Regent Street in London was called “the centre of fashion” in the19th century. It was constructed by two famous architects John Nash and James Burton with the support of The Prince Regent (later George IV). The street was completed in 1825 and fully redeveloped between1895 and 1927. My favourite part of the street is between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus where the shopping experience is full of joy. Or at least, it was before the lockdown. Recently, I visited my favourite shopping street in London to discover how it has survived the COVID pandemic.
1. Regent Street after pandemic
Regent Street is still a beautiful and vibrant street with impressive buildings and famous brand shops. Yet, the effect of the pandemic is obvious – there are many empty shops waiting to be rented. They are like wrinkles on the beautiful face of the street. Many shops have disappeared and many luxury chocolate shops have appeared. The huge shops of Microsoft and Apple are there, modern and inviting, always crowded.
When browsing through my best-loved shops I had a clear, overwhelming realisation that I was not there to try clothes or to buy them. I buy all my clothes and accessories online, so in the shops I was just comparing the online presentation of the items with reality. The comparison was in favour of the online pictures – they present the product much better. In some cases I was completely surprised how I could even like these dresses online when in reality they are not appealing at all. Photoshop can make all of us young and beautiful but I always check the return policies.
2. Arket – the little Nordic oasis
I love the Arket shop on Regent Street. It may be because I like Scandinavian design with its clear, geometric lines, colours from nature and its quality. Scandinavian style always has this attractive functional eccentricity but is sometimes quite expensive. Arket is committed to functional and affordable Nordic design. The shop is on two floors and has men, women and kids departments and also a homeware department. The hidden gem is the New Nordic vegetarian cafe on the ground floor. It is a very cosy urban cafe. It offers drinks and seasonal vegetarian snacks. The prices will pleasantly surprise you – especially for the centre of London.
3. Kate Spade shop – New York energy
The Kate Spade shop brings the charm and magic of Manhattan New York to Regent Street. It is a new shop, very well designed and maintained, very sophisticated. It offers the new spring lines of clothing, shoes, jewellery and accessories. The vivid colours and joyful style radiate happy and cool-girl vibrations.
4. Do not go to Liberty
My visit to Liberty (the longest standing shop on Regent Street) was disappointing. The ground floor, where jewellery and accessories are sold is actually not bad and the atmosphere is quite animated. The next three floors are not good. The interior is tired and in great need of renovation. The luxury features of the shop like dressing rooms for every brand, hairdresser and beautician studios just add to the feeling of lost glory. The clothes on the hangers are worn out and unattractive. I decided to persevere and stopped in the cafe. The atmosphere was depressing despite the good service.
Back to Waterloo train station to go home and I was thinking that the days of pleasure going out shopping are over for me. I do my shopping online and next time in London I will spend my time visiting places of interests instead of shops.