Unfortunately not, if you’re anything like me. Despite my best intentions, I leave my Christmas shopping to the last minute almost every year (there was one time I managed to do it all in the first week of December but this has yet to be repeated) and often end up rushing around in a blind panic come the weekend before the big day. This usually starts with me reaching for my laptop intent on ordering online before finding that most of the retailers’ last shipping dates have sailed past and coming to a devastating realisation: the shops will have to be braved.
Crowds, queues, low stock, flustered shop assistants, overheating and a dodgy panini for lunch – this is what springs to mind when I think of braving the London shops in the run up to Christmas. There is one area, though – a pocket right in the centre of town – that never seems overcrowded and has some of the best boutiques in the city. I know – it must be some kind of Christmas miracle.
If you’re looking to nail down your last lot of presents, a trip to Seven Dials should do just the trick.
Just down the road from Covent Garden and a two minute stroll from Leicester Square Station, the Seven Dials area makes up seven streets all stemming from a central roundabout. These include several independent, high street and designer boutiques that are actually enjoyable to walk around. Whatever you’re after, you’re sure to find a shop selling the perfect gift.
Things the ladies will love…
Shopping for women can be difficult if you’re going off piste (or as I like to say, “off liste”). If she loves to make a statement, head to Tatty Devine for a fun and playful piece of acrylic jewellery. Choose one of the bold and beautiful feminist Fawcett Society range or opt to have their name crafted into a personalised necklace. If you’re after something a little more understated, head to the deliciously minimalist Dinny Hall – a collection of beautiful, barely-there semi-precious jewellery designed and crafted by the eponymous designer. London-based Knomo is a one-stop-shop for accessories, where you’ll find a collection of bags and luggage that both striking and functional – each one has been designed to cater for technology (I personally love the minimalist backpacks).
For the man in your life…
Tired of buying the same old aftershave? There are plenty of unique options for men. Duke & Dexter, a British footwear designer, handcrafts luxury loafers in a variety of eclectic colour ways and designs that look super sharp under a tailored suit or jeans. For a fresh riff on the traditional sock present, hit up Happy Socks – a shop filled with joyfully creative designs that’ll put a smile on the face of even the squarest dresser. Looking for a gift that’ll pamper? Pop into Beast – an entire emporium dedicated to men’s grooming products.
After something gender neutral?
We don’t always want something that screams masculinity or femininity and, luckily for us, Seven Dials has a couple of gender neutral gems. Larsson & Jennings, home of the Swiss made classic watches we see adorning the wrist of the discerning, is just the place for picking up contemporary timepieces. Each face and strap is unisex and can be interchanged – ideal for anyone who likes to mix it up. Not sure where to start? You can’t go wrong with a Lugano Milanese in Gold.
For some fresh kicks, stop by Superga – home to the Italian plimsole. The iconic 2750 design looks fly with a pair of tailored trousers (the flatform version adds a little extra something if you want to look smart) – particularly if you make the most of the in-house artists, who’ll hand paint a design of your desire onto the canvas right in front of you.
It would be a crime to stroll the streets of Seven Dials without stopping into Neal’s Yard Dairy, where you can pick up a speciality wheel for the fromage fanatic in your life. Around 70 British and Irish cheesemakers sell their wares in this shop, so it’s also a great opportunity to support the locals. Even better, they’ll let you try before you buy (hand me that Shropshire Blue immediately). For a chocolatey treat, you can’t go wrong with Rococo Chocolates – each of which comes wrapped in a signature blue and white box. My advice? You’ll be loved forever if you turn up with a box of the salted caramel truffles.
Planning a pamper?
Your first stop should be the famous Neal’s Yard Remedies – a haven of organic health and beauty products. Whether it’s a hand balm or a massage oil, it’s almost impossible to leave there without something that smells heavenly. It’s tucked inside Neal’s Yard courtyard, too, which is an Instgrammer’s heaven. Fresh from New York you’ll find Le Labo on Monmouth Street, where expert perfumers create hand-made fragrances in what is arguably the prettiest shop in the entire city (I defy you to visit without photographing anything). You’ll get the chance to pick a perfume for your loved one that they’re unlikely to smell on anyone else. And who doesn’t love a one-of-a-kind gift at Christmas?