London’s Soho. A square mile melting pot restrained by the arteries of Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue; hemmed in by theatreland, Chinatown, Mayfair, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, St James’ Park and Buck House.
Whilst Soho may have lost some of its historical naughtiness to a slow gentrification that started in the 1980s, its streets still manage to be that bit narrower, have more flamboyance, to be seedy and gentrified all at once. It’s the West End’s best end. It’s an island village emerging on all sides to a maelstrom of capital city Ooompapa. It’s a place where the fight to retain identity amidst the surge of identikit merchandisers might just work out because Soho with its low rise architecture makes them adapt to it rather than it adapting to them.
Dean, Frith, Beak and Old Compton streets buzz day and night. Famous for jazz, its gay village, sex shops and alternative lifestyles. Famous for its restaurants, and record stores, coffee shops, hip bars, long established Italian cafes, and shiny new gelatos. Soho is busy busy busy, but still you can meander away an afternoon or evening browsing in small shops and drinking in small bars. Nothing in the grid of Soho streets is BIG.
All this makes Soho a great destination for fashion lovers who like to wander, browse, stumble and explore. There is a veritable treasure trove of menswear to be found amongst the patchwork of streets. From well known names like Oliver Spencer to innovative newcomers like M.C. Overalls and Universal Works; from the chic French intellectual Officine Generale to the rare sports luxe of The Collection. From the innovative to the casual chic to the tailored sophisticate, you’ll find it all hidden behind heritage shopfronts and feel like you’ve discovered your very own hidden gem right there in the city. Here are some of our favourites, big and small.
Universal Works was inspired by founder David Keyte’s formative years in a 1970s provincial town; working as a sign-writer’s apprentice amidst the development of eighties sporting and music subcultures followed by spells working for Paul Smith and Maharishi. Universal Works fashion is workwear and tailoring; heritage and context. It’s all underpinned by contemporary needs and aesthetics, produced with a dedication to small scale methods.
M.C.Overalls hovers on Brewer Street, and originates from a workwear brand that first launched in 1908. M.C.Overalls current incarnation is the brainchild of the enigmatic James Scroggs, who revived its original philosophy – to make uniforms for workers. Inside the store you will see that the brand truly is (mainly) overalls – be it with a very contemporary twist. The all in one boilersuits are functional and all about the anonymous uniform aesthetic for boys and girls. Classless, genderless and playful, original twists are added in the block colours. And if you don’t want your boilersuit to be quite so anonymous, there are some very special artist collaborations to be had. What better canvas than an emblem for the workers?
Retaining the signage for the space’s earlier encumbent, John Wilkes’ Gun Maker, Officine Générale’s Beak Street location is the sole retail outlet for the brand outside Paris. The brand was established by Pierre Mahéo in 2012 with the intention of selling ethically-minded, characterful clothes at straightforward prices. It’s all about masculine tailoring, with signature desirable basics, pristine tailoring, deliberate raw edges and unusual textures.
From Nordic landscapes to the streets of Soho, Swedish fashion and accessory brand, Sandqvist is renowned for its stylish and long-lasting bags, made sustainably and with care for the environment. The cotton used in Sandqvist products is organic, and leather is vegetable tanned. Stylish and functional styles are all available in-store, including the brand’s first ever vegan collection. Their in-house tailor service can also reinvigorate your used Sandqvist items making them last more or less forever. They did a brilliant job replacing the leather base of my five year old Hege backpack, and even redesign used bags for second hand sales.
The Collection on Brewer Street is a Soho newcomer. Taking the form of an exclusive fashion gallery store, you can discover a curated collection of rare and exclusive streetwear. One for the sneakerheads, the two storey concept space houses an impressive range of hard to find sneakers in a museum style display from luxury players like Supreme and Louis Vuitton. There’s a special focus on artist and musician collaborations. One for the streetwear fanaticals.
END is known for its range of luxury fashion, emerging designers and exclusive sport and streetwear. The two-floor store features an extensive sneaker wall wrapping the entire corner of a glazed facade. Drop in to see an unrivalled selection of minimalists favourite brands such as COMME des GARÇONS and Gosha Rubchinskiy amongst the best from the big names in this treasure trove of a London flagship.
The latest opening in Soho, Folk is known for its meticulous attention to detail and focus on quality, textures and fabric characteristics and offers both menswear and womenswear in their Soho store, offering well-made casual clothing with a modern British spin.
The Dutch-born eyewear brand, Ace + Tate, promotes self-expression and experimentation in style, with their glasses for everyone. The brand appreciates that we’re not the same person in all walks of our lives – so our choices in eyewear should reflect this. And it does! Great attention to details in the store space too with friendly service and recommendations.
For the most exclusive footwear, make sure to have a look in London’s best-known destination sneaker store. Footpatrol in Soho is stocked with top-level product from well-known brands including the likes of Nike, Adidas Originals, Converse and Puma.
The first-ever stand-alone Clarks Originals store opened at Soho’s Berwick Street and the brand brings 190 years of shoemaking expertise to one of the world’s key centres of streetwear. You will find all the iconic styles including the world famous Desert Boot and Wallabee and all new product drops and exclusive collaboration projects through the season.
While visiting Soho thanks to the hospitality of the village’s hotels and eateries! If you’re paying a visit we recommend:-
Karma Sanctum Soho Hotel with its louche rockstar styling and crushed velvet galore is a kitsch, fun and very central spot to stay or chill. You can eat under the watchful gaze of George Michael, Freddie Mercury and Jimi Hendrix.
The Good Egg takes up a corner of Kingly Court and is a perfect brunch spot. Middle east street food is the order of the day. Try the award winning shakshuka, babka French toast, Sabih (Iraqi aubergine pita with tahini, amba and zhoug), shawarma hash and salt beef reuben sandwich. Also don’t miss the savoury bourekia snacks.
Dirty Bones Soho at Denman Street presents New York-inspired comfort food classics. Get stuck in to tender BBQ Beef Short Rib, the mac & cheese-filled Mac Daddy burger and freerange Chicken & Waffles. You can also go lighter with avocado or haloumi topped Gem Lettuce Salad, Buffalo Aubergine Wings and Cheeseburger Dumplings.
Ace + Tate, 15 Brewer Street
Clarks Originals, 32 Berwick Street
Dirty Bones Soho, 14 Denman Street
END., 59 Broadwick Street
Folk, 3 Berwick Street
Footpatrol, 80 Berwick Street
The Good Egg, Ground Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby
Karma Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick St
M.C.Overalls, 21 Brewer Street
Officine Generale, 79 Beak Street
Oliver Spencer, 81 Berwick Street
Sandqvist, 79 Berwick Street
The Collection, 17 Brewer Street
Universal Works, 26 Berwick Street