Like food, landmarks and language, fashion is a way of distinguishing one city from another. Fashion has now become not only an important part of human identity, but a major influence in business financial, entertainment, cultural and leisure activities, so much so that certain cities across the world have been labeled ‘fashion capitals’. We take a look at some of the biggest cities worldwide driving the fashion scene forward, and how you can create the style at home, or during a trip to these very stylish places.
In Berlin, there is no single way of dressing, with various styles presenting themselves throughout each of the different neighborhoods. For instance, in hipster Kreuzberg, locals can be found sitting outside dingy bars in vintage clothing. However, a short train journey to Kurfürstendam in Charlottenburg unleashes a new kind of style based on luxury and high street clothing. A difference in style can also be seen between the former east and west German states. East Germans favour dark colours and a more grungy look, while West Germans have incorporated a preppy style with more colour and tailored pieces. Vicky Wanka from Vickywanka.com agrees that Berlin is an exciting city for fashion: “The unconventional, edgy style of Berlin makes you want to take your own personal style even further. If you want a weekend of inspiration, definitely head to the German capital’.
However, the most important thing to remember when dressing like a Berliner is that individuality is the key. Most things are acceptable in Berlin making it the perfect city to try out a new style. Nevertheless, there are some points which should be kept in mind if you don’t want to stick out as a tourist. Practical and comfy clothing is important when putting together an outfit. Laid back styling, including flat shoes, is a must to truly dress as a Berliner. Secondhand clothing is popular and some great shops can be found in Berlin, providing the perfect setting to recreating the style while inspiration is all around.
Stockholm is not only the capital of Sweden, it is the world capital of minimal styling. Locals know what works for them fashion wise and stick to their well-devised ‘uniform’. Most fashionistas in Stockholm base their outfit on a muted palette of black and grey. Miriam of Golden Cherry also recognizes that the Swedes have a very minimal style and relates this to their “contented and easygoing lifestyle”. She is a big fan of their “less is more” lifestyle”.
The style here is particularly informal and non-existent dress codes in many places allow Converse to be included as part of most outfits. Stockholmers who chose not to wear Converse will complete ensembles of black jeans and white t-shirts with black boots, which are in turn traded in for short shorts and flat boots in the summer.
While fashion in Stockholm may at first come across as boring and bland, visitors will come to realise that it is actually a fashion forward city. Locals here are not afraid to take chances, although do so in a more conservative way than citizens of London or Tokyo. They will add just one statement piece to an outfit or brighten things up with pops of color – colored trousers are not an uncommon sight in the city! They also like to accessorize with light bags and backpacks, although this may be more to do with changing weather rather than making a charge in the fashion world.
Overall, Stockholm is a cool and collected city when it comes to fashion. As Daisy of the fashion blog Mandarine Girl says: “When it comes to fashion, the Scandinavians know just what to do! The Scandinavians love it casual and yet somehow elegant, sometimes less is more and so many choose cool cuts over tons of accessories and jewelry. In Stockholm, they remain happy with their cool and style”.
Milan is considered the leading fashion center in the world, but visitors to the city should be assured that it is not all Armani suits. However, local fashionistas highly approve of clothing which is a good fit and made from a simple fabric. Like some other major fashion cities, the Milanese opt for a starting base of black, blue, brown or white. People here are aware of what suits them and know exactly how to accessorize their outfits. Gender neutral scarves are a popular choice, while men are particularly good at accessorizing with a fedora or a newsboy cap.
Although Milan has a laid back side to its styling, it is important to know where not to cross the line when it comes to casual clothing. Temperatures in Milan are pretty high during the summer months. Nevertheless, locals will only resort to wearing shorts in extreme heat, which means that they are practically not worn at all. Instead, they opt for a classic pair of trousers, while women may also choose a sundress from time to time. Trainers are also considered a fashion taboo, with smart leather shoes instead being the footwear of choice.
Similar to London, New York is a trend driven city whose sense of fashion is a mashup of the styles of various countries. It also has something in common with Berlin in that anything goes on the mean city streets. The golden rule in New York city is ‘be yourself’. This rule has ultimately led to a daily array of unique outfits made up of a mix of colors, patterns and fabrics. Many outfits also blur the lines of what is considered a masculine or feminine way of dressing.
Katya from Stylesprinter.com recommends trying an edgier style while in the city: “Don’t be afraid experimenting with colors and wearing vintage clothing. Just make sure that your outfit is balanced (no more than one standout piece per outfit, excluding jewelry). Try combining second-hand clothes with expensive shoes and don’t forget a pair of fancy sunnies. Don’t be ashamed when people ask you where you purchased a specific piece of clothing. When I just moved to New York, I felt that such questions are intimidating, but then I figured that it’s just a normal thing for New Yorkers to do. So next time somebody asks you where did you score that amazing top, say proudly “At the Salvation Army.” New Yorkers respect transparency. Also, it’s always cool to recycle!”
New York City fashion varies from day to night. By day, locals like to dress up, but tend to lean slightly more towards comfort. Black clothing is often spruced up using statement accessories, and blazers are key in creating a smart yet laid back look. A more formal look can be seen at night time, with many dressing in elaborate pieces of clothing as they head to restaurants, theaters, etc. However, New Yorkers have a specific idea of how a nighttime outfit should look. For instance, while men should wear a shirt, they should avoid anything that makes them look like they came straight from work. A crucial feature of a woman’s nighttime look is a pair of high heels. Actually, high heels are considered acceptable any time of the day in New York, if that is how the person is inclined. As Katya says, “New York is all about expensive shoes. Red Soles, Rockstuds, and Manolo fans are the most popular shoe lover tribes in New York. However, don’t spend a fortune on the most coveting heels of the season. Opt in for more affordable versions of eye candy shoes and try to score a deal at eBay, Poshmark, or Tradesy.”
Paris is another fashion forward cosmopolitan where a wide range of clothing styles are showcased every day. Walk down any street in the city and you will see men and women dressed in flawless outfits. Like most of the cities mentioned on this list, Paris holds no place for sports wear outside of the gym. Other items to avoid are shorts, flip-flops, baseball caps, fanny packs and anything oversized. Jeans are a growing trend but are still not something worn everywhere.
There are certain items which do hold a place in Parisian style. Men can often be seen strutting about in a polo shirt or button down shirt paired with nice trousers and leather pointed shoes in neutral blacks and browns. A slim fit is important in male styling, and leather, wool, cotton, linen and cashmere are the fabrics of choice. Women will frequently dress in a basic yet elegant skirt or short pants for the daytime. These are themed with a blouse or cotton top, a cardigan or jumper, and a trench, blazer or coat, weather permitting. In the evening, Parisians continue with their simple and not too overdressed style. Parisian fashion is ideal for bringing an outfit from day to night as generally trousers can be swapped for a skirt and flat shoes for high heels.
Jess from Velvet Daisy is also a fan of Paris: “C’est chic! Famed throughout the world for beautiful women, fashion comes natural to Paris. Well known for good taste and luxury, I see a focus on the importance of quality, elegance, and minimalism throughout all aspects of dress.”
Tokyo offers something special when it comes to fashion. People here are immensely stylish and are not afraid to experiment with color and accessories. The city offers a huge variation of clothing from classic to contemporary to eccentric styles. Both younger and older generations alike can be seen wearing trousers, dark jeans and comfy but trendy shoes as a foundation for dramatic accessories and trimmings such as frills, flounces, bows, ribbons, ruffles, lace and reflective surfaces. Female Tokyoites are more likely to wear skirts and dresses over trousers. Another distinctive feature of Tokyo fashion is that one can never look too formal, with sharp suits often chosen as the outfit of choice on a daily basis.
The streets of Harajuku offer a truly offbeat and kooky form of dress and boast the underground culture of Japanese fashion. Bright, neon outfits, and vibrant hair and makeup to match, make it the most colorful part of the city. Thousands of people come here each day to observe various ensembles, and shop in the numerous boutiques, shopping centers and chain stores in order to create a distinguishing style of their own. Trends do not stay around for long in Harajuku as the main aim here is to simply have fun with fashion. Jess from Velvet Daisy is “absolutely fascinated at what will emerge next (in Tokyo) and see their rebellious fashion scene lead the future.”
Barcelonians make up another forward thinking city and are a very fashion conscious bunch. Locals here are always well groomed and wear a variety of styles. They know what their best features are and opt for figure flattering clothes tailored or cut to show them off. Like their northern European neighbors in Stockholm, they opt for darker base pieces, autumnal colors in this case, accessorized with bright colors. The Barcelona style can also be distinguished by a love of layering, which includes leather jackets and patterned tights.
One thing those aspiring to recreate Barcelona style should remember is that the city has opted to take a very modest and conservative corner of the fashion world. Therefore, only one revealing item should be worn at any time. In Barcelona, beachwear is only for the beach and should not be worn wandering around the city – no matter how high the temperatures rise. It is also worthwhile keeping in mind that, in Barcelona, people will reinvent themselves using age appropriate clothing time after time. For them, natural is always better.
Joana from The Blonde Lion is a fan of the summery fashion vibes in Barcelona. She loves to “spread the summer mood for summer and wear the Barcelonian relaxed style with Boho elements infect as soon as I am in Spain!”
If there is one word to describe London fashion, it is quirky. Quirky concepts and unique combinations can be found on every London street, most deriving from celebrity inspiration and the most recent trends. Londoners often wear a polished, but not overboard, look recreated using pieces from high street stores. Their style has a colorful base, especially pastel colors which are particularly popular. Dr. Martens and ballet flats are the shoe of choice among locals, while towering high heels are the footwear most commonly seen on a night out in the city. A good icon to base your ‘London look’ on is model Kate Moss, whose uniform of a blazer, skinny jeans and white t-shirt is frequently associated with the city. Anna-Marie Koy of The European Look believes that London is a city for trendsetters, especially when it comes to the big stars of the fashion scene. She also sees London as a shopping mecca: “London is extremely changeable and can never be set to one style. A little punk, more feminine looks – the London girls style is like a chameleon. Thus London is also a shopper’s dream: So many different shops and shopping opportunities – be who you want to be!”
One particular way of dressing which distinguishes London from the rest of the world’s fashion forward cities is the wearing of tracksuits beyond fitness purposes. A more refined characteristic of fashionable sports apparel is regularly seen in the combination of tailored blazers, sharp shirts and trainers, by both men and women. Fashion newbies to the city should also be aware that night time revelers favor a much more dressed up look, with body con dresses and sleek shirts replacing the more laid back clubbing look of some other cities.
(Header: Catwalk shot by Adrian Scottow vis FlickrCC)