Hannah Teare: ‘London is where the creativity starts’
We have never had so much choice about where and how to shop and this is particularly apparent in London, where the fashion choices seem infinite and shopping destinations endless. As a veteran of countless fashion shoots, working as a stylist for Tatler, Stylist, Vanity Fair and Vogue, our Fashion Insider, Hannah Teare, knows the shopping destinations of the capital like no other. So we were delighted to have a chat with her about the way shopping – and shops – are changing in our fair capital.
The editorial work that you’re well known for is very distinctive – how do you approach the styling process?
As I child I spent a lot of time lost in my imagination, so working as a stylist just seemed like quite a natural role for me. In fact, it’s kind of less about fashion and more about beautiful things: it’s the magpie element that I’m really drawn to. I’m not necessarily trend-led compared to other stylists; I just love what I love, or come up with a story idea and then find things that work for me from the current collections.
I add quite a lot of layers and then draw on my Rolodex of people that I’ve been using for years and years. Maybe it’s some vintage jewellery as well as current collections, so I can create a really visually rich experience. I also do pared-down fashion images – my skill set covers it – but what I think I’m probably better known for are those crazy, full-on images of super-romantic or couture pieces that I’ve created.
You’ve been involved in the app ‘I Style Myself’, which is obviously quite different from the editorial shoots that you mention. What interested you about that project?
In the fashion world, there can be a sense that you should wear whatever’s in that season and you should disregard anything else, but in reality, very few people wear items that are so current. Most people probably have items they love from three years ago and a pair of shoes from five years ago and a shirt they’ve just bought. It’s more about personal style, so the app was a way of working with what you have in your current wardrobe and finding individual pieces to create your own unique look. It’s a fun project.
You talked about having a magpie instinct. You must be in your element in London, with all the different areas and different characters of those areas. What do they offer you?
Well, somewhere like Mount Street is newly developed and there’s a lot of energy there. It’s affluent but it’s interesting to compare it to somewhere else that’s famously high-end, like Bond Street, which feels like it has less energy, despite being home to all the flagships from all the old guard and the new guard who want to be the old guard. I think there’s a lot of individuality there in Mount Street, which is exciting.
There’s such a fresh energy and spin around Marylebone High Street too – there are loads of really interesting boutiques and I find that a really lovely place to shop.
Further east in London there are a lot of individual stores, like Oliver Spencers and Starch and places like that, but you are also are getting a kind of homogenization over there because more established brands are buying into the cool credibility of those areas. That happened down in Portobello fifteen years ago, and sadly the vintage element of the market is not as rich as it once as a result. You still do get a lot of vintage in West London, because that’s just the way that people over this side have often expressed themselves. And, of course, there are still little gems of vintage boutiques, but you just have to know where to go.
Chelsea is definitely a lovely way to shop the high end of the high street and the high street. There’s a great offering there, but it’s a shame to see the decline of High Street Kensington, which, when I first came to London, had such a great vibe about it.
What happened there?
I think it was partly to do with the reinvigoration around the Oxford Circus area, with TopShop creating this kind of mothership and Selfridges reestablishing itself as a fashion tour de force, but also a lot to do with the Westfield complex opening. Where people might have gone to High Street Kensington for Gap or French Connection, you’ve finally got all these options and more with parking. It just became less of a place to visit, I think.
Have shopping habits changed along with their choices of shopping destinations?
People used to save their shopping, whether it was for their work wardrobe or shopping for an event, for the weekend, or maybe the one night a week that was late night shopping was available. Now you can often shop after-hours three nights a week and, at somewhere like Topshop, you can always get something up until about 9 o’clock at night.
Something that I learned through the development of the app is that, often, people shop and look for things online during their lunch hours (or probably when they’re a bit bored at work), find what they want and then go specifically to that store to try it on. So the web has helped create targeted shopping.
Whereas there’s still the thrill of the chase with shopping in vintage and independent boutiques? Is it more about the experience?
Yes, I think so. There was that massive trend in the 2000s for vintage, and now there is this yearning for things that are more individual and authentic, so stores like James Locke & Co (the hat shop) which has been there for over 300 years, still has a steady business and a recently renewed interest in what it does. There is a desire for things that are individual or personal – things that you can personalise. This is one of the many reasons I absolutely love and celebrate London because it’s an anything-goes kind of place: it’s where the creativity starts.
How is it different in character to those other fashion cities around the globe?
London’s just a pulsating heart, really, and even when the fashion press say everything’s moved back to New York and it’s cool to be over the Atlantic again, London has always been somewhere that people look to as a starting point.
We have these historic stores – and stories – that just can’t be replicated: companies that are over 100 years old and have been selling shirts to the royal family for that entire time. What’s exciting is that’s just as cool and interesting to people as a brand-new boutique in somewhere like Shoreditch. We’ve just got such a great offering here. It’s so diverse.
It’s wonderful that the old venerable shirt makers and the new hipster boutiques that are popping up are garnering similar favour. And I suppose what these two offerings have in common is a real in-depth knowledge of their products?
Absolutely. As a stylist I’m not intimidated by walking into stores, looking in boutiques or some of these little shirt shops, but often people that I’ve had on the SideStory Experiences have told me that they wouldn’t ordinarily go into those places on their own, which is a real shame. There can be a certain intimidation factor in these little shops, maybe because often you might be the only person in there and you might feel you should buy something. What you’re actually getting there is knowledge. There’s so much knowledge amongst the people who work in those older stores, and all it takes is to pique a tiny bit of interest and you can just get so much from it. It’s fascinating.
For more information on Hannah’s background and the experiences she offers, head to Hannah Teare SideStory. Photo credit: Britain’s Leading Ladies, styled by Hannah Teare, shot by Annie Leibovitz, M&S; Spirited Away, styled by Hannah Teare, shot by Ruvan Afanador, Tatler; Hannah Teare and Grace Jones collage, Wallpaper* magazine; West London fashion boutiques, Michael Drummond for SideStory; London Calling, styled by Hannah Teare, shot by Luis Monteiro, Tatler.