“My Secret London” with Jess G. from Cult Beauty
To kick-start this brand-new series, we asked Jess Gearheart, creative director and blog editor of uber-cool new online women's beauty destination, Cult Beauty, to share her London secrets with Wee Birdy readers. And my, she's really spilled on the good stuff … Dig in, my dears.
Favourite London shops?
"One of my favourites is now closed. It was Mootich shoe shop on Elizabeth Street. Katarina's shoes were hand-crafted and stunningly gorgeous and the little studio was so welcoming and Dickensian in size and feel … perfect.
Sari shops on Brick Lane and Southall for their endless vibrant fabrics and row upon row of sparkling bangles.
Huntsman and Henry Poole on Savile Row because they're some of the last true tailors left on a street that is swiftly filling up with posers trading falsely on the Savile Row name.
Ormonde Jayne because it's diminutive and black and filled with marvellous scents.
The Village Deli in Highgate because they make American-style coffee."
Best for a bargain?
"A bargain? Does it exist in London? I always make a beeline for the 'Buy Now or Regret It Forever' rack at Topshop (in the back right corner of the basement) and have bought some of my coolest pieces there. If you can stomach the insanity of the sample sales, check out Fashion Confidential or Urban Junkies for the best and most up-to-date listings. The Century Theatre in Westbourne Grove always has something going on (Paul & Joe, Temperley, Matthew Williamson et al) and so does The Music Room on South Molton Lane (i.e. Hermes, Prada)."
Best for vintage?
"Annie's on Camden Passage for dresses and Blondie/Absolute Vintage on Commercial Street for accessories and shoes. Go to charity shops in the country for real bargains because you won't find them in London. Vintage does not come cheap in the Big Smoke. Actually, now that I think about it, Change of Heart in Crouch End is great for vintage finds, as it's off the beaten track. I found the most beautiful DVF dress with tags still on marked down to 100 quid. Still, like I said, not terribly cheap. You could also try The Button Lady in Hampstead."
Best for fashion?
"Matches for Sum Fortune shoes. Spitalfields Market for one-off dresses and jackets. COS for simple, essential pieces like ballet flats, shift dresses, vests and jeans. And they sell slips! GAP for summer sandals (because they have a brilliant European design team). Wolford on South Molton Street for the best opaque tights. You can buy an entire, beautiful wardrobe from those stores and, although it's not, it'll look super expensive and put-together."
Best for jewellery?
"Blondie for vintage jewels; Kabiri on Marylebone High Street for precious and semi-precious stones; and Tatty Devine on Brick Lane for quirky pieces like cassette tape brooches, name plate necklaces or Rob Ryan cut-outs. Astley Clarke is the best online jeweller in town and will deliver same-day courier service and gift-wrapped. Belmacz does the most beautiful high-end pieces. So does Alexandra Jefford and she takes commissions."
Best for beauty?
"Facials: Monique Horsey (great at extractions) or Sarah Chapman for facials. Una Brennan and Vaishaly Patel are good too but you need to book waaaaaaaay in advance for those ladies.
Nails: Teresa Smith because she'll come to you. Get a buffed finish. It last longer.
Hair: Karine Jackson for colour and I usually cut my own hair (yes, I know I shouldn't).
Shopping online: Cult Beauty for the best beauty finds online without having to dig around for them, of course. The Cult Beauty blog or Vogue.co.uk for beauty news.
Shopping in-store: If I want to browse in-store I go to Urban Retreat, Space NK, Lost in Beauty or Content Beauty/Wellbeing [Top Bird: shop tour of Content Beauty/Wellbeing coming soon!]. Content Beauty/Wellbeing is an all-natural shop with the best selection of natural and organic products I've ever seen, both online and in-store. And they do Dr. Alkaitis facials, which no one else in London does.
Spas: Bloww does great massages, Bliss is good for a New Yorker who misses her American spa treatments and Origins do mini-facials in-store, as do Simple (both based in Covent Garden).
Fragrance: Les Senteurs for hard-to-find fragrances or Ormonde Jayne in the Royal Arcade for my go-to scents, Frangipani and Ormonde Woman.
Eyebrows and lashes: Vanda Serrador or Vaishaly for threading and Sue Marsh for Eye-tec false eyelashes. Marsh does the most artistic and cool lashes in town. She'll come to you or you can visit her at Daniel Galvin in Marylebone. They'll stay on for a Very. Long. Time.
Waxing: Otylia Roberts or Bloww. Just go. Otylia is the best. She does the least painful Brazilian in Europe. Bloww is the second least painful."
Best London souvenir?
"Until it opens in New York, a Topshop dress and accessories; Organic Pharmacy shampoo and conditioner; BECCA concealer and beach tints [pick them up at Harvey Nichols]; sugar mice; Cadbury Flake; and new music that hasn’t arrived in the U.S. (Adele is just making it stateside)."
Favourite place to eat?
"There are four: Afghan Kitchen for a cheap night out and BYOB; the Grain Shop when I'm in west London and want a mound of healthy food (and sweets) to take away; Ottolenghi for brunch and 32 Old Bailey (but only on Balkan Fever night!) for a night of silly dancing. Also, on a sunny day I wouldn't complain if a mate invited me for Pimm’s and nibbles and poolside fun on the roof of Shoreditch House."
Your number one London shopping secret?
"Stay away from Portobello Market. It's a waste of time, money and energy. Visit the other ones instead and go either really early or really late. There's no other city in the world with the street market culture of London. There's Columbia Road for flowers, Borough for food, Camden Passage for antiques and so many other smaller local ones (e.g. Broadway Market in Hackney et al)."
Super thanks and big birdy kisses to Jess for her generous tips and advice.