While we’re missing the tactile experience of browsing in real life, thanks to the world's best online shops we can still dress like a Parisian and take afternoon tea like a Brit – all from the comfort of our own homes.
From globally renowned department stores to rickety bookshops and vintage boutiques, we’ve taken a fantasy shopping trip around the world and found the best online shops to indulge in a spot of retail therapy.
Take a virtual trip to London for artsy fashion and quintessentially British afternoon tea.
Dover Street Market
This uber-cool boutique, created by Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo, began its life on Dover Street in swanky Mayfair, attracting the edgiest of fashion aficionados who were stocking up on avant-garde designs or popping in for the experience (along with starry-eyed yet penniless fashion students). The concept has since popped up in New York City, Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing and Los Angeles. You can browse the brands of all outlets on its website, with a small online shopping offering with international shipping. Our pick? The Comme des Garçons x Converse collaboration.
Oscar Wilde declared “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper”, which remains true to this day. Set just back from Oxford Street, its breathtaking Tudor-revival store features a collection of rickety, wood-panelled rooms, each home to a carefully curated selection of beautiful brands spanning fashion, homewares and gifts. While a browse online is no comparison to the real deal, it’s a makeshift way to get your fix. We love its quintessentially English, signature Liberty floral and paisley prints, available on everything from coffee cups to handbags, shirts and ties.
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason has been a British institution since 1707, with millions of visitors from across the world flocking to its Piccadilly flagship for its famous afternoon tea. Happily its luxury hampers are available to order online: we’re coveting The Time for Tea hamper, which features a dainty teapot and mug, loose-leaf tea and biscuits, all packed in Fortnum & Mason’s Insta-famous wicker hamper, which is as good as the contents itself.
The City of Lights is not only for lovers, but for shoppers: invest in effortless French style and coffee-table books.
That inimitable, effortless Parisian style is coveted the world over, and you’ll find it in abundance here, with a selection of French brands such as Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot sitting alongside international names. With a range of fashion and homewares, you can not only dress like a Parisian, but decorate your home like one, too — there’s a spot on our dresser reserved for this fabulous Coco Chanel-inspired doll by Lucie Kaas. Its flagship store in the 9th arrondissement is heaven on earth for shoppers – and until we (and our credit cards) can get back in there, international shipping through its mail order department is available.
Shakespeare & Company
This legendary Parisian bookstore, nestled under the shadow of the Notre-Dame, has played host to many a bohemian bookworm since opening its doors in 1951. This independent shop features everything from antique and rare volumes to the latest bestsellers, customised books and lesser-known titles from Indie publishers. It also champions unpublished writers through its Paris Literary Prize. If you really want to take a virtual trip to this Parisian bookstore, place an order for Shakespeare & Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop the Heart, featuring more than 300 images throughout its history.
Le Bon Marché
When a department store is created by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, you just know it’s going to be executed beautifully. You can indulge in your French luxury brands here – Celine, Chloé, Isabel Marant – along with international labels, lustworthy handbags, perfectly-curated French beauty from the likes of Chantecaille and La Bouche Rouge and finishing touches from jewellery to sunglasses. Your bank balance won’t thank us for it, but we can confirm international shipping is available (these Celine sunnies will make us look suitably Parisian, non?).
You don’t need to trawl the streets of New York to buy from its legendary department stores and vintage boutiques: it’s all for the taking online.
Ahh, Bloomie’s: the icon status of this department store, whose heritage dates back to 1872, was sealed in pop culture history when Rachel Green was hired to be a personal shopper at the store in ‘Friends’. You could get lost in its Upper East Side flagship wonderland for hours, not to mention its breathtaking festive light and window displays (be still, our beating hearts). For now, we’re grateful to have an online touchpoint – with flat-rate international shipping. When it comes to brands, expect the best of international (Gucci, Chloé) and American (Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs), across men’s, women’s and children’s fashion and accessories, and homeware.
Amarcord Vintage Fashion
New York is a vintage-shopper’s dream, and Amarcord is one of its finest. Far from the fusty, musty vintage shops of old, visitors to its Brooklyn store can expect sleek white interiors with beautifully-presented product, specialising in iconic and hard-to-find pieces (think Gucci in the days of Tom Ford and timeless Pucci scarves). Brooklyn is also home to the brand’s vintage showroom, a treasure trove of more than 50,000 pieces dating from the Victorian era to the early noughties, which is regularly dipped into by TV and film producers. Dip your toe in the water with a browse through its online catalogue (with international shipping available).
Want to be inspired by that New York brand of cool? Swing by the online home of Opening Ceremony, which showcases its own-brand collections along with those of homegrown talent and uber-cool designers including Raf Simons and Alexander Wang. Its collaborations with brands such as Rodarte, Topshop, Pendleton, and Maison Martin Margiela have cemented its reputation as the epitome of New York cool, and its success has seen the brand expand with outposts in LA and Hong Kong, in addition to its downtown New York flagship. Whilst it ceased international shipping from its own site earlier this year, the website gives a taste of the aesthetic you can expect in store. Can’t wait until you can next get to New York? Opening Ceremony’s own brand can be found on ASOS.
Look to Japan’s glittering capital Tokyo for edgy Japanese design and quirky trinkets.
R for D
R for D (Room for Designers) is a Tokyo boutique that houses a curated selection of pieces by Japanese designers, from established names to up-and-coming labels. Diverse and cutting edge (think origami-style shirts and pants, chunky sandals and oversized graphic t-shirts), you’ll get a real taste for Japan’s fashion and street-style scene through this cross-section of homegrown fashion talent. It started its life as an online store before evolving into a real-life boutique, so its website has a well-established offering – with international shipping to boot.
Are you missing those random souvenirs you really don’t need to buy on holiday but for some inexplicable reason, just have to? Welcome to Tokyo Kitsch: home to an eclectic collection, from Japanese keepsakes to the weird yet wonderful. The question is, how will you decide between Mt. Fuji sake cups, chopstick rests, kokeshi wooden dolls or a purse that looks like a real fish fillet? A scroll through the website is no replacement for the joy of discovering such trinkets in the flesh, but it’ll satiate your souvenir desires.
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