About Time: You Visited Bicester VillageBy Iona Goulder
Everyone knows that a trip to the UK isn’t complete without visiting London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and, of course, Bicester Village. Until this weekend, I had never completed this pilgrimage and was surprised to find it is, in fact, the second most visited place for overseas Chinese tourists coming to Britain (apparently).
Everyone I spoke to was shocked I’d never been and their descriptions left me imagining a mix of Dubai and Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. However, the reality is much more practical than both: Bicester Village is located in the Oxfordshire countryside, just 46 minutes by direct train from London Marylebone (and yes the train tannoy speaks Chinese too on arrival). The Village is host to more than 160 boutiques from leading British and international fashion and lifestyle brands, including Alexander McQueen, Mulberry, Smythson, Stella McCartney, together with Bally, Brunello Cucinelli, Missoni, Saint Laurent, and Salvatore Ferragam. The real pull for international and local travellers alike is the year-round discounts on all these brands, each of which offering deductions of up to 60%.
It’s worth noting that even with the big discounts the shops at Bicester Village are all luxury retailers, so prices are still on the expensive side. That said, unlike other outlets, the clothes here are just as you would find on the high-street; if you’re looking to splash out on yourself or get some good quality gifts there really is no better place to go. However, beyond the shops you might expect, I was struck by three newcomers to the village.
Bicester Village: British Fashion Council
Firstly, Bicester is now host to the prestigious British Fashion Council (BFC) which opened a new (millennial pink) designer pop-up store in November. The store is filled with the BFC’s owned initiatives and charities, including the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund and the BFC Fashion Trust, together with a selection of established British brands. The idea is to give less well-known designers a footing in and amongst some of the biggest brands in the business. The shop has a prime position in the village and is a real stamp of fashion approval for Bister Village, and it’s importance to the UK as an international platform for fashion brands.
Bicester Village: Tate
Another new face on the block is none other than the Tate. For anyone that likes galleries but loves gift shops, this is the kind of Tate for you. I had to ask a member of staff if there was a space I was missing upstairs that was packed full of art. Nope, this is 3,500sq ft of art-based shopping with a small slice reserved for VR headsets recreating Modigliani’s studio in Paris in the early 1900s. With the art out the way you can get going with everything from Yahoo Kusama socks to Liechtenstein espresso cups, art purists look away now. Despite its shameless commerciality I did really enjoy this shop where you can buy bespoke digital prints in any size and even see how it would look on the wall. It’s art, Bicester style.
Bicester Village: Cafe Wolseley
Finally from fashion to food. Some exciting news this year for Village regulars was the opening of restaurant pro’s Corbin & King first restaurant outside London, Café Wolseley. I plan to write a full review of the new restaurant separately but what I will say is this is no shopping mall food outlet. With impressive interiors and some truly delicious dishes, Cafe Wolseley is worth the trip alone. For anyone who may be dragged along on a shopping trip they’re not that up for, make Cafe Wolseley your compromise. You’ll be dreaming of schnitzel in every store you enter after.
I’m glad I’ve finally ticked Bicester off my branded bucket list. I totally understand the appeal, especially to tourists looking to get an extra 20% off (VAT) on the already discounted clothes. The BFC, Tate, and Wolseley are all welcome additions that may just have me back in a few months. Time to get saving.
50 Pingle Dr, Bicester OX26 6WD
For more information on Bicester Village, see here.