Camden Town is world renowned as the place to shop for alternative clothing and here Catherine Magill
reviews some of the the best alternative shops and stalls to visit.
Burlesque nights are back in fashion right now, so if you’re looking for something Dita-esque, you could try After Dark on Chalk Farm Road for bargain lingerie, , and there’s some fully authentic reproduction 50’s lingerie in Arc which includes bullet bra’s. Watch out for sizing on this as unlike modern lingerie it really doesn’t stretch.
These days "goth" is difficult to pin down as a specific genre, because of its endless subdivisions.
Glamorous goths should head to Burleska for cute mass-produced versions. After Dark is the new Black Rose, stocking anything you want as long as it’s black – sometimes black patterns on a black background with black glitter. You'll find some top brands and a vast range of colourful accessories, including fashion tights and stockings, hair pieces, lingerie and make-up. Everything from trad goth, punky bondage pants, corsets, T-shirts, to fetishistic wetlook tops here. The staff don’t appear to be allowed to smile, and it’s good for spooky-kid spotting – dribbly eyeliner and plastic bat wing tops ahoy!
Also on the main road is Darkside, famous for being the original gothic store in Camden High Street. It still offers two floors of gothic, cyber and industrial clothing. So that means lots of velvet, flat fronted Elizabethan style corset tops, cloaks, shiny trousers, spider-net skirts, frilly shirts, slashed tops, and a selection of gothic and rockabilly shoes, slightly different from those available on the rest of the High Street.
Opposite that is Glitters, more commonly known as the shop that has everything and will try to sell you it all at once. Go in, ask for what you want, sort out a sensible price, don’t let anyone dye your hair on the way out! Done and dusted for the time-poor. Seriously, this shop really does have everything – tutus, chain mail, bondage trousers, plaid, PVC, band T-shirts ...
Trad goths should head for Elizium, which exists as a stall in both the Camden (Buck Street) Market and the Stables Market. Lots of velvet, leather, brocade, cinchers and corsets, big skirts and the kind of tops you just know you are going to trail in your dinner. Dragstrip in Stables Market stocks some gothic clothing & accessories too.
There’s also a fashion for wearing traditional Chinese clothing with goth or fetish accessories and Phoenix in the Stables Market sell authentic Chinese silk clothing.
If you are looking for footwear, the sad news is that many of the shops in Camden are owned by the same companies, so although there’s quite a wide range of big stompy boots, platform heels, pixie boots, things with way too many buckles, tons of glitter, and spiral strappy sandals, you are unlikely to find them cheap.
For second hand and new goth clothing check the Electric Ballroom on a Sunday.
The fetish scene has largely moved on from Camden Town now but there do remain a number of shops who still sell the bargain fetishist’s alternative to latex , PVC - Elizium, Glitters, After Dark and Darkside. To cater for more specialised tastes, Burleska do a small amount of latex classics and corsetry.
There’s a huge amount of 50’s influenced clothing around at the moment. Dragstrip, remains in the Stables Market, with an emphasis on psychobilly and rockabilly oriented items. This includes bowling shirts, bondage trousers (pinstripe, tartan, PVC and denim) including some US imports. For homegrown talent there’s Vivien of Holloway at Arc. Petticoats can be found in a myriad of colours at Burleska, and Arc, whilst the Edward Scissorhands range in Criminal Damage is a kitsched up, punk’d up version of the theme - in pink! Collectif (which should be spelt with the e round the wrong way, for some reason) is a strange mix of 50’s, with a smattering of Japanese street style.
Most of the shops mentioned so far also do punk clothing or punk influenced clothing – but there’s not a huge amount of specifically punk places left. Hellwear Clothing sell “Rock 'n' roll trash clothing for girls, guys, freaks and babes” and seemed to have some punk stuff, including punky alternative clothing for kids and babies! Over the Top have a good punk section.
Cold Steel are renowned for their piercing skills, and the British Boot Company do a huge selection of Docs and similar boots.
“What is a Cyberdog?” remarked one tourist in a puzzled manner as we passed it in the review. Well, it’s probably the largest shop in the Stables Market, and used to double up as a random dance floor, but these days they aren’t so keen on you doing that. So instead go in and ogle the UV, circuit patterned, be-tubed, foam padded, light reflective striped, complex cyber design that is the interior of the shop and the exterior of its clothes. Also with added strange cyber sculpture and real live dancers. Take a credit card with you, unless like me you can fit into their largest size of child’s T-shirt!
For matching hair try Pepys, world famous for crazy plastic hair, definitely the place to go if you want clubwear for your head. They do very good quality alternative but still within the realms of having a normal job hair too.
Hexagon have giant trousers and things with padded spikes on – surprisingly practical as clubwear, plus the perkiest staff member ever.
Spank sell a great range of coordinated mix and match layered club wear with tons of pinstripe, UV, PVC, light reflective strips and easily identifiable tribal prints and V cut patterns. These are great value, particularly as they aren’t too extreme to be seen in, outside of a club.
No:wear’s style is difficult to describe – loose knit punk/goth tops woven with wire, velvet bolero tops with a strangely cyber twist – glam fetishy cyber gear? Whatever it is, it’s very unusual and you can’t get it anywhere else.
If you want the classic huge fun fur with matching skirt and boot covers in neon pink, Longfordrockers is the place for you. Fun and funky alternative club gear, with allegedly the most sought after hotpants in London.
At the Electric Ballroom on Sundays, Lovebomb sell fantastic holographic T-shirts. They include shirts with prints of wings (demon or angel), barcodes, flames, skeletons, barbed wire, etc.
Punkyfish are now a huge brand and are still on Chalk Farm Road and in the Stables Market, selling their brightly coloured, asymmetric, multi zippered stretch tops, hooded fleeces and huge skater style trousers.
EGL – Elegant Gothic Lolita
is a relatively new store specialising in this Japanese style. If dressing up as a goth version of a Victorian porcelain doll is your thing, it’s thoroughly recommended. Apparently it also does visual kei, which appears to be the Japanese equivalent of the 80’s glam metal look.
There’s a long-standing stall for John Doe Clothing
in the Canal Market, which produces unique airbrushed T-shirts, hoodies and trainers. Slightly skater, slightly punk, not available anywhere else.
Meanwhile there’s also, in the Stables Market, a stall known colloquially as “the Barbie
shop” (and it’s just as pink as that implies) which also sells cartoon inspired DIY puffball skirts, shredded tops and funky bags. Fun, silly, and again, not available elsewhere.
Those everchanging stalls at Camden (Buck Street) Market sell a lot of this, but there are a few permanent shops which do too. Gekko
are worth a mention for their comfy knits, sari skirts and cotton tops, as they are higher quality than most and more stylish. Around the corner are Tribu
selling tribal “body adornments”, for which read natural material spirals for ears and huge chunky wood bangles.
Enjoy your alternative travels!
To find these businesses when you plan to visit Camden find their street addresses in our Business Directory .
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