very British brand I love, Oliver Bonas was the first store I noticed as soon as I started my London adventure. I used to live in Balham and I remember I fell in love with the shop almost immediately. Their quirky style is completely different from the Italian taste but somehow I adored it and the fact that you can shop for fashion while you browse for home-wear and cosmetics too is the best feature. I could spend my whole salary there...but my favourite items are:
1) Shoes: Leather, comfort and style...perfect mix. I have some boots and sandals that I worn to death without a blister and without sacrifing the aesthetic part.
2) Jewellery: their price range is cheaper than the average for gold plated, silver and semiprecious pieces and the quality is extremely high. I have so many stunning different pieces from them and I am wearing it almost everyday so I couldn’t be happier with it. Fun fact: their gold pleated is quite pale that sometimes it might seem silver but I found that rarely tarnish.
3) Home wear: a bit pricey compared with H&M and other popular high street brands but the design is unique and immediately recognizable. Glasses, trays, candles, mugs...they simply make every corner of your house super cool and refreshed.
4) The latest beauty trend such as faces masks or quartz roller I see on Instagram and I would like to buy.
Speaking about the fashion, I like the fact that they are on the generous side and I like their bold prints but I believe there is a big margin of improvement in terms of fabrics as basically all their clothes are a mix of polyester and viscose and they seldom use natural fibres.
And other stories is one of my latest discoveries: beautiful design, amazing prints and nice natural fabrics made of it one the best new high street retailer in London in the past two years. The price point is a bit higher but it's totally worth it, especially for outwear, knitwear, shoes and accessories as they look and feel much more expensive than the average. Jewellery is also very pretty and at decent prices (I am obsessed with their rings!) but I didn't try yet their beauty range.
Mango is also one of my favourite for shoes ( boots mainly) and outwear ( checked coats and blazers) as they have improved their quality massively in the years. Their denim collection is very flattering too and the sizes are also forgiving. I tend to buy more in the wintery months as I find their summery collections a bit poor.
Primark is the cheapest store you can find and many many things are very bad quality but I honestly shop there a lot for denim. Yes guys, their skinny jeans are the most flattering and the best fit ever for me so far! They are making efforts to be more ethical as the last time I went in the store I purchased a pair of dark blue skinnies from recycled cotton, plus their joggers and sweatshirts are nice and cosy ( I don't want to spend 50 quid for leisure clothing that I would wear to stay at home or have a walk in the park, thank you!). I also shop here for my boyfriend as he likes their muscle fit t-shirts and the jeans. I used to buy a lot for him on Asos, but the fit is not quite right for him (sometimes his regular jeans size is too long or the t-shirts have a funny fit effect on the shoulders).
New Look is again very cheap but I absolutely adore their skirts! This summer I practically shopped their whole collection and I know I will do the same this winter! The fabrics are not the best, but for a skirt I won't be precious about it. Basics are not bad quality: I bought a few organic cotton tees and I have to admit they wash very well and they do the job nicely. Their summer collection is much better than the winter one, as the knitwear is from man made fibres.
Not good for shoes, outwear and anything that you want to look polished in and looks more expensive than it is. Accessories are cool and, same as Primark, if you want to try a new trend you are not sure about (maybe hairbands or glittery socks) it is the place for you. It doesn't cost the earth and you could replace it later on if it's working for you without thinking too much.
Zara: the king of high street! I used to buy there on a monthly basis in my 20ies when I was at Uni. There was a big store in Pisa I loved and some of the things I bought back then I am still wearing. They are very unforgiving size wise, as many times I had to buy a 12 or a L when I am usually in between a 8 and a 10... but in my opinion it has a good quality-money balance. It is very trend orientated but I still enjoy buying dresses, shoes and sometimes outwear. Their products are durable and if you stick to the classics you won't fail.
YES: blazers, denim, cotton t-shirts
NO: unpredictable sizes, uncomfortable shoes.
YES: lingerie, lien, cashmere and gifts
NO: denim and mumsy-looking clothing
YES: jewellery, shoes and home-wear
NO: Fabrics and costume jewellery
And other stories:
YES: jewellery, outwear, accessories, dresses and knitwear
NO: higher prices
YES: skirts, basic t-shirts and hair accessories (summer collections are better)
NO: uncomfortable shoes and poor quality knitwear and outwear
YES: boots, denim and outwear (in general better AW collections)
NO: summer collections are usually my least favourite
YES: shoes, outwear, dresses and accessories
NO: very small sizes
Primark: denim, sweatshirts, leggings and joggers
NO: everything else is very bad quality