Where to Shop for Thrift in London

From local charity shops to weekly car-boot sales, here's a guide to the best second-hand stores in London... for all our post-lockdown wardrobe needs.

Mixing and mingling are back again in at least one major fashion city. As lockdown begins to lift in the UK, London is opening up for social gatherings. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy the city just as spring brings with it much-missed sunshine.

After many months living inside in jogging pants and sweatshirts, the challenge is how to update our wardrobes while responding to the challenges of April’s Fashion Revolution Week, which questioned our collective need to shop compulsively on new product. In that spirit, here is our curated guide to some of the great thrift locations of London. Now you can hit the town like a superstar while saving the planet. True heroine chic.

Atika London, Spitalfields 

Headquarter to the coolest people in town, Atika covers every style from grunge to gopnik, streetwear to cottagecore. With over 20,000 vintage pieces and reworked garments listed, this shop is a gem. It’s almost impossible to come out empty-handed. The clothes are divided across two floors – seasonal items, a mural of jewelries, skincare, accessories, magazines, books and home decor are on the first floor; bargains and items on sale downstairs.

Designs, Hampstead  

Nestled among the quaint tea shops and lavish restaurants on Hampstead High Street is Designs, an independent second-hand luxury shop at the heart of the north London village. From Balenciaga to Burberry via Celine to Chanel, the boutique store is full of designer goods for ‘pinch-me’ affordable prices. A particular find from the store on our visit was a pair of vintage Prada black leather boots – originally sold for £700, reduced to a satisfying £70. What a steal. 

Karen Vintage Boutique, Notting Hill

Boho bling meets fairy-tale fantasy in Karen Vintage Boutique. The shop on west London’s Portobello Road is a treasure trove of opulent party pieces. From Laura Ashley gowns to Zandra Rhodes silk scarves, Karen Vintage Boutique offers an eclectic array of pieces perfect to dress to impress. Marabou feather jackets, 1930s wedding dresses and silk capes bedeck the store’s pistachio green walls. That’s made the boutique a celebrity hotspot and a Notting Hill gem. 

Frock Me! Vintage Fashion Fair, Chelsea 

From Prairie to Punk, Frock Me! Vintage Fashion Fair has it all – and then some. The longest running vintage and thrift fair in London was started by former Central Saint Martins theatre & costume design student Mathew Adams in 1997. You’ll find it sprawling out of Chelsea Town Hall onto the King’s Road, and at Kensington Town Hall every month or so on a Sunday with a max £5 entry fee. The selection spreads between jewellery and clothes from the 1920s and earlier through to the 1970s with band tees, Ossie Clark and Biba. Also of note: French textiles and vintage designer labels from the likes of Chanel.

Princess May Car Boot Sale, Dalston 

A five-minute walk from Dalston, Kingsland overground station meets the local Princess May Primary School. From 8.30am on Saturdays and Sundays, 50p and negotiation of a tall set of gates will gain you access to a playground densely packed with stalls selling all sorts from fabric to furniture. The thrift potential at the atmospheric Princess May Car Boot sale is delightful. Rails are lined with vintage leather jackets, second hand sneakers and designer denims, while rugs are scattered with Y2K vests and silk scarves. The people selling their possessions are fun for a chat too. Two closet treasures were uncovered by this reporter at the car boot sale: a suede jacket for £8 and a pair of D&G jeans for £1.

Fara Charity Shop, Angel 

Fara Charity Shop supports the eponymous charity, which helps transform the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable children in Romania. This store is located a ten-minute walk from Angel underground station. It occasionally includes books, tableware and sewing patterns. If you’re willing to spend the time, you can find real designer gems for a bargain. Fara has another 22 London locations. Besides the Angel location, we recommend the Pimlico store for Vivienne Westwood and even Dior.

Oxfam, Covent Garden

Oxfam, Covent Garden, has a quaint quality you wouldn’t expect to find in Central London. Its appearance is just like any other Oxfam across the UK – no concessions to its central location – although the treasures it holds are like no other. You’ll find anything from archived Vivienne Westwood pieces to rollerblades for £3. What makes the shopping experience is the cheery American who works there. Check his purple glasses, his Paul Smith suit and his ever-friendly helpfulness. 

The Dresser, Hyde Park 

Picture the ideal walk-in wardrobe and a white fashion gallery full of vintage clothes – welcome to The Dresser. Stylist Sally Ormsby founded the shop in 1986. Now it‘s known as a gem of a second-hand boutique specialising in high-end, contemporary and couture second hand fashion. In the heart of London, right behind Hyde Park, the small shop offers a cosy atmosphere with racks on racks tightly packed with vintage clothes. The cute window display attracts not only customers, but also celebrities, musicians, magazine editors and stylists, many of whom consign their designer clothes to the shop. 

The Market Cartel, Hackney Wick

Located on a discreet corner of Hackney Wick, The Market Cartel is a goldmine of candy-bright vintage pieces and antique furniture gems. The offering, which ranges from the 1920s to the 1990s, is expertly curated to fit seamlessly into a modern wardrobe while adding retro allure to your look. Our most recent find: a tangerine mohair jumper to add an acidic edge to sweet summer dresses. Come with a full wallet and leave with a truly one-of-a-kind piece. 

This article includes contributions from Kelly Lin, Grace Sowerby, Izzie Atkinson, Tania Leslau, Rose Dodd, George Clark, Elisa Juesten and Lily Kinnear Griffiths.

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