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.

The iconic yet low-key Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a Paris fashion-week pit-stop, but it's great for people-watching any time of year.

(Courtesy Cafe de Flore)

In global cities like New York, Milan, and Paris, fashion is as much a spectator sport as it is a serious industry. It's also a real window into what makes these places unique. What's considered minimalist cool in New York or Stockholm, for example, might come off as somewhat flat in a skin-showing, color-pop city like São Paulo. For just a couple of weeks every year, these towns put on shows that inform the clothing choices of millions. While most of us won't be cozying up to designers and models at the catwalk events, we still enjoy a little people-watching now and then, and what better time to sit back with a cappuccino and a pair of binoculars than fashion week? We dished with fashion and street photographers around the globe to see where the style set perches their stilettos during fashion week, but we didn't stop there. Each of these spots is the place to be no matter what the season. Let the show begin!

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York Sept. 8–15, 2011 & Feb. 9–16, 2012

Where to Hang Out: Hotel bars are the best people-watching spots during fashion week, says photographer Timothy Nazzaro, who divides his time between Manhattan and North Adams, Mass. He points to the bars at the Bowery Hotel and the Ace Hotel as sure bets for mingling with that quintessential New York style child, any day of the year.

The Scene: With events in London, Milan, and Paris following hot on its heels, New York's fashion week kicks off the global calendar of glam. The sea of white tents in Lincoln Center are the focus for fashion editors, photographers, journalists, and hangers-on of all stripes, with iconic designers like Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors holding court for the fashion faithful. Off-site venues—most of which aren't announced until the last minute—include hotels and art galleries in Chelsea. Spring 2011's fashion week featured shows on a concourse at Grand Central Station, in the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, and even on a pop-up ice-skating rink at the Standard Hotel. Styles come and go in New York, as anywhere, but simple, tailored layers of black are always in fashion in Manhattan (pair with neutral accessories to add some pop).


Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week Sept. 16–20, 2011

Where to Hang Out: Spanish fashion magazines and multinational cosmetics companies host parties everywhere, from rooftop pools to city parks. After the organized events, Madrid fashion photographer Tanya Lacey recommends heading to Museo Chicote—not a museum, but rather a famous cocktail bar on the Gran Via where Ava Gardner used to sit around looking beautiful. With the same 1930s decor, it's a hit with the hip set at any time of year, but especially during fashion week.

The Scene:
The diversity of Spanish design gets the spotlight in Madrid during the fall fashion show that preludes the winter, spring, and summer 2012 collections. Known as Cibeles, this is Spain's most important fashion week (the Barcelona event from Jan. 30–Feb. 3, 2012, is a close second), with more than 40 Spanish designers showing such diverse genres as the peasant look, inspired by Spain's countryside, and the beach-chic look of Ibiza. The Cool People event—a catwalk event with models cast from the streets of Madrid—is particularly fun. Davidelfin's styles are always a hit, and look for hip styles by young Valencian designer Elisa Palomino and Spanish bridal-wear guru Hannibal Laguna to make headlines, too. If you want to dress like a Madrid fashionista for the event, think this way: Spanish style is polished but never extravagant. Add a touch of bohemian to the mix, and you're good to go.

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