Fashion / Florence / Food / Travel Tips / Travels

London: V&A, Central Saint Martins and the East End

IMG_0997Thursday was the fashion-heavy day in our itinerary.

Unlike Paris, which had us merchandising students stuck in three-hour draping demonstrations and a half-day at Premiere Vision, our London curriculum focused a little more towards our end of fashion. I can thankfully say that I enjoyed every single thing on our itinerary, feeling that I was prepared to participate while gaining new knowledge.

Our first stop of the day was to the Victoria and Albert Museum to visit the Club to Catwalk exhibit. Our tour guide, Thomas, said the V&A is his favorite museum in London because it’s a hodgepodge of all the stuff that didn’t belong anywhere else. Our first tour in the museum covered their permanent fashion collection, starting with corsetry, which we also studied in Paris at the Louvre, all the way through the 2000s. From there we went to the Club to Catwalk exhibit, covering the London rave influence on couture fashion in the 1980s. Being that I love history, I found this exhibit very interesting with its depiction of the various angles of the ’80s, from spandex to gothic to fetish, while including videos of different fashion shows and club scenes. Listing specific stores and clubs that set the stage for these street style trends, we ended up stumbling upon a few later in the evening when we were exploring the East End.

In our break until the next scheduled appointment, some of us continued our Harry Potter craze from earlier in the week and took the Tube to King’s Cross St. Pancras Station to run through the wall at Platform 9 3/4. If you don’t have time to go to the Harry Potter Studios (as mentioned in my last blog) you must do this! It was a relatively short wait to snap a picture at the infamous platform that leads to the Hogwarts Express. There, a man from the Harry Potter souvenir shop had a variety of scarves for us to choose from (obvious I went with Gryffindor colors), tied it around our neck and threw it in the air at the time of the picture, all for free! A photographer also snapped pictures for us, which we had the option to purchase at the store next to the photo-op.

We went around the corner from the station towards Central Saint Martins, our next stop, to find KERB, a walkway full of food trucks. Ranging from fried kebabs to organic salads to English tea and scones, we each chose from the variety, myself picking chips with cheese and Korean hot sauce from Spit & Roast and a raspberry and rose macaroon from The Crumbery, all for only 5 sterling  pounds! Somehow we lucked out with gorgeous weather the entire length of our stay, so we ate outside at one of the market’s numerous seating areas, enjoying the sunshine and wifi that London has all over the city (God bless them).

With full bellies we ventured across the street to Central Saint Martins, the number one fashion school in the world, for a seminar on sustainable fashion. As one of our professors, Barbara, who accompanied us on the trip, is a trend forecaster, we have been studying the topic in great detail in her class. In the three-hour seminar we toured the school, had a lecture and were broken into teams to research companies and global ethics corporations and find the connection between the two. We then gave a presentation on each and gave our recommendations for their future collaboration.

That night Olivia, Jaron and I ventured to the East End to do some vintage shopping near Shoreditch. Unfortunately most store were already closed by the time our lecture was let out, but we managed to sneak into Blitz before it closed. An infamous vintage department store that was actually mentioned in the Club to Catwalk exhibit we saw earlier in the day, the first thing I saw on a rack was a Kent State sweatshirt, being sold at 30 sterling pounds. Shifting through the racks I also found Cleveland Indians and Ohio State sweatshirts. Glad to see Ohio is being represented in London, also done so by the man with the scarves at Platform 9 3/4 earlier in the day, who yelled “O-H!” at us when we told him we were from Ohio. We had to explain the idea of the spelling game to the confused photographer after we yelled “I-O!” back.

After shopping we ran into Brick Street, infamous for its curry. In “Curry Town” it is customary for front of house hosts to standing on the street and bargain deals with customers passing by. We were summoned into a new restaurant by the owner, who also owned four other restaurants on the street, who promised us two free starters each, two glasses of wine each, a free side and any entree for 10 pounds. Obviously, that was a deal we couldn’t pass up, especially when he said if we hated it we wouldn’t have to pay a dime.

It was my first experience with Indian food and, let me tell you, that was the time and place to do it. It was delicious! I went off the waiter’s recommendation and ordered Balti Chicken for my entree, which was the perfect level of spicy. Meanwhile, Jaron ordered some dish that had him grabbing my water from across the table when his mouth turned to fire. On that note, even if you get it all the time at home, as Jaron said he did, be mindful that you’re in the best spot for spice outside of India!

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at Boots drug store at the Tube station. Best. Store. Ever. It’s like Target, Ulta and Sephora all had a baby. Finally, normal skincare products! We stocked up on makeup remover, moisturizers, hair products, eyeshadows and lipsticks we could, making it a great end to a great day.

Some tips:

  • I went to a ton of museums the first time I was in London, and I definitely agree with Thomas in saying that Victoria and Albert is the best. It has everything, plus free entrance!
  • All Harry Potter fans most go to Platform 9 3/4. Note, it is not actually between platforms 9 and 10, but it’s hard to miss.
  • Kerb has some great and cheap food. I was easily full just off my few snacks there, and the vendors change every day!
  • If you like vintage, swing by Shoreditch early in the day to explore the shops. Be mindful though, it’s easy to drop a pretty penny in most of the places, even for the most basic items like jean shorts (24 pounds at Blitz = over $40).
  • Make sure to get some Indian food! Although it’s all over the city, Brick Street is where you’ll find the best bargains. Don’t go less for a free appetizer, free wine and 25% off your bill MINIMUM.
  • If you love makeup, go to Boots. They have everything! I found great lipstick by Divine for 4 pounds.
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