Embodying a fusion of cultures, British style isn’t defined by a singular identity, but a visually arresting assortment of looks, oftentimes wildly divergent. Perennially on the pulse of what’s new and next in style, it's no surprise that international editors and influencers often look to the London fashion scene for inspiration — and it constantly delivers.
London's contrasting fashion aesthetics range from tailored designer looks to effortlessly undone, hipster-friendly ensembles, with a few eclectic variations thrown in for good measure. From East to West and back toward the quiet climes of North London, there’s no tube pass required for this stylistically led city tour.
In the 1960s, King’s Road was the epicentre of punk London, an iconoclastic style movement whose impact continues to seep into contemporary collections. The mood was nothing less than anarchic as tartan and mini-skirt-clad rebels — Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood among them — gave the proverbial middle finger to the establishment with both their attitude and brash attire.
This brand of London street fashion could not be further removed from the King’s Road of today, where women are practically sutured to their designer bags and look immaculately polished as they stroll local boutiques in the latest must-have separates. Chelsea women tend to stick to a selection of basics from high end designers: stovepipe skinny jeans are paired with eponymous Chelsea boots, an oversized bag — Stella McCartney’s chain-strap selections among certain favorites — and outerwear from the likes of Max Mara. Heavy designer influence defines London street style in this monied part of town, evidenced by an abundance of Birkin bags and Céline luggage totes.
Chelsea’s Sloane Square sees male counterparts sporting brightly colored trousers, monk-strap brogues, tailored shirts and pocket-square punctuated blazers — a far cry from the punk insurrection of the '60s.
Like neighboring, heavily gentrified Shoreditch, Dalston is in the throes of its own wave of transformation but still retains something of its authentic core. The East London neighborhood is a haven for young, creatively inclined types who appreciate the area’s confluence of dive bars, art galleries, pop-up concept stores and kebab shops.
Dalstonites’ take on London fashion tends toward disheveled minimalism — part Scandinavian-influenced and part daringly nonconformist. Here, Birkenstocks are paired with boxy white dresses or chambray shirts and high-waisted skinny jeans, such as those by French label A.P.C. Atypical Karen Walker Eyewear finds its place alongside body-hugging overalls and mock turtleneck crop tops, paying homage to the ‘90s. Sharp statement pieces by directional labels tend to turn heads in Dalston, these finds often mixed with vintage separates from local markets.
Dalston's checked-shirt clad men are fashion leaders in their own right, putting as much care into dressing as they do nurturing extensive vinyl collections. Mixing neutral chinos with super slim-cut button-downs and Nike's latest iteration of retro leather sneakers, the neighborhood's men mask their trend savvy behind a "couldn't care less" attitude.
North London is a considerably quieter area of the city, a suburban haven where Londoners live to escape the noise and frenzy of life in Zone 1. Hampstead Heath in particular is a rolling expanse of tranquil open meadows rife for afternoon strolls — a highlight of the high-net enclave that draws in locals and visitors alike.
North London residents exist in a village-like bubble that keeps them ostensibly immune to more capricious London fashion trends. Never far away from a brisk walk, their general look is casual, yet refined: puffer vests are bundled over cashmere sweaters, and tartan-print blanket scarves swathed over Isabel Marant outerwear. Here, Hunter wellies are as ubiquitous on women as men, with the latter finishing the look in cream-colored sweaters and wax jackets by the likes of Barbour. Driven by a need for pragmatism, North Londoners express a subtle sense of fashion intelligence with each considered wardrobe choice.
Once synonymous with rock'n'roll rebellion, Camden Town is a popular destination for tourists hoping to capture something of the neighborhood’s indie music heritage. Inextricably linked with artists ranging from The Kooks to Kasabian, Camden is also the neighborhood that legendary talent Amy Winehouse called home.
London street style as reflected in Camden is, no doubt, still shaped by the spirit of the borough during its heyday. Locals construct expressive looks grounded by leather motos and statement skirts reminiscent of Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter '15 runway show, complete with tousled hair and winged eyeliner. Leather separates — whether body-con leggings or the aforementioned cropped jacket — are mainstays of any Camden local’s wardrobe, if the High Street’s many dedicated boutiques are any indication.
What's more, the punk influences of yesteryear have seemingly migrated to modern day Camden, filtered through a modern lens by the neighborhood's male contingent. Here, you'll find young men donning graphic print tees — such as those popularized by McQ — alongside black Diesal denim and Doc Marten boots, worn in with rips and deliberate pinholes.
Miles away from Chelsea in distance and aesthetic, Camden's uniqueness illustrates precisely how London’s many neighborhoods vary in vibrancy and fashion outlook. Constantly undergoing seismic cultural shifts, London fashion remains nothing less than visionary, putting British style on fashion’s world stage in all its diverse shades of glory.