Designs on a fashionable autumn break
The world's catwalk capitals are getting set to show the latest collections, but you don't need to be on the guestlist to enjoy the high style of New York, London, Paris or Milan, as Aoife O'Riordain explains.
What's the attraction?
The stiletto-shod fashion pack will totter into town next week for the bi-annual London Fashion Week (16-20 September). To get in the mood, tomorrow night sees the annual Vogue Fashion's Night Out (www.fashions-night-out.vogue.co.uk) with an array of glamorous retail-related happenings. But even if you're not on the guest list or in the capital next week, you can satisfy your fashion cravings across the globe, whether it's in one of the growing number of label-designed hotels, at fashion museums, or in the boutiques of New York, Milan or Paris.
A bite of the Apple
The spring/summer 2012 show season kicks off tomorrow with the start of New York Fashion Week at Manhattan's Lincoln Center. The city needs little introduction as the ultimate shopping destination, replete as it is with the designers of Fifth Avenue, department stores such as Barneys, Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue, and the boutiques of the East and West Villages, the Meatpacking District and Soho.
Bargain-hunters shouldn't miss discount department store Century 21 (001 212 227 9072; www.c21stores.com) at 22 Cortlandt Steet. Many of New York's designers are based in the city's fashion district, which stretches from 35th to 41st Streets between 5th and 9th Avenues. From 8 to 15 September visitors can get in on the Tour de Fashion event. Thirty bicycles, customised by some of New York's best-known designers – including Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi and Betsey Johnson – will be available for use for free from the Broadway Plazas at 40th Street (www.fashioncenter.com).
Meanwhile, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, 7th Avenue at 27th Street (001 212 217 4558; www.fitnyc.edu; admission free) is one of America's pre-eminent spaces dedicated to fashion, with a permanent collection and temporary shows. From 16 September it will show 100 garments and accessories from the wardrobe of one of the UK's most flamboyant collectors, Daphne Guinness.
Within a clutch bag's throw of Bond Street, the stylish May Fair Hotel, on Stratton Street (020-7629 7777; www.the mayfairhotel.co.uk) is London Fashion Week's official partner. During the shows, graphic artist Spiros Halaris will decorate its windows with a display of modish illustrations. Doubles start at £253, room only.
London Fashion Weekend (www.londonfashionweekend.co.uk) at Somerset House from 22 to 25 September gives the hoi polloi the chance to buy from a plethora of designers and emerging talents – and see some catwalk shows. Tickets start at £15.
For a close-up of the country's most high-profile creative industries, visit London's Fashion and Textile Museum, which was established by the designer Zandra Rhodes. It is tucked away south of the river beyond Tower Bridge at 83 Bermondsey Street (020-7407 8664; www.ftmlondon.org; Tuesday to Saturday 11am-6pm; exhibitions £7). The current exhibition examines the career of renegade Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter, until 22 October.
La Dolce Vita
Milan is the HQ of Italian fashion. During Milan fashion week (21-27 September), British Vogue style gurus stay at the opulent Hotel Principe di Savoia (00 39 02 62301; www.hotel principedisavoia.com). For the duration of the shows, the hotel will also exhibit the work of emerging designers competing for the $40,000 Dorchester Collection fashion prize. Double rooms start at €385, room only.
British Vogue's American counterparts plump for the Four Seasons at 6/8 Via Gesu (00 39 02 77088; www.fourseasons.com), a converted convent that has elegant double rooms from €572, excluding breakfast.
Milan's Via Montenapoleone, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Via Sant'Andrea are where the fash pack heads to snap up the latest must-have Miu Miu of the season. One of their best-kept secrets is the outlet store of boho-chic label, Marni at 1 via Filippo Tajani – a great place to find big fashion discounts.
Le Chic, très chic
For many, Paris is still the fashion capital of the world. Paris Fashion Week (27 September-5 October) takes place in the Jardins du Tuileries and Carrousel du Louvre. The international style set has firm ideas about hangouts. Two favourites are the Café Marly at 93 rue de Rivoli (00 33 1 49 26 06 60), set under the arcades of the Louvre, and Le Saut du Loup, 107 rue de Rivoli (00 33 1 42 25 49 55; www.lesautdu loup.com), the restaurant of the neighbouring Musée Arts Décoratifs de Paris.
The museum is also home to the Musée de la Mode et du Textile (00 33 1 44 55 59; www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr), one of several exhibition places dedicated to fashion and style. Another is the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, at 5 avenue Marceau (00 33 1 4431 6400; www.fondation-pb-ysl.net). Set in a hôtel particulier, it houses more than 5,000 garments created by Yves Saint Laurent; guided tours from €13.50.
The au courant retail gurus behind Chic Shopping Paris (00 33 6 77 650 801; www.chicshoppingparis.com) will steer you towards all the best boutiques with guided shopping tours ("Made in France", "Cheap and Chic") from €100 per person for four hours.
Lovers of luxury who don't want to pay hefty price tags should head to Tuscany, where several prestigious brands have outlets that make an easy day trip from Florence. At Leccio Reggello, around 45 minutes' drive, is The Mall (00 39 055 8657 775; www.themall.it). Outlet stores include Burberry, Gucci, Valentino and Bottega Veneta.
Designs on your sunlounger?
Designer-led hospitality has gone global, with the likes of Bulgari, Missoni, Versace and Armani all opening luxurious hotels and resorts. Self-consciously stylish W hotels has just appointed a dedicated "global fashion director" to identify the stars of tomorrow.
In spring, Missoni opened Hotel Missoni Kuwait (00 965 2577 0000; www.hotelmissoni.com). Double rooms in a riot of multi-coloured zigzags and stripes start at £245, room only. On 10 November, Giorgio Armani will open the second Armani Hotel in Milan at 31 via Manzoni (www.armanihotels.com). More singular projects include the Maison Champs-Elysées (00 33 1 40 74 64 65; www.lamaisonchampselysees.com) at 8 rue Jean Goujon in Paris, which opened in June and whose transformation was presided over by Belgian designer Martin Margiela. Doubles start at €270, room only.
What Google will tell you...
Milan's ritziest shopping street, Via Montenapoleone, traces the ancient Roman walls of the city, built by Emperor Maximian who ruled from 286 to 305 – Wikipedia.
What Google won't tell you... until now
"When I'm at the shows in New York I always go to Café Gitane for avocado on toast – it's the best in the world – and then I walk up and down Mott and Elizabeth Streets. The past few seasons I have popped in to stock up at J Crew – great for basics and until recently they didn't ship to the UK. In Paris, I go to Merci and roam around being inspired; I always seem to buy something I don't need but love. Le Bon Marché is my one-stop shop for kids, clothes, stationery, food – everything!" – Calgary Avansino, executive fashion director, Vogue UK
Who said that?
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." Coco Chanel
"I'm not that interested in fashion... When someone says that lime-green is the new black for this season, you just want to tell them to get a life." Bruce Oldfield, British fashion designer
"Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave." Napoleon Bonaparte