Monday, 8 August 2011

Cardiff’s hidden treasures

As a city, I think Cardiff is one of the best places to shop in the UK. The new St David’s 2 centre has allowed Cardiff to become the Mecca for shoppers across South Wales paving the way for Cardiff to become one of the most desired and favoured shopping centres in the whole of the UK.  The incredible array of shops now available is pretty incredible including a number of brands that were previously unchartered territory even to the hardcore, dedicated Cardiff shopper. Now with the likes of All Saints, Ed Hardy, Reiss, Kurt Geiger, John Lewis, Urban Outfitter and Cult, to mention just a few, as well as some of the largest retail outlets for the likes of Topshop, Primark, H&M and New Look, Cardiff really is a true fashionista’s dream, that caters for every taste and budget.

However, in addition to the abundance of well-known high street retailers residing in the St David’s 2 centre and along Queen Street, there is a relatively untapped market lurking only a few feet away from the main shopping precinct in the form of Cardiff’s arcades where lies the hidden treasures of Cardiff’s shopping world. So, I decided to tear myself away from the main shopping haven that is St David’s 2 and venture into the arcades to explore what they have to offer the serious Cardiff fashionista.

My first stop was the High Street Arcade, which lies behind Burger King and opposite Café Nero’s. At the entrance of the arcade is a trendy budget shoe shop called Eccentrix which caters for the fashion conscious shoe shopper at a fraction of the price of the likes of Dune, Topshop or Kurt Geiger. I continued on down the arcade, past a few sadly empty outlets until I came across Hobos.

Hobos is a classic vintage/second hand shop full to brim of an abundance of floral tea dresses and blouses, polka dot and floral skirts, tweed jackets, leather satchels, head scarfs and everything synonymous with the 40’s/50’s era. There is a real eclectic mix of items in here and if you are a true lover of all things vintage then it is definitely worth a visit because you are guaranteed to find some great garments in Hobos. Most items are very reasonably priced and extremely affordable with most garments ranging between £10-£40, depending on the item.

Next door to Hobos lies Pussygalore, a completely different sort of outlet from its neighboring shop, offering a selection of prom and evening wear for special occasions. The downstairs part of this shop is very small but as soon as you venture upstairs you are presented with a spacious showroom style outlet with a large ornate mirror positioned between two sizeable changing rooms.  There is a fantastic selection of both cocktail/prom dresses and full length evening gowns, perfect for a ball or high school prom. As I wandered round the store taking in all the sparkles and sequins starring back at me, a hoard of high school girls came running up the stairs and excitedly started rummaging through the rails on the hunt for their perfect prom dress. At that point I decided to make a swift exit and move along the arcade to see what was next in store for me.

Looby Loo’s
Next along the arcade I came across a boutique called Looby Loo’s. This is a vintage boutique, but unlike Hobos where most of the stock is second hand, this is a vintage boutique where all the stock is new, but very much in the style of 40’s and 50’s clothing. This store was beautifully stocked and decked out very much like that of a home which gave it a very relaxed atmosphere and made it a pleasure to explore.  As you enter the store you immediately notice the circular table in the centre of the store decorated with a vase of flowers in the middle surrounded by various pieces of crockery and jewellery. Opposite the circular table, along the window side of the shop was a beautiful wooden cabinet covered in a genuine silver brush and beauty set, home-made cards, other pieces of crockery and jewellery neatly draped on the cloth. On the opposite side of the shop was a plate covered in knitted cupcakes sandwiched between a ceramic cake stand covered in vintage gloves and a jewellery stand draped with silk head and neck scarves. As I ventured downstairs past an array of leather satchel hanging from some coat hooks on the wall, I was welcomed by a very lounge looking room. There was a cabinet to my left decorated with an old fashioned telephone, records, an old style teddy bear and a trunk with scarfs draped from it. Above the cabinet was a series of old fashioned pictures covering the wall. There was also a black leather sofa and coffee table with a copy of Vogue neatly placed on it. A hat stand stood proudly in the corner draped in hats, ties, scarfs and shirts. The rails of clothing had a huge selection of clothes to choose from in a variety of colours, patterns and sizes. I could have spent hours sifting through them and studying all the decorative items on display. Someone has taken a lot of time to get the feel and look of this boutique just right so its definitely worth a visit for the display pieces (all of which are for sale) alone.

Cardiff Rouge
Opposite Looby Loo’s is another vintage boutique called Cardiff Rouge, this was a very elegant store packed with a selection of beautifully crafted dresses, skirts and blouses. There was even a few pairs of shoes to try too and some hand-made jewellery. They were also playing some 40’s jazz music to add to the atmosphere of the store which was a nice touch.

Prices Sweet Shop
Next to Looby Lou’s is Prices Sweet Shop which is most definitely worth a visit, I know its not fashion related but I thought it was worth a mention because it is an old fashioned sweet shop, reminiscent of the ones I used to visit as a child.  In this shop is every sort of sweet you can imagine in tubs on shelves stretching the length of the store. Cola cubes, rhubarb and custard, lemon sherbets, aniseed twists, bon-bons, the list goes on but you name it and they have it. A great place to grab a sugar hit to keep you going for the rest of the afternoon while you continue your meander down the arcade. 

The final fashion stop on my cruise down the High Street arcade was Bejewelled. This store is amazing, its like walking into Aladdin’s cove. Specialising in jewellery and gifts, this store has literally has everything and anything you could ever think of, from home-made cards, to hand-crafted jewellery, hand painted mugs, old fashioned candy, cute floral covered diaries and notebooks, old fashioned printed place-mats, aprons and tins not to mention leather bags and holdalls. This is the perfect store for Christmas shopping or bespoke gift ideas for your Mum or Nan for their birthday and is another store you could spend a lot of time exploring. Check it out next time you are in town.

I was most definitely impressed with what I uncovered down the High Street Arcade so I would certainly urge you to take a look for yourself next time you are in town and I promise you will find something you like in the boutiques down there. Not only are they original, unique, quirky and fun to explore, by visiting them you will be helping the local shopkeepers and preventing another fantastic boutique from closing down.  As High Street Arcade is only one of the very many arcades in Cardiff City Centre, next week I will be exploring another one and reporting my finds here on my blog so stay tuned and in the meantime, happy shopping XX

No comments: