Independent shopping guide: Clothes

  • The List
  • 28 March 2011
Independent shopping guide: where to buy your clothes

The best boutique and vintage clothes shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh

We like ‘the little guy’ here at The List. Those mavericks sticking it to the man, opening up small businesses according to their own rules, and finding clever, creative ways to stay trading in the midst of the recession (and that’s the last time we’ll drop the grizzly ‘R’ word, promise). From a shopper’s point of view, it also brings some much-appreciated variety to the shop scene – seeing as they tend to stock some otherwise hard-to-find brands, and provide a place for local makers to sell their wares.

Supporting up-and-coming designers in Scotland is not only good for business – it’s good for your wardrobe too. Shopping local gives you less chance of looking like you ran through Urban Outfitters covered in Superglue, and minimises the risk of that painful moment – spotting your Primark Twin at a party.

For fashion from your own backyard – eca graduate Jenny Sweetnam designs her own statement oblong capes in monochrome, geometric and beautiful ikat fabrics, and big garment-jewellery pieces to go with it, which she sells in the studio-shop she co-runs, Technicolour, (see our interview with Jenny).

Tea at Aunties upcycles 70s vintage suits into playsuits and dresses and is stocked at Portobello’s Urban Igloo, or for patterned t-shirts by Oddities and Folk, jumpsuits by Sessun and APC’s rainbow-coloured Madras range, Goodstead lets you have a stroke of plenty labels you’d normally have to go online for.

The List has long been a fan of the Red Door Gallery’s policy of giving a foot-up to local designers on the up-and-up, and we’re suckers for their current selection of balsa badges, acrylic earrings, silk scarves and tote bags. Over in Glasgow, Welcome Home has a similar policy of giving a platform to young makers of Aztec-pattern purses, neon textiles and irresistible woven leather bags by sainthughsbones.

Sticking in the West, the pocket-sized boutique La La Land will kit you out in a bodycon dress or earrings made from lace, feathers or leather; and upstairs Made in the Shade is a reliable stop for dainty hand-stitched brooches and earrings often made by talented folks living within a few minutes of the shop. Along at the newly opened Shop of Interest in Finneston, multi-coloured silk scarves and kimonos can be found by local textile-queen Morag Macpherson, and round the corner Made With Love might look like a teashop, but there’s a tiny wardrobe stuffed with vintage frocks and tops in the back, as well as ceramic jewellery made in Glasgow.

Besides newly designed items, we also enjoy a rifle through the second-hand clothes shops of both cities, with Vintage Guru, Watermelon, Glasgow Vintage Co, and Starry Starry Night coming highly recommended in Glasgow, and Herman Brown, Armstrong’s and the newly opened Frayed Hem getting our vote in Edinburgh.

Need tips on how to shop properly for vintage? Jennifer Cocozza, director of Vintage Guru spent fifteen years supplying vintage clothes to collectors and the film industry, before opening her Byres Road shop. Here she shares her eh, ‘counter intelligence’ (*ducks to avoid flying secondhand stilleto*) with The List.

‘For cheap second-hand clothes charity shops would probably be the best option – if you like a good rummage around. For online shopping, I would always buy from reputable sellers, that way you know exactly what you’re getting and avoid disappointment.

‘Designer labels are worthwhile spending a bit more on. The fabrics are generally far superior and better cut. Early vintage labels are always a good investment – you can’t go wrong with 50s and 60s Ballantyne or Pringle cashmere sweaters.

‘Damage on an item will always put me off, I tend to collect items which are as close to perfect condition as possible. At Vintage Guru we have 100 items of fresh stock every day. At the moment knitwear is the most popular. We have a large selection of preppy, Fair Isle, cashmere, Icelandic, vintage cashmere, hand knits, Arrans – and the 80s mohairs are always popular with students.’

See our top 5 picks for vintage shopping in Scotland.

A Watermelon
603 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 8HX
As a former employee of Armstrong's - celebrated purveyor of vintage clothing in Edinburgh - Gavin O'Brien was the ideal candidate to revive Glasgow's second-hand and retro clothing market with his fabulous and quirky shop, Watermelon. Almost everything…
B Welcome Home
CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3JD
A beautiful, well-curated collection of books, furniture and jewellery (mostly from local, emerging designers), in new, more central premises at the CCA.
C Herman Brown
151 West Port, Edinburgh, EH3 9DP
Seriously gorgeous selection of top-end vintage accessories and shoes hang alongside a carefully selected, colour-coded range of 1950s-1980s fashions. The very best place to lay hands on retro sunglasses, diamante hat pins and patent stilettos.
D Armstrongs
83 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2HJ
There is no better place in Edinburgh to take a walk down fashion's memory lane than WM Armstrong & Son. Established in 1840 and locally known as Armstrong’s, its two branches (the other is at 64 Clerk Street) combine to make a huge emporium of…
E Red Door Gallery
42 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2JW
The best place to pick up artisan jewellery, prints, paintings, sculpture and completely individual greetings cards, all by local artists. Regularly changing exhibitions, lovely, friendly staff and a great selection of funky old lomo cameras if you're…
F Armstrongs
64–66 Clerk Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9JB
Whether you're a fashion student or just a dedicated follower, a visit to the granddaddy of Edinburgh's vintage stores is essential for anyone with even the slightest interest in clothes. The Grassmarket branch has by far the bigger, more eclectic…

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