In these days of austerity, how lucky we women are to live just a bus ride from one of the cheapest places on the planet to buy clothes. This is my guide to a unique shopping experience which hopefully, is still as enjoyable despite the financial gloom.


Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park - Unique Shopping Experience

The wholesale garment district of Fonthill Road, North London opens its doors to the public every Saturday. There's bargains galore, but it's best to be organised!

Fonthill Road is an ordinary-looking thoroughfare close to Finsbury Park Tube Station. From Monday to Friday its wholesale garment outlets play host to professional buyers from all over London, but on Saturday the doors are thrown open to the bargain-hunters of London.


Bargains at Fonthill Road


And what bargains! There’s suits and boots, mad clothes and bad clothes, hats and glasses, skirts with tight asses, bras and panties and really naughty scanties, fake fur for transvestites, thick tweeds for the uptight, denim and leather and the odd ostrich feather, tight tarty trousers and designer-made blouses – you name it, they’ve got it.




On arrival at Fonthill Road, or ‘The Font’ as it’s known locally, (notice the religious symbolism here!) the novice should:


 • Restrain from rushing into the nearest shop, credit card held aloft. Do you want everyone to know it’s your first time?

 • Instead, stroll nonchalantly up one side of the road and down the other, getting a ‘feel’ for the whole experience.


• Relish those shop names – Sol Fashions, Lola’s, Beverley Hills, Opera, Big Girl, Dynasty, Frenchie. You’ll soon notice that Big is Beautiful here.

• Make a mental note of any merchandise you feel especially drawn to.

• Then stop off at one of the little cafes and replenish yourself for the serious work ahead. Try Café Sahara, Nocosia Snack Bar or Happy Days. Enjoy the cool sounds drifting out onto the street.


• Once replenished you are ready for the work ahead.




On your epic journey down The Font on a busy Saturday you may wonder why women are queuing outside certain shops. Well, overcrowding and stampeding must be kept to a minimum. That means you wait your turn.



Once inside customers walk round the racks of clothes one way only, like walking past the open coffin of a famous celebrity, except in this case you get to grab the holy relics on the way round.

In this situation you learn to refine your ‘shopper’s gaze’. Normally you’d allow your eyes to caress the merchandise and include every superfluous detail within your field of vision – but in the ‘one-way’ situation your eyes will rival the Terminator’s as you develop the ability to spot a desirable object at five meters and keep it in focus.

Eye and hand co-ordination then comes into play as your arm stretches beyond what you thought humanly possible.


A Fonthill Road Retailer

A couple of years ago I met Mr Moss Lazarus. Friendly and welcoming, he stood outside his enterprise, Grabbmasse, (or as I like to call it, Grabmassesofstuffbeforeanyoneelse) and greeted each woman who crossed his threshold as if they had just arrived in a Bentley, not the local bus.


Moss had been in the Fonthill Road since the 1970s and his family also owns the building opposite. It used to be a pub but now it's USA Garments. Moss told me some interesting stories, including the time when Tom Cruise almost made a film in his shop.


The Long Day Closes

Before you know it the shadows lengthen, the crowds evaporate. Exhausted but strangely satisfied, you realise you’ve been part of a unique shopping experience.

The Fonthill Road may not have the bright lights and slick merchandising of the West End, its surroundings are far from glamorous and the outlets themselves plain, functional and often crowded.

But, as part of London’s historic garment industry, The Font has a unique energy, warmth and a down-to-earth humanity that is normally found only in our great city’s old street markets.


As the late afternoon shadows draw in,  Fonthill Road becomes just another nondescript north London thoroughfare – until next Saturday when The Font will burst into life again!  See you down there girls!





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Comment by Anne Garbarini on August 4, 2011 at 14:50

I really like your article, thank you.

It's often not possible to try the clothes in these shops, it's crowded at lunch time and there are lots of really weird outfits but, I agree with you, it's really a fun place to go on Saturday, especially if you like searching for treasures. Lots of what I call 'princess dresses' in these shops as well (more 'Disney sparkling princesses' than classic Kate). See you there!

Comment by Kathleen Duffy on August 4, 2011 at 15:33
Thanks for your nice comments. Yes, you are right.  the only changing room is often a tiny corner in the shop with the assistant holding up a piece of material!  
Comment by Diane Burstein on March 30, 2012 at 12:35

Thanks for a great article. Haven't been to Fonthill Road for years (not really my style!) but your article has inspired me to make another visit. Your face looks familiar. Have you been on one of my walking tours in London? (

Comment by Kathleen Duffy on March 30, 2012 at 12:47

Hello Diane - Yes, I went with a Meetup Group to your Historic Bayswater walk last year (highly recommended!).     I am glad you enjoyed my article - my only worry is that now with the recession the chutzpah may have diminished!  It's about eighteen months since I was last down there - time for another visit soon I think!

Kindest Regards - Kathleen

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