London is, according to property investment giant CBRE, the world’s number one luxury destination. Its culture and commerce woo overseas visitors and investors; while for those of us who live here, London constantly fizzes with vibrant, creative energy. No other city in the world is driven by quite the same feeling that something is always going on.
You can hardly turn a corner without discovering a hip happening or a novel trend everyone’s talking about, or noticing the cool crowd flocking to a gallery opening, hot restaurant or palace of high-end hedonism.
The more interesting question is not what’s happening, but why? The CEO of one of London’s shiniest luxury brands has it that it’s because creativity is London’s lifeblood. And not just the kind of creativity that fills galleries and concert halls – London is also home to Britain’s growing army of creative entrepreneurs. In fact, in a recent Natwest study, two thirds of people in Britain thought London was the best place to start a new business.
Among the high-rise buildings springing up along the Thames, away from the chic fleshpots, Londoners are working away, building innovative, creative businesses that challenge and disrupt the luxury landscape.
Some of these will become Britain’s luxury brands of the future, like those on Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow programme, which helps nurture creative businesses – Flowerbx, which recently covered Annabel’s in pink hydrangeas; Cubitts on Jermyn Street, the London-born eyewear designers; whiskey bonders J.J Corry…
Meanwhile, heritage brands such as Gieves & Hawkes and Drake’s deftly balance years of heritage with modernity and relevance. It is luxury businesses like these that make London a calling-card for creativity. What a spectacularly inspiring city it is. Long may it continue.
Helen Brocklebank is CEO of Walpole, the sector body for British luxury brands.
1. Taste test London’s finest gin at Sipsmith, W4
When Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall opened the Sipsmith London distillery in 2009, it became the first traditional copper pot distillery to open in London for nearly 200 years. Today, you can tour the distillery to learn about the history of gin, see its stills at work and be tutored in the art of gin tasting.
2. Get fitted by a grand master at Edward Sexton, SW3
A master tailor and Savile Row-trained rebel, Edward Sexton has been dressing stars of stage and screen for more than half a century – his client list includes the likes of Harry Styles and Mark Ronson. Order a suit, and Sexton will design it, cut it and fit it, all the time regaling you with stories while he’s at it.
3. Have a drink with your tailor at Thom Sweeney, W1K
Thom Sweeney is singularly cool. The ready-to-wear collection is always impressive, but the bespoke store on Weighhouse Street is a modern menswear destination, too. Stop by to thumb through fabrics and Thom and Luke will make sure you’re well-watered, care of the shop’s properly stocked bar.
4. Seal a deal with a signet ring at Rebus Signet Rings, EC1N
Rebus specialises in handcrafted signet rings and bespoke engraved jewellery, designed and made using painstaking traditional methods in its Hatton Garden workshop. Visit their team of goldsmiths on Leather Lane, and commission a signet ring with a unique engraving.
5. Bind your own book the old-fashioned way at Wyvern Bindery, EC1M
In our chaotic digital world, Wyvern’s traditional book bindery provides analogue refuge for craft obsessives. Commission a bespoke book-binding, or take an old album, treasured tome or perhaps even a university thesis to the Clerkenwell workshop and watch centuries-old craftsmanship at work.
6. Get measured up for a bespoke shirt at Budd Shirtmakers, SW1Y
Budd occupies a unique spot in the sartorial world. It’s the last British shirtmaker with a cutting room above its Edwardian ground-floor shop. Pay the Piccadilly Arcade store a visit, and you’re as likely to be served by one of the house’s long-serving shirt cutters, as you are the front of house team. Should you choose to place a bespoke order, the man who measures you and advises on cloth and fit will also be the man to draft your pattern and cut your shirt by hand, ensuring you have a direct relationship with Budd’s craftsmen through the whole process.
7. Design a driving jacket at Gieves & Hawkes, W1S
No.1 Savile Row’s bespoke workshop is overseen by Head Cutter and tailoring pioneer Davide Taub. His creations range from hybrid peacoats to blazers with zip-in gilets, and quilted driving jackets made from cutting-edge wind and rainproof
wool. Work with him on something similar, and you’ll never want to get out of the car.
8. Customise your own fragrance at Floris London, SW1Y
The West End’s oldest perfumer, Floris, has been passed down through 11 generations of the same family. That adds up to a lot of experience in luxury fragrances, which makes Floris’s fragrance customisation service all the more special. Book an appointment and you’ll spend an afternoon with a perfumer, sniffing your way through your own ‘olfactory memories’ and dozens of natural accords, before your bespoke scent will be hand-mixed for you to take away. Your own unique formula will be added to Floris’s records for posterity, alongside those of Winston Churchill, David Bowie and Michael Caine.
9. Shape your own spectacles at Cubitts, N1
Cubitts has fast become one of the smartest brands in London, offering affordable, intelligently designed eyewear you can customise to make your own. Its five London shops cover Borough, Soho, Spitalfields, King’s Cross and Jermyn Street. Now, you really can make Cubitts your own by joining one of the brand’s spectacle-making masterclasses, run from its King’s Cross workshop. Start with a block of solid tortoiseshell acetate, and in the space of a few hours you’ll shape your own pair of frames.
10. Choose a unique tie of your very own at Drake’s, N1
This London outfitter needs little introduction. Today, Drakes’ British-made shirts and ties are the backbone of any
well-dressed man’s wardrobe. Little known fact though; their East-End tie-making factory holds a stock of rare end-of-line and vintage fabrics. If you ask very nicely, you can head in there to choose a fabric for yourself, order a tie and watch it take shape before your very eyes.
11. Meet London’s last leathersmith at Charlie Borrow, E2
Charlie Borrow set up shop in 2013, with the intention of hand-making luggage from the most indestructible materials he could find. Today, he works in the best bridle hide leather and military deadstock canvas, making bags that’ll last for as long as you’re prepared to use them. Pay his workshop a visit to see him in action.
12. Try on the most comfortable slippers in the world at Baudoin & Lange, E2
Baudoin & Lange was founded in 2016 by shoemaker Alan Baudoin, and entrepreneur Bo van Langeveld. They had one simple idea: to create the most comfortable suede loafers on the planet. Two years on, their workshop produces a British style sensation. If you’re in need of some chic summer shoes, try a pair on for yourself – they’ll knock your socks off.
13. Sample wine made right here in the capital at Renegade Wines, E2
Bethnal Green’s independent urban winery makes small batch wines with grapes from around the UK and Europe. They also process, age, bottle, cork, label and wax all their bottles in-house. Visit for on-site tastings (by the bottle or by the glass), surrounded by barrels, presses, pumps and other wine-making paraphernalia.
14. Commission a bespoke piece of furniture at Juan Junca, SE16
Junca makes his furniture by hand in his Bermondsey workshop using ethically sourced wood. He tries to craft each piece from the wood of a single tree in a process that can take more than 100 hours to complete. Visit his workshop to commission a piece, or to learn more about him and his craft.
15. Sharpen a blade in a working forge Blenheim Forge at Peckham, SE15
Blade-smiths Jon Warshawsky, James Ross-Harris and Richard Warner craft handmade chef’s knives in south London using only fire, steel and wood. You can visit the forge to purchase a knife or take part in one of their expert sharpening courses.