Imagine a long street crowded with shoppers. Now add racks of dresses being wheeled out of lock up shops. It's a city yes, and besides the fashion shops, and alleys hung with the latest garments, cafes tempt you to linger thanks to the amazing cooking smells. There are also dry cleaners, garment alterers and even a sewing machine repair shop. Fonthill Road could be Singapore, Hong Kong, Dakka. But it's actually London's best kept secret - the place to go for cheap fashion, and invariably far more fashion forward than the high street.
Who will buy?
On my last sashay along the crowded pavements I enjoyed watching older women in brown coats debate whether to buy another brown coat, a super-plainly dressed Hasidic Jewish mum locate the only shop that sells black woollen skirts with front pleats; two Asian guys admiring the leopard skin tops (you come here to cross-dress too!), the girl in the shoe shop having a quick fag on the pavement, school students rushing past late for class with their eyes on the window, Turkish guys buying for girlfriends, black guys minding the buggy and baby while mum chooses the best dress to impress. There are long dresses, short dresses, Church dresses, nightclub handkerchiefs, frothy sunshine dresses, wedding dresses.
Most are on sale for a bargain fiver.
These must be the product of sweat shops - or maybe they are the trial runs. Whatever their provenance if you want to detour to the land of super cheap fashion then take the tube to Finsbury Park and walk to Fonthill Road. Here's where to change your image without punishing your budget.
On the other hand it doesn't answer my desire to try to buy pre-loved clothes.
As my daughters grow it is getting increasingly hard to find suitable stuff in charity shops that fits and isn't worn out (although jumble and car boot sales can be good). So I was thrilled to be tipped off by the shop assistant at the British Red Cross charity shop just off Kings Road that a member of the Nigerian royal family had just come in with piles of never worn clothes that would probably fit Nell. One pair of jeans for an eight-year-old (with jewelled skulls and roses on one leg) still had a price tag on it - apparently £400 - which the Red Cross staff planned to sell for £20.
A quick search revealed that 395 Dhs is the United Arab Emirates' dirham and thus originally £69.51. But a bargain's a bargain (even if 20 quid is still a pricey pair of jeans). It's Nell's first piece of designer wear and she looked very happy to be so spoilt.
For more info about fair trade and organic fashion see People Tree. Founder Safa Minney has recently published her first book too, Naked Fashion.
Do you know any row of shops in the UK that reminds you of an overseas experience? Bazars, markets, alleyways, pop-ups, pavement cafes - share what they remind you of, and their location. Thanks.