A city's style-factor isn't just about the number of high-end boutiques, fashion week attendance or the glam-level of its dinner crowd (though all those things help). It's about the locals' give-a-damn, set-a-trend attitude, the community's support for homegrown talent and the certain je ne sais quoi that flows through the streets. These cities–from the icons like Milan to the newcomers like Mexico City–get high marks in every sector. Follow in the locals' well-heeled steps to elevate your look.
10 Corso Como — Photo courtesy of 10 Corso Como
It’s hard not to feel dumpy walking around Milan. All the men are dressed in sharp suits, and the women have that impossibly pulled-together look nailed down. Here, fashion and day-to-day are so intertwined that even the bars are tied to designers (hence, Café Marc Jacobs). Among the shopping elite is 10 Corso Como, founded by the sister of an Italian Vogue editor-in-chief, and carrying labels like Commes des Garcons, Maison Martin Margiela and a house label of knits and outerwear, which can now be found in boutiques around the world. Anywhere in the city, you’ll spot the bold and beautiful, but the Brera District is the swankiest and growing Navigli area is the hippest.
Mexico’s Distrito Federal may be Latin America’s most fashion-forward place these days. From the trove of style bloggers who dominate international media (see Collage Vintage, for reference), to coveted designers who make the city home, to the sharp residents who parade through on the sidewalks. The cosmopolitan influences blend with the country’s folkloric roots for a style that is equal parts sharp and earthy. Here, everyone is proud to exalt their Mexican roots. Among DF’s most covetable fashion houses, Anndra Neen’s jewels are made in the city’s Zona Rosa neighborhood, and designer Carla Fernández makes indigenous inspired garbs working with a network of artisans throughout Mexico.
San Sebastian — Photo courtesy of JB55
Spain’s Basque region has the best of all worlds: beach, mountains, history, pintxos. San Sebastian, with its uber-chic city center, shows the area’s riches best. Thanks to the coastal town’s affluent population and moderate temps, the style is more elegant and cool than beachy and bohemian. The Old Town has everything from posh gallery-like boutiques (10-year-old Noventa Grados stocks Rick Owens’ leather jackets, Nina Ricci silk dresses and Balenciaga perfumes) to major retailers like Spain’s unofficial department store, Zara. Spot Basque folks at their finest during the annual San Sebastian International Film Festival, where stars like Penelope Cruz and Jessica Chastain blend in with the well-heeled locals.
It’s true Texas does everything bigger, and while cities like Austin and Houston make the state proud, Dallas still reigns as the capital of all things Lonestar glitz. Neiman Marcus debuted in Dallas in 1907, as the epicenter of American fashion, and the retailer still holds the industry’s attention. The city continues to raise the ante on its style-factor with smaller, yet comprehensive shops, like café-boutique Forty Five Ten, where celebs such as Oprah and the Olsen twins head when they’re in town. The city has a strong affinity for all things classic and feminine, as exemplified by star bloggers such as Dallas Wardrobe and The Perennial Style. But it’s not all big hair, pink skirts and Chanel bags. Events such as the Pin Show, hosted in February, promote Dallas’ emerging designers and edgier streak.
Royal Academy of Fine Arts — Photo courtesy of Europeana Fashion
If you’re into pretty, classic, tailored and elegant, you go to Milan or Paris. If you want to do things differently you go to Belgium–specifically, Antwerp. Home to the Antwerp Six, which includes such daring luminaries as Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, the city caught the fashion world’s eye when the group of innovative designers piled into a truck with their collections and headed to London Fashion Week in the eighties. Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where the six designers met is still going strong breeding fresh talent, and on the streets what prevails is an effortless urban style that looks thrown together, but upon further inspection proves to be so much more.
Los Angeles gets cred for housing many of the country’s top labels and boutiques, but San Francisco tops our list for its quirk factor. Fed by its hippie dippy roots, the city’s inhabitants aren’t afraid to stand out. The tech industry plays a role, too, inspiring modern-art-meets-boardroom uniforms that are colorful, structured, attention-grabbing and totally fresh. While San Fran has a fashion week, and plenty of style-focused events, the best show is on the streets and on the BART, where you may see a gal in a fur vest and cut-off shorts, sitting next to a guy in an Hermes scarf and slouchy grandpa trousers.
Travelers know Lyon best for its food, but those with a taste for history, also know about its standing as a silk capital dating back to the 1400s when King Louis XI established the industry to boost the country’s economy. The breezy, hilltop Croix-Rousse area where vendors still peddle some of the finest silks around, is the best neighborhood to spot Lyon’s stylish set. Tap into the city’s growing design scene at Village des Créateurs, a design collective formed to promote the region’s top talent. Then, cruise La Maison des Canuts museum to learn about France’s weaving roots.
London street style — Photo courtesy of Garry Knight
Let’s start with the fact that London has Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who somehow made prim, ladylike clothing feel relevant and downright covetable again, and supermodel Kate Moss, who defined waifish, rocker glam. Beyond the royal court and impossible cool models, you can’t shake a cane in London without striking a group of mismatched teens in vibrant urban-wear or a set of older gentleman who could school Pucci in the art of mixing prints. Keep your eye on rising designers, such as Camilla Elphick and Peridot, setting the pace in the city–and everywhere else–these days.
Turkish fashion is on the rise guided by its native land’s century-old affinity for quality textiles and lively colors. Rich fabrics, bold patterns and breezy silhouettes dominate the landscape in this coastal town. The fact that Istanbul has a Mercedes Benz Fashion Week legitimizes its standing, but it’s really the cutting-edge designers and polished locals who give the city its allure. The Galata neighborhood is described as the “Soho of Istanbul,” and it’s where you’ll find up-and-coming designers at shops like Building. In the Cukurcuma district, you can find gems from Turkish society ladies present and past in the antique and vintage shops, such as Pied de Poule.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The magic of NOLA fashion is that no one is trying to be anything other that themselves. Sure, there is a J. Crew, Saks and Tiffany’s, but you’d be hard-pressed to identify a name-brand piece on the sidewalks. New Orleanians have a way of making everything entirely their own. In a city where anything goes, a girl with blue streaks in her hair could be wearing an A.L.C. leather skirt with a hand-me-down top and look absolutely striking, and the guy in the Billy Reid bowtie and vintage trousers may be a door guy or a business exec–either way he’s dapper as all get out. In the Crescent City, fashion lovers go beyond dress codes and blogs to launch businesses that feed the city’s design industry, like Lisa Iacono’s NOLA Sewn, which is refueling New Orleans’ textile trade, and Southern Design Week head Andi Eaton, who is putting local makers on the map.