Couverture & The Garbstore
188 Kensington Park Rd. Notting Hill
Around the corner from Notting Hill’s famous street market—and just steps from the throngs of tourists outside the book shop where Hugh Grant wooed Julia Roberts in the film “Notting Hill”—stands Couverture & The Garbstore, an oasis of considered design. Founded by Emily Dyson and Ian Paley in 2008, the three-story converted townhouse has emerged as a curator for millennial-centric men’s and women’s fashion, accessories and contemporary home goods.
For Kelly Harrington, a social media influencer, trend forecaster and archivist for H&M, and owner of her own denim consultancy business, Trademark Blue, the store is a haven for cool-girl brands like Batsheva, Rachel Comey and YMC.
A cauliflower blue corduroy shirt by Grlfrnd immediately catches Harrington’s eye. “It’s girly without being too girly,” she said. Plus, it suits her all-blue aesthetic, which has become part of her persona on Instagram and IRL. So much so that when she wears green or beige, her 48.4k followers are quick to comment.
While she tends to pre-shop Couverture & The Garbstore’s online store before visiting, Harrington said she often finds herself eyeing the store’s men’s assortment, too. Button-down men’s shirts made from upcycled fabrics, which she said look great with jeans, and TSPTR’s Snoopy collection draw her closer. “I am obsessed with characters,” she said.
And though the store doesn’t hit you over the head with sustainability, its brand list reveals a favoritism toward those that value responsible manufacturing and enduring design. Closed, Mara Hoffman and Story Mfg are among the denim labels with sustainable initiatives.
Meanwhile, brands like Kapital and the store’s own collaboration with Japanese label Full Count, offer men durable 100 percent cotton mid-weight jeans made to last.
“Ooh, there’s a whole blue section,” Harrington said about a merchandised table of blue items in the center of the men’s section, complete with a Kapital scarf and metallic blue toolbox by Toyo Steel. “They must have known I was coming.”
It’s possible. As one of the few areas that hasn’t been overrun with standard High Street fare, Notting Hill is one of Harrington’s favorite places for independent stores and unique finds. On Fridays, when the flea market skews fashion, she hunts for vintage pieces and bric-a-brac, touching and feeling fabrics along the way and avoiding garments made with polyester in favor of those made with cotton. “I like to mix quirky designers with vintage pieces,” she said.
Unit 14-15 Eccleston Yards, Belgravia
A visit to 50M after Couveture & The Garbstore is a shock to the senses. Instead of taking the traditional wholesale route, the concept store/coffee bar/event space created by the art collective Something and Son, allows emerging designers to rent rack space. There, wearable art like Marques’Almeida’s hand bleached jeans hang from modular displays dispersed between installations like a giant Styrofoam vase by Dom Sebastian.
For Harrington, a self-professed textile junkie, 50M is a place for discovery and creative inspiration for her own work. “I just get so excited when I come in here,” she said. “It’s one of my secret places.”
The store is also a place for Harrington to relish items by one of her favorite designers: Faustine Steinmetz. Harrington couldn’t resist trying-on the designer’s hand felted jeans. “She’s so cool and uber creative,” Harrington said. “I hope she never goes commercial.”
Dover Street Market
18-22 Haymarket, West End
Dover Street Market is bound to be the future home for some of the indie designers at 50M. A pioneer in the experiential retail movement, the high-end department store located just a few blocks away from the bustle of Piccadilly Circus, is a must-see for local and international label hounds.
“Sometimes I like to come in here and just dream about what I would buy,” Harrington said.
And it seems like much of London does the same. As Harrington peruses racks of streetwear by Japanese brand X-Girl and tries on headpieces by Comme des Garçons (“I like cutesy things, but I also like wearable,” she quips about the weighty accoutrement), she runs into a photographer friend that just purchased one of the avant-garde pieces. Artsy Londoners browse the Balenciaga section, clusters of Gen Zers swarm Nike, and actress Tracee Ellis Ross is being tended to by staff.