PRÊT-À-PORTER

10 Most Fashion-Conscious Cities in the World

How can you tell how fashion-conscious a city is? By the amount of attention it devotes to its fashion show. Here are 10 places that pull out all the stops for style—and the best spots for people-watching in each.

London Fashion Week Sept. 16–21, 2011 & Feb. 17–22, 2012

Where to Hang Out: The tony May Fair Hotel fills with fashion types for the week. A bottle-service VIP bar called 150 at the May Fair opened in January 2011 and has been luring the elite ever since, but you can also see the action play out from a more subdued perch at the May Fair Bar, known for its mojitos.

The Scene
: One of the first of the big fashion weeks to follow New York's event, London's fall fashion week is considered somewhat less commercial than what goes down in the Big Apple. Iconic British designers such as Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood are present alongside rising talents, like Scottish designer Christopher Kane. Also look for a big buzz around Issa London—the label that rocketed to fame when Kate Middleton sported its sapphire frock upon announcing her engagement. As for London street style, it's all about incorporating a touch of the outlandish (brightly colored trousers are a current trend). Go bold, or go home.

 

Milan Fashion Week Sept. 21–27, 2011 & Feb. 22–28, 2012

Where to Hang Out: The Principe Bar at the old-world-opulent Hotel Principe di Savoia is always a gathering ground for the stylish. Plus, everyone is better looking surrounded by the Italian marble, precious fabrics, and hand-made velvet decor.

The Scene:
Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Giorgio Armani, Missoni, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo. That's just the tip of the Italian-brand name-dropping iceberg at Milan's fashion week. All of Italy's legendary designers hit the country's fashion capital each fall and spring for one of the world's most important fashion events, bringing together 15,000 buyers and thousands of global journalists for more than 200 fashion shows and presentations. Scope out the city's best-dressed people in prime shopping districts such as the Via Monte Napoleone and the pedestrian zone at the Piazza del Duomo, the square around Milan's grand cathedral.

 

Paris Fashion Week Sept. 27–Oct. 5, 2011

Where to Hang Out: Most of the people that are a part of Paris's fashion week live in a bubble of nonstop events during the week. So if they're out and about outside of the big invitation-only events, it's bound to be somewhere that's iconic yet low-key, like Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Street photographer Eric Kim points to La Vielleuse, near the Belleville Métro exit, as a reliable, year-round people-watching haunt for its eccentric crowd, from the world-mix flowing out of the station to musicians, artists, and models sipping espressos and talking shop.

The Scene:
Paris's fall fashion shows, focused on spring/summer 2012 designs, follow just after those in New York, London, and Milan. The latest creations by top design houses like Chanel and Dior draw the fashion world's crème de la crème, with seemingly every Hollywood starlet hopping the pond to see and be seen shopping in the world's fashion capital. Every big name French brand is present, from Miu Miu and Lanvin to Sonia Rykiel, Louis Vuitton, and Jean Paul Gaultier, not to mention the major international couture labels, too. Fashion week in Paris is purely about theater, with nothing too over the top for the runway (buyers are then invited back to showrooms to see more wearable versions of what was on display). More international couturiers are said to attend Paris's fashion week than even those in New York, London, and Milan. And with venues like the Palais-Royal and the Louvre hosting events, everything goes off with typical French flair.

 

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo Oct. 16–20, 2011

Where to Hang Out: Tokyo fashion and lifestyle photographer Cassio Macambira says Roppongi Hills will be packed, as usual, during fashion week, but he prefers more chilled-out spots like Casa Nostra, a Mediterranean restaurant in Harajuku that draws the international travel-savvy crowd any day of the year. For serious club-style partying, beautiful faces, and panoramic city views, head to Vanity Lounge in Roppongi, he says.

The Scene: It's been a terrible year for Japan, still very much recovering from the devastating tsunami (spring fashion week was cancelled). But there's good news on the fashion front with Mercedes-Benz's new partnership with Japan fashion week set to play out in Tokyo in October. Japanese designers are far from risk-adverse, and the Japanese public's insatiable thirst for new designs and brands keeps things evolving at lightening pace in Asia's most important fashion capital. Kawaii (Japanese for "cute") style still rules for young women's clothing. Fit in with Tokyo's trendsetters by sporting designs by prêt-à-porter label araisara, which fuses traditional oriental touches with contemporary fashion in the form of kimono-style dress coats and lots of silk. Other top Japanese labels to look out for: Facetasm and Miss Ashida.

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