Birmingham: A Guide To The Modern UK City

Where to shop – HOMEGROWN DESIGNS: New Street is full of high-street chains, but hidden down an alley is Disorder, the city’s best independent boutique. Mark Howard started the shop with his wife Thiri in 1998. She is Burmese and grew up in Italy, and the clothes they make are a beguiling blend of East and West. They’ve won countless awards, but their hole-in-the-wall outlet maintains its old underground appeal. Nearly everything here is made by them, but there are also items by guest designers. Look out for one-off creations at bargain prices: handmade belts from £15, scarves from £25.

UNDERCOVER AGENT: The Great Western Arcade is an ornate relic of Brum’s Victorian heyday, but it’s not just a museum piece. Restored to its former glory, it now has some of the city’s most unusual shops. Phil Hazel’s Liquor Store doesn’t peddle booze – it actually sells men’s apparel – yet somehow this esoteric title feels like the perfect fit. The main focus is Fifties Americana (obscure baseball caps, rare Levi’s) but it also stocks snazzy European brands, including Elka raincoats, made for Danish fishermen.

Birmingham is a great destination for those who are keen on shopping and walking around the city.

INDEPENDENTLY MINDED: Matthew Nation’s eclectic corner of the Custard Factory will challenge your expectations. His shop. Provide, sells hand-picked books, hard-to-get magazines and Nation’s own clothing range. But it’s also where people come to network and exchange ideas, and it stages film nights and publishes its own magazine. The space is like a miniature department store for freethinkers, and Nation is still only in his twenties.

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