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The Global Fashion Capitals You Need to Know

by Maddison Costello
Posted: November 30, 2015

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Love fashion? These cities should be on your travel bucket list. We go behind the runway in the world’s best-known fashion capitals.


This is where it all unfolds. The studios, ateliers and boardrooms of these cities are where fashion trends are born; where the fate of next season’s shades and silhouettes is sealed. Whether you’re intrigued by a career in haute couture, swimwear, or fashion journalism, these are the cities that will delight and inspire you.

We take you on a whirlwind tour of fashion capitals, from runway to resort.


Images from Chanel AW16

The city of lights, love and pastry, Paris draws in fashion lovers like moths to a flame. Its long heritage as the capital of chic dates back to the 17th-century court of Louis XIV, and has offered a home throughout the years to visionaries such as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior.

Today, while the majority of the buying and editing business is centred in New York, Paris is where the magic happens. In the two fashion ‘months’ of the year – a four-week cycle in September-October and February-March where designers show their seasonal collections in New York, London, Milan and Paris – the French capital always hosts the final and most-anticipated Fashion Week, presumably with the most champagne.

Known for… its effortlessly trendy inhabitants.
Best if you’re interested in… haute couture, because the inspiration is infinite.


Images from Vivienne Westwood and Ben Sherman

An edgy, multicultural design community means London is an incredibly vibrant city for fashion lovers – particular if your interest is a little outside-the-square. With such a deep and diverse pool of talent converging on London, it’s no surprise that WGSN, the world’s leading fashion and consumer trend forecaster, has its head office in the city.

London’s history of musical trend-setting – from the swinging ’60s to the punk ’70s and beyond – runs parallel with experimentation in fashion, and the atmosphere is still electric for up-and-coming designers.

Known for… breaking the rules.
Best if you’re interested in… predicting the next big trend.

New York City

New York has superseded Paris as the world’s fashion capital in recent years, but it hasn’t always been this way. As Amanda Fortini explains in this <> piece for Slate, the first New York Fashion Week occurred in 1940, when the Nazi occupation of Paris made it impossible for American fashion editors, designers and buyers to view the season’s trends in the French city. The war forced the American industry, which was previously heavily reliant on Paris, to come into its own – albeit under horrific circumstances.

Attend New York Fashion Week today and you’ll be thrust into a world where business and fashion collide in a spectacular way. Think racks of clothing being pushed down streets in the Garment District, editors such as Anna Wintour dashing from show to show, and photographers snapping off-duty models on the streets of Manhattan.

Known for… cool, casual streetwear and lots of buzz.
Best if you’re interested in… fashion writing or blogging.


Images from Prada and Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Valentino, Prada, Versace… Are we speaking your language? Milan, the birthplace of these leading high-fashion houses, has long been known as the beating heart of Italy’s fashion industry. The status of Milan was once so great that it provided the root for the English word “milliner” – which today means hat maker, but was originally used to refer to anyone who made fine jewellery, hats and other luxurious wares.

Having produced the bold baroque prints of Versace and the audacious silhouettes of D&G, you’d be forgiven for expecting Milan to be all glamorous high-fashion snootiness – but it isn’t so. Instead, visitors to the city will find in its luxurious palazzi and ristorantes a quiet, hardworking charm that culminates in biannual fashion weeks, when Italy’s capital of design earns its reputation with some of the most elegant, artistic and opulent shows of the season.

Known for… expensive, high-quality goods.
Best if you’re interested in… luxe textiles, bags and jewellery design.


Images from Gucci and Roberto Cavalli

Although less notorious than its northern sister, this city in the heart of Tuscany lays claim to Gucci, Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and more. Florence may not be part of the fashion week “Big Four”, but it’s known for its artisan culture, based on centuries-long lines of maestri passing skills and traditions onto their apprentices. Regarded by many as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence’s rich history as the centre of European art and architecture lends its fashion industry an Old World air, transmitting an emphasis on quality and craftsmanship into the garments made there.

Florence is also home to Pitti Uomo, one of the biggest events on the male fashion calendar. The flagship menswear show draws buyers and editors from around the world to the city each year, filling the Fortezza da Basso with immaculate dandies strutting about in jewel-hued three-piece suits, bowties and pocket squares.

Known for… leather goods and menswear.
Best if you’re interested in… designing for wealthy, stylish men.


Images from Zimmermann, Senso and Mambo x Emma Mulholland

Surprised to see this Australian city on our list? You shouldn’t be. Sydney is one of the world’s best cities for designers – partly because the seasons are so out-of-sync with the fashion centres of the Northern Hemisphere. This difference is about to become a major advantage, with IMG recently announcing that Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will move to April-May in 2016 in order to focus on resort collections. This shift capitalises on the growing global market for resort wear and opens a window to international buyers, who typically look for resort trends at this time. And who does beach-friendly clothing better than the Aussies?

Known for… swimwear and activewear.
Best if you’re interested in… being part of a unique growing industry. 


Maddison Costello

Maddison is an online journalist with a particular interest in fashion, lifestyle, travel and food. Her work has appeared in Qantas Travel Insider, Dubai Tourism and InStyle Magazine. Maddison currently works at Bauer Media Australia and has previously worked for CLRI (NSW) and The Intermedia Group Pty Ltd.

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