Vanessa Bell is a girl who literally makes it her business to know the best spots in Buenos Aires. The London transplant is a freelance writer, trendhunter, and gallerist, who recently started a business leading personalized shopping tours around town. She gave us the lowdown on her favorite places to eat, shop, and buy vintage.
BUENOS AIRES – Having visited Argentina my whole life (my mother is from Buenos Aires), it wasn't until 2010 that I permanently relocated from London (via Oxford and Paris). An internship at Time Out Magazine Buenos Aires kickstarted my freelance fashion, food, and lifestyle writing career. When a friend asked me to work for her local tour company, I accidentally fell in love with personal shopping. With a background selling vintage on Brick Lane, running an Ebay store, and working at prestigious boutiques like Browns, it seemed natural to parlay it into a business.
Two years ago I set up Creme de la Creme to offer trendhunting and bespoke shopping tours in Buenos Aires. I provide unique access to hidden spots — from pop-up sales to closed-door appointment-only showrooms — to showcase the best emerging fashion talent, vintage, and independent art galleries. I give my clients questionnaires to give me a sense of their objectives, tastes, and style, and I put together an itinerary based on their answers. No two tours are the same.
I am constantly on the lookout for new talent, from fashion, food, and design to obscure vintage shops. Buenos Aires has so much more to offer beyond the obvious tourist trappings of steak, malbec, and tango. These are some of my favorites.
Freire 814; +54-11-20-66-07-63
A home decor shop tucked away in the Colegiales district. Midcentury furniture and other quirky design pieces are lovingly restored to their former glory. Other wares include educational posters (a personal weakness), vintage crockery, and collectible bric-a-brac, none of which comes with the whiff of junk shop. I tend to leave with an impossibly long wish list, even more so now that I'm renovating my apartment.
Peña 2665; +54-11-59-246-672
A gorgeous little coffee shop on a quiet street in Recoleta. It's the ideal place to pull out a good book or people watch while inducing a sugar coma. Stop by for afternoon tea, great coffee, and sublime cupcakes.
Part of my job is discovering designers when they first launch. Sometimes it's through Facebook; other times it's word-of-mouth. In this case, I came across Barbara Vernengo's work through research, which lead to a chat with the designer herself. Her line focuses on limited-edition capes, robes, and fans, with an emphasis on quality and small production. It's early days, so she's selling her debut pieces by appointment only, though she plans to launch a showroom in Spring 2015. You can book a visit through Creme de la Creme.
Ada B Objetos
A tiny shop in the heart of Barrio Norte which is extra special to me because owner Ada Berrier was a good friend of my grandmother. Ada has seen and done it all: dating illustrious Argentine artist Roberto Aizenberg, designing a line of optical art dresses in the 1960s, hanging out with Godard, and taking tea with Juan Peron in Spain. Her store, which has been open for two decades, is an accumulation of the antique treasures and keepsakes she has collected over the years and through her travels. A reflection of her impeccable taste, every piece is exquisite. Delicately embroidered turn-of-the-century camisoles hang on vintage hangers while ornate tablecloths, vintage crystal, and crockery make up the artistic window displays.
The jewelry collection named for its designer was launched last year with a private viewing in her workshop. The space also functions as the closed-door art gallery Otero. Mora has worked as a photographer and a stylist, and her made-to-order pieces draw on multiple influences, effectively mixing unorthodox mediums such as gold and perspex. Book a visit through Creme de la Creme.
Launched in 2009 as Bellebas by friends Dolores Mouriño and Lucila De Paula, the label was recently renamed and rebranded with a new stripped down and unisex approach to design. They pay homage to their Argentine identity through the premium leather used to produce each bag. With one foot in Europe (De Paula is based in Ireland) and another in Buenos Aires, they plan to stock their pieces internationally, but for now you can buy them at Panorama, Kabinett, Petite Margot, and online.
Posadas 1380; +54-11-4811-5995
I came across the designer through a friend from Rolf Art Gallery (where I work part-time). She wore one of their dresses to work, and I fell in love instantly. Located in the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta, the discreet shopfront is easy to miss. The store's interior is just as beautiful as the clothes. Huge vases of freshly cut flowers offset the wood paneled decor. The chic line includes staples like cigarette trousers, tailored jackets in monochrome and grey palettes, and understated pieces that defy local fashion fads.
Avenida Caseros 486; +54-11-4307-4729
Transport yourself to a chic Parisian quartier at one of the outside tables on the prettiest block in the Barracas district. The wide tree-lined boulevard is home to four brasseries vying for business by offering pavement dining: BA cafe culture at its best. Caseros is my favorite. The understated rustic wood tables and starched white tablecloths let the contemporary Argentine cuisine do the talking. With an emphasis on quality ingredients and subtle flavors, the succinct menu offers simple fish, meat, and homemade pastas. I'm never disappointed and have had many memorable meals with visiting family and friends.