Plenty of men and women sport discount clothing and look great doing it, thankyouverymuch.
However, for those of us with a fetish for labels, the knockoffs don't even remotely approach the quality and style of designer fashions. Serious connoisseurs of runway-ready wear or people who just like to shop in general might forego the standard beach or snow bunny vacations in favor of a visit to one of the world's major fashion capitals. There are fashion-forward vacay options to choose from in virtually every corner of the world.
So, if you have some vacation days burning a hole in your designer pocket, read on to learn more about the best places for you and your platinum credit card to visit.
As if the wine, pasta and scenery weren't enough reasons to make Italy a stop on your fashionista tour, Milan is also one of the most renowned fashion capitals in the world. Major fashion houses like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana are headquartered in this picturesque city in northern Italy. Milan is such a hotspot for fashion-related talent that it boasts 6,000 students in 14 fashion schools. Clearly, the city needs a lot of fresh talent to keep the industry moving.
Visitors can learn more about the historical significance of Milan's fashion industry by visiting the recently opened Museum of Fashion and Costume History. In terms of good, old-fashioned shopping, every major designer label is represented in the city's top-tier shopping district, the Golden Quadrilateral. Known for its prime window-shopping potential (and actual shopping for those of you with the funds), this area is located slightly north of one of the Piazza Duomo, so you can get your culture and shopping in one fell swoop.
Also, be sure to visit a gelateria or 20 during your trip. I know ice cream isn't fashion-related, but gelato always warrants a mention in any article about Italy.
Sure, most of the cities on our list host their very own Fashion Week events. But where better than Paris to view firsthand the latest trends and rub elbows with celebrities like Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow?
Full to bursting with elite supermodels, every designer who matters and parties galore, Paris Fashion Week is a drool-worthy vacation destination for any true fashionista. This event isn't for the faint of heart or constitution. Be prepared for days full of runway shows, parties, dinners and even concerts -- provided you're able to snag entry. Do your best to score tickets in advance via a well-connected friend or by selling your soul to the Versace family, if you're really desperate.
Those of you who make the trek, but can't get your French-manicured fingers on a Fashion Week pass need not smear your mascara with unnecessary tears. Paris is also home to deluxe shopping of all labels and styles, although the high-end designer boutiques aren't clustered together. A visit to the Champs-Elysées is certainly in order, but be sure to bring along a map and shopping guide if you want to find your way to all your favorite designers' storefronts. Don't forget to purchase a beret while you're there. It just wouldn't be a trip to Paris without one.
China is a major manufacturing epicenter, so many people forget that Hong Kong is one of the world's healthiest fashion industries. Not only is it brimming with influential designers like Barney Cheng and Vivienne Tam, this major metroplex offers clothing enthusiasts every conceivable option for their shopping needs, from discount outlets like Citygate to the ultra-hip, high-end mall The Landmark.
If you simply can't find anything to suit your couture palate, visit one of the many reasonably priced, expert tailors in the area to commission a dress, pants or jacket that'll fit you like a glove. Of course, a custom-tailored garment will require about three to five days for completion, so build plenty of time into your trip.
Rodeo Drive. Need we say more?
This destination isn't the only fashion-related jewel in Los Angeles' crown, but it often seems that way. After all, where else would a major celeb shop to outfit themselves and their precious babes? A-listers like Reese Witherspoon are regularly spotted flipping through the racks at boutiques most of us can only dream of shopping at. Take some time to stroll the strip, but only dare to go "Pretty Woman" if you have the attitude and cash to back it up, OK?
After you're done living the good life on Rodeo Drive, take a cab to the L.A. Fashion District, which features 100 blocks of just about everything a shopper could want, from wholesale clothing and textiles to flowers. Vendors and shoppers often engage in mild negotiation to lower prices even further. Bear in mind -- the area is often crowded, and most storefronts don't feature private dressing rooms, so carefully weigh the trade-off of wholesale shopping if you're into champagne, first-rate customer service and private changing areas.
The UK isn't just about royalty and all 47 "Harry Potter" movies. In fact, the land of tea and crumpets is about as fashion-forward as it gets. For proof, just look at British designers like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood, as well as ultrachic British celebs like Victoria Beckham.
Of course, London offers all of the requisite designer shops and its own fashion shows. For a taste of Old World glamour, historical couture buffs can visit the Archive of Art and Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Get a glimpse of fashion history from designers' sketches that laid the groundwork for today's thriving industry. Once you've taken in the classics, spend a little time watching a true couture artist at work, via the museum's Fashion Designer in Residence program. This exhibit gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at established designers, which in the past have included Juliana Sissons and Dorothy Hogg.
If you really want to soak in the feeling of authentic British fashion, you must, I repeat must, don some sort of hat -- preferably one with feathers. Otherwise, you're just all talk and no action.
There are so many historic attractions in Rome that it's easy to overlook the shopping district. True fashionistas will make every effort to work Via Condotti into even the most packed itinerary, if for no other reason than to browse the street's many designer boutiques.
Even though Rome is closely situated to the fashion powerhouse of Milan, it's got a different vibe. While Milan is known for ready-to-wear fashions and world-famous fashion shows, Rome has become renowned for its haute couture designers, like Renato Balestra and Sorelle Fontana. In addition, such designer brands like Fendi and Valentino were founded in bustling Roma.
Once you've strolled the fashion district and admired the unparalleled style sensibilities that most Romans seem to have been born with, head on over to L'Accademia de Costume e di Moda, the most prestigious fashion school in the Eternal City, to enjoy exhibits and couture-related events. If you can, time your trip for the annual open-air fashion show Donna Sotto le Stelle, held on the legendary Piazza di Spagna.
The Land Down Under is home to more than just koalas and kangaroos. Other than being the land that gave us Elle MacPherson and her to-die-for accent, Australia boasts a $14 billion industry in -- you guessed it -- fashion, according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Appropriately enough, a significant portion of that total comes from beach garments and swimwear, including such iconic brands as Speedo and Billabong.
To get the most bang for your buck, travelers actually involved in the fashion industry, such as buyers, stylists, agents and the like, can take in the glory that is Rosemount Australian Fashion Week. Held in the Circular Quay of Sydney in May and October each year, this event gives industry professionals the first look at collections from 150 established designers.
Reason No. 1 to hit Sao Paolo on your quest for fashion enlightenment: It's Brazil, for crying out loud. Do you really need another reason?
Dedicated fashionistas will find that São Paolo is a burgeoning force in the world fashion industry, churning out roughly $50 billion per year in export and domestic merchandise, according to The Rio Times. In fact, Sao Paolo Fashion Week is already widely believed to rank among the top five events of its kind, behind only established powerhouses New York, Paris, Milan and London. It doesn't hurt that the event typically features A-list celebs like Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton strutting their stuff on the runways, as well as Brazilian supermodels, like Gisele Bündchen, in all their long-legged glory.
Seasoned shoppers looking to do some serious damage will certainly revel in the São Paolo shopping scene. From street markets packed with antiques to market stalls downtown, you'll love unearthing treasures and haggling with shopkeepers. Be prepared for massive crowds, or get a quieter (albeit much more expensive shopping experience) at Jardins, an area known for its high-end stores and gourmet food. Who knows? You might just bump into Ms. Hilton stocking up on designer handbags … play nice, and maybe she'll buy you one, too!
The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) runs annually from the end of January to the end of February, and it's become a major tourist attraction with nearly 3 million fashionistas making the trek each year. More than 2,300 stores participate and sell everything imaginable, from clothes and accessories to electronics.
DSF enthusiasts can also enjoy the Global Village, an outdoor fashion and art festival held from December to March each year (check dates and times because they vary). Featuring 67 pavilions loaded with fashion, art and replicas of famous world monuments, Global Village prides itself on its family-friendly nature with carnival rides, ethnic cuisine, fireworks and lights shows, to name a few attractions.
If traveling during the peak season is too taxing on your bank account and you don't mind substantial heat, you can opt to visit the area during Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS). A smaller-scale, 10-week festival from June to August, DSS visitors willing to brave the sweltering summer months can reap rewards in the form of major hotel and retail discounts.
New York City
New York City and Milan, easily two of the world's most influential fashion industries, have long carried on a competition over which powerhouse reigns supreme. After one year at No. 2 on the fashion capital list (thanks to a lackluster U.S. economy), NYC took the lead in the 2010 rankings compiled annually by Global Language Monitor, which monitors media, blogs and the like, to determine how often a particular topic/keyword is mentioned. Incidentally, Milan fell out of the top five altogether, thanks to the other emerging powerhouses like Hong Kong.
So, what makes New York so special? In terms of fashion, pretty much everything! The city's Fashion Week is arguably the most publicized and attended in the world, drawing 232,000 industry professionals annually, according to NYC Fashion. The city is also home to a massive wholesale market and the world-renowned Manhattan Garment Center, where major labels boast impressive showrooms, production and design facilities.
There's still plenty for the unofficial fashionista to do in New York, even if you're not a credentialed member of the industry. First order of business: Hit the iconic, if touristy, retail locations the Big Apple is famous for, like Bloomingdale's and Macy's. Any rabid bargainer must also head over to Chinatown to haggle over purses and hats. Of course, the city is also full of boutiques ranging from bohemian to haute couture. So, pinch those pennies in the weeks and months leading up to your trip to the world's fashion capital. Trust me, you're gonna need 'em!
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