Christine Centenera, the Harper's BAZAAR fashion editor who also works with musician Kanye West on his clothing line, regularly touches down at Heathrow. But she freely admits it was only in the past 12 months that London finally captured her imagination.
"At first, London didn't really make sense to me," says Centenera. "I caught taxis everywhere and didn't have a grip on what was where in the city, particularly as I was often there working or shooting, so it was long hours in the studio and no time to put things into context or to see friends who could show me different parts of town."
For Centenera, it was making friends with the Tube ("It's an efficient way to get about") and discovering the edgier East End spots of Shoreditch and Clerkenwell, where West's design studio is located, that helped her get a handle on the city's neighbourhoods. It also highlighted the city's very individual sense of style.
"From a design point of view, there is nothing else like London. There's a freedom to the way people dress, a real individuality. I enjoy watching how they put themselves together. There's something quite theatrical about it."
In fact, London, which lost its fashion crown to Paris and New York during the early 2000s, has ranked highly on the must-see list since Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer of Burberry, brought the brand's bi-annual shows back to the house's home town in 2009. Bailey's decision to relocate the shows from Milan was seen by many as a vote of much-needed confidence in London's fashion heritage, spurring a revival of sorts that now sees some of the locally grown labels - Erdem, Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane - enjoying global recognition.
Centenera never misses the Burberry show ("It's one of the biggest on the global fashion-week calendars") and usually bases herself in Mayfair. Hotel of choice?
"I like to stay at the Langham Hotel just off Regent Street. The location's great and it's grand but not stuffy."
W1 is also excellent for its proximity to the retail delights of New Bond Street and surrounds, including the densely packed Dover Street Market; the increasingly designer-heavy Mount Street precinct ("The Nicholas Kirkwood shoe boutique is more like an art installation") and Marylebone High Street. For department stores, it's hard to go past Selfridges, and for a meal, "Well, it's usually room-service or a late-night supper at The Delaunay."
Christine Centenera's shopping picks
DOVER STREET MARKET
Rei Kawakubo's six-storey space is like an indoor high-end fashion market with the best of everything: clothing from Kawakubo's own label, Comme des Garçons, and other designers from Givenchy to Azzedine Alaïa, and jewellery by actor turned designer Waris (he appeared in The Darjeeling Limited), Gaia Repossi, Azature and more. Rose Bakery upstairs is great for tea and cake. 17-18 Dover St, Mayfair, +44 20 7518 0680.
The Tudor revival department store is a London landmark and contains one of the best edits of fashion in the world, as well as its own ranges of collaborations. My friend [Australian retail buyer] Yasmin Sewell worked with Liberty to bring in a stack of new brands to the womenswear floor and it's quite amazing. I also love the Paper Room for stationery and the Assouline Literary Lounge for books. Regent St (main entrance Great Marlborough St), Soho, +44 20 7734 1234.
Selfridges Shoe Galleries is one of the largest shoe departments, if not the largest, in the world. I love their exclusives from Balenciaga and London's own Nicholas Kirkwood, and Champagne and oysters at the Hix restaurant upstairs. 400 Oxford St, Marylebone, +44 11 3369 8040.
Browns is a London boutique institution with an unrivalled collection of labels. Joan Burstein's stores are always a great place to start in London because she champions the next big things, everyone from Christopher Kane to Marios Schwab, and her shop exclusives are a favourite. 23-27 South Molton St, Mayfair, +44 20 7514 0038.
This is the boutique of the pug-toting guitarist turned TV presenter Brix Smith-Start, who with her husband Philip Smart is a great supporter of London designers and sells labels including Richard Nicholl (well, Richard is Australian but he's been in London a long time), Church's and Jonathan Saunders, plus others such as Paris's Rick Owens and New York's Preen. The interior of the stores - they have a few in East London - are always bold and interesting. 42-44 Rivington St, Shoreditch, +44 20 7729 3334.
Uniqlo is my one and only high-street stop; it's great for staples including tees and knits. Their cashmere is particularly good and they always have a great range of colours. 311 Oxford St, Marylebone, +44 20 7290 7701.
The best place to seek out beautiful and original pieces with a history. The vintage here is incredible. If you're lucky you'll find an Ossie Clark original or something from Malcolm McLaren's brief designing period. 8 Golborne Rd, Kensington, +44 20 8962 0089.
If I'm shooting and can't shop but need something quickly, I'll always call on London-based Net-a-porter. Natalie Massenet's online boutique really was a pioneer in the field.
This is London's Louboutin and a great store too, with new installations every three months. The interior is really dramatic. 5 Mount St, Mayfair, +44 20 7290 1404.
CIRE TRUDON BOUTIQUE
I always need a candle in my room to make me feel at home and this tiny boutique is the first outside France from Cire Trudon. There's something very gothic and original about them. 36 Chiltern St, Marylebone, +44 20 7486 7590.
For interesting streetwear. 79-81 Ledbury Rd, Notting Hill, +44 20 7313 9031.
Knightsbridge can get so full of tourists but Harvey Nichols really is a cut above. There's something so international about the feel of this department store. 109-125 Knightsbridge, +44 20 7235 5000.
CLAIRE DE ROUEN BOOKS
It's the only bookshop in London that's completely about fashion and photography. It's tiny but well worth a look. 121-125 Charing Cross Rd, Soho, +44 20 7287 1813.
ROUGH TRADE EAST
I like to head out to the East End for the best music selection in London. Old Truman Brewery, Dray Walk, 91 Brick La, Shoreditch, +44 20 7392 7788.
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