5 Hidden Buenos Aires Gems for a Discerning Shopper
Mention Buenos Aires and most people immediately think of the big 4 : Polo, Steak, Malbec and Tango. Comments about beautiful Argentines quickly follow, the notion of a magical city that never sleeps, a glamour and mystical exoticism of a country far enough away it takes almost a full day to fly to from mainland Europe or the US. It is exactly this that makes it tricky for visitors to the country to really get a feel of the city during a short stay, other than briefly scratching the surface. There is nothing more satisfying than walking the city’s backstreets and imbibing its atmosphere, exploring new ways of getting around and stumbling upon hidden treasures, such as an amazing thrift store with peso friendly prices or a dusty bookshop with incredible first editions tightly wrapped up in yellowing scotch tape and cellophane.
Here are a few of my tried and tested secret spots that make the grade, including some so special not even my porteño friends knew they existed.
Jewellery designers Demineral combine their workspace and showroom in the same illuminated flat in Palermo. There is nothing more lovely than to witness to their creative process, from the design stage to the physical fashioning of the metal into the different pieces, the soldering and the plating. You would never find this showroom by chance, as it’s located in a flat in an unmarked apartment block, not even the bell gives away what’s going on behind closed doors. Photos provided by Demineral.
Think of the most amazing grown up dressing up box and you’d still be nowhere near close to fathoming the irresistible nature of this dream vintage showroom located in a beautiful Belle Epoque mansion flat on the Barracas border of the city. Owner Lulu started out selling the sartorial spoils of her mother’s international trips as a successful journalist, a vast wardrobe accumulated over decades, which her mother entrusted to her to sell. Since then the stock has been replenished and expanded, with Lulu having clearly inherited her mother’s eagle eye for chic and unusual pieces. Photos provided by El Almacén de Lúlú FB.
Jessica Kessel previous ran her handmade shoe label from a showroom in her flat and has now opened her first store in San Telmo. It’s one of my favourite BA boutiques, not only because her shoes are drool worthy with a distinctive and original design, but also because of her attention to detail in merchandising her store – vibrant vases of fresh cut flowers sit on collectible pieces of mid century design furniture nestled between the shoes. Photos provided by Jessica Kessel FB.
This is Buenos Aires’ coolest independent design shopping mall, and despite its location on the mainstream and bustling Santa Fe Avenue, if you didn’t know what you were looking for, chances as you’d walk right past. The large deep blue doors mark the entrance to a passageway that leads to the undercover patio area, where various small boutiques, niche stores and workshops are distributed over two floors. One of my favourite labels for stylish basics Greens has its only store here. As there are many independent art galleries based in the Patio, there are frequent early evening events and viewings that spill out into the main atrium, creating a convivial atmosphere, with the Baby Snakes bar adorned with local artist Diego Roa’s unmistakable works dishing out ice cold beers and a camping hut style eatery on the ground floor. Photos by Natalia Hojman.
This San Telmo gem is off the main tourist drag so you’d be unlikely to just walk past it, and even the entrance is discrete. The window display however hints at the cute store created by owner Violeta, a homage to kitsch collectibles from yesteryear, from vintage crockery to well preserved and reconditioned retro furniture. In addition she also stocks a decent selection of vinyl records, clothing, design and stylish cookery books and an array of trinkets that make perfect souvenir gifts. Photos provided by Cualquier Verdura.
Vanessa Bell is the owner of Creme de la Creme, which organizes personalized shopping tours of Buenos Aires and its many fashionable nooks and crannies. If you would like to learn more about her services, drop Vanessa an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check her out on her instagram, facebook and twitter.