Confession: when I think of Newcastle ‘fashion capital’ doesn’t exactly spring to mind. In recent years the city has been immortalised through the antics of perma-tanned Geordie Shore folk and the big haired Geordie queen herself, Cheryl Cole. So, when the chance to visit the city came up a couple of months ago, I hit the toon with an open mind and found all the ingredients for a sartorially-focused getaway. And I didn’t need a spray tan or false lashes either.
Despite being called the ‘hipster capital of the northeast’ by Lonely Planet, Newcastle has something for everyone. The city is packed with award-winning restaurants, attractions and retail therapy ranging from high end department stores to quirky boutiques. And, with 50,000 students prowling its streets, it’s permanently buzzing.
The most surprising thing about Newcastle is its architecture. As well as having a grand Georgian quarter, the city is dappled with eye-catching sandstone buildings that could almost pass for somewhere like Bath or Edinburgh (both places I LOVE). As for the city’s skyline, those seven intricate bridges which criss-cross the Tyne are hard to ignore.
Hitting the High Street:
Believe it or not, NewcastleGateshead (to call it its official marketing name) has a thriving fashion scene, as displayed by Fashion Week which is increasingly becoming A Big Deal. For high street enthusiasts, say hello to one of the UK’s largest city centre malls, Eldon Square, as well as Europe’s largest shopping centre, Gateshead’s Metrocentre and the original Fenwick department store. They all offer quite the selection but the latter was my favourite.
Founded in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1882, Fenwick on Northumberland Street has one of the largest cosmetics halls in the country so make-up fanatics can sample shades, brands and products to their heart’s content. Clothes-wise, designer fashion sits alongside local brands like Barbour. If you’re on a trip with the girls, Fenwick offers a free personal shopping experience upstairs in its plush suites so you can enjoy a glass of bubbly, spray some delish Jo Malone scents and get expert advice on outfits. Perfect for weddings or a fancy pants occasion.
Vintage finds and one-of-a-kinds:
When I go abroad, I don’t see the point in buying something you can get at home (unless it’s much cheaper). To take home something truly unique, make it your business to visit Attica. Tucked away in Old George Yard, this place is a treasure trove of vintage garb, prints, period costume and memorabilia. Nostalgia junkies will love it. What’s more, the one-of-a-kind vintage finds in this Alladin’s cave are all at affordable prices. The walls are splattered with images of old Hollywood legends like Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo so it gets a thumbs up from this screen goddess worshipper.
If dead lady cast-offs are not your thing (I jest, I jest – secondhand is the best!) there is another ‘hidden gem’ – cliché alert – called Love Niche. Tucked away upstairs on Clayton Street, this boutique offers one-off items which are high on the glamour factor. Think lots of embellishments, prints, diamante, the works! Plus, there’s a homage to Marilyn Monroe and other movie glamourpusses to inspire your fashion splurges. Again, thumbs up from me.
For lovers of nostalgia, step back in time at the beautifully tiled Central Arcade. Soak up its early 20th century glory and drop by the original penny bazaar, which I obsessed over because you just don’t see places like this anymore and a Neal’s Yard, famous for its natural remedies and skincare that’s super if, like me, you’ve got annoying sensitive skin.
If you’re in Newcastle on a weekend, stroll along the Quayside Market which takes place every Sunday. Here, you’ll find artists, designers, jewellers, food producers and more all showing off their creative wares, as well as buskers belting out a tune. As I was browsing I saw a ridiculous amount of funny cheeses, some crafty types selling real leather purses at dirt cheap prices and one trader obviously took pity on me and gave me an Indian cookbook for free.
On a sunny day it’s a really pretty place to stroll along, check out those famous bridges and chat to randomers (the rumour that Geordies are really friendly is true!). Pop into the Baltic Centre, a really cool old flour mill that’s now a sizable arts space with contemporary art exhibitions. On the fifth floor you can see right across the city for miles.
Bits ‘n pieces:
The hotel: I stayed at Malmaison Newcastle which has a shopping package from £149 for a full cooked breakfast, a £50 shopping voucher, a free cocktail and overnight stay. Go to www.malmaison.com/offers/rooms/shopping-break/ to book. I love Malmaison properties because the rooms are dark, the decor is slickly sophisticated and they have real toiletries that practically beg you to take them home.
For more information on upcoming events and things to see and do in NewcastleGateshead go to www.NewcastleGateshead.com.