While fashion is a more global, cosmopolitan industry than ever, some areas still hold colossal sway over the broader landscape. With that in mind, we examine the most important and influential cities in fashion today.
They say that style is a global language, but that doesn’t mean all places are equal when it comes to fashion importance – even if the internet has knocked down so many of the world’s cultural barriers. Maybe in 2050 we’ll see fashion scenes thriving everywhere from Utah to Outer Mongolia, but for the time being some cities still rule the roost when it comes to influence in our beloved industry.
To celebrate the diversity and unique cultures that make fashion so exciting, we’re breaking down the most important places in the Highsnobiety universe. Before the comments blow up, we’ll make this clear: these spots are included based on their relevance to us and our readers. Hong Kong may be a vital business hub and Florence may be ground zero for all things tailored, but here we’re concerned with the designers, aesthetics, and trends that move the worlds of streetwear and high fashion.
Here are the 15 most important places in the Highsnobiety universe right now, along with a brief breakdown of the best designers, brands and stores each location has to offer (for the sake of brevity, we’ve kept mono-brand stores and flagships to a minimum). Don’t agree with our ranking? Furious that Winnipeg or Düsseldorf didn’t make the cut? See you in the comments section.
Why It’s Important: Melbourne’s thriving creative scene makes it Australia’s epicenter of style and a huge influence on Oceania’s fashion landscape. The city’s homegrown labels excel in their own European-flavored aesthetics, while its fashion-forward boutiques introduce many foreign labels to the wealthy Australian market. Sneakerboy’s tech-driven, inventory-free business model has cemented the retailer as one of the most pioneering in the world right now, while P.A.M. and their recently-opened flagship store pushes an increasingly fashion-forward agenda. Away from fashion, Melbourne’s Aesop continues to dominate the market worldwide with their high-end grooming and skincare products.
The land Down Under may be better known for beaches and barbecues, but we can expect great things to come from the country – and the Australasian region as a whole – if Melbourne continues to lead by example.
Why It’s Important: The Netherlands may be culturally dwarfed by some of its European cousins, but the country’s capital is no slouch when it comes to streetwear. Home to legendary sneaker boutique and in-house label Patta, Amsterdam has also launched the blossoming careers of high-end sneaker brands Filling Pieces and ETQ, while recent seasons have seen Olaf Hussein and Daily Paper refining their own distinct riffs on men’s fashion, too. While the big shifts and power moves that influence style may be happening elsewhere, Amsterdam is a hub for fast fashion (think G-Star RAW and Scotch & Soda) and still holds sway on the contemporary streetwear conversation – particularly in Europe.
Why It’s Important: The Russian capital may carry the stereotype of harsh winters and fallen communism, but below the city’s surface lies a thriving ecosystem of unique subcultures and internet-savvy youth that reflect the country’s East-meets-West cultural dynamism. Moscow’s underground skateboarding and music scenes have never been healthier, while Gosha Rubchinskiy looks set to take over the world with his patriotic, street-inspired collections. Meanwhile, the city’s high-end retailers like FOTT and KM20 allow Russia’s stylish youths to interpret Western aesthetics in their own quintessentially Russian manner. Moscow may be under the radar right now, but the city’s fascinating clash of cultures and unique youth movements make it a place to watch for sure.
Why It’s Important: “Made in Canada” has grown into a strong signifier of quality in recent years, and Vancouver is home to many Canuck brands that have thrived on this association. Situated between the Pacific Ocean and North Shore Mountains, Vancouver is home to some of Canada’s most popular exports; Reigning Champ, Arc’teryx, Herschel Supply Co. and wings + horns, to name a few. The city’s cultural footprint may be overshadowed by its American neighbors, but that hasn’t stopped Vancouver from developing a prosperous fashion scene of its own: one that specializes on Japanese imports and low-key, utilitarian gear.
Why It’s Important: Berlin’s style has been synonymous with individuality for a long time; from its punk heyday through to the city’s current brooding, minimalist aesthetic. Recent seasons have seen a new wave of fresh talent like Sadak, Simon Freund and Hien Le crop up in the city, as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and industry trade shows SEEK and Premium give local designers the chance to shine on the global stage. Meanwhile, concept stores like Voo, The Store and Andreas Murkidis push progressive agendas that keep the city looking forward; likewise with high-end publication 032c and Highsnobiety’s very own European HQ. With more and more young creatives drawn to Berlin’s cheap rents, easygoing lifestyle and thriving creative scene, it looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more from the German capital in the future.
Why It’s Important: For a country as small and unremarkable as Belgium, the nation punches well above its weight when it comes to fashion heritage, thanks in no part to Antwerp and its legendary Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The world famous institution birthed the careers of Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Kriss Van Assche, while Dior director and fearlessly challenging designer Raf Simons still draws inspiration from Antwerp today. For a city so rich in history, Antwerp continues to make its mark on our world thanks to the efforts of its truly legendary avant-garde designers. It’s hardly surprising that the city’s retailers stock virtually every high fashion label under the sun, too.
Why It’s Important: Fashion is one of the biggest hallmarks of Sweden’s illustrious design pedigree. Highsnobiety favorites Acne Studios and Our Legacy serve as flag bearers for the new Nordic wave, a movement that has championed minimalism and the ever-prevalent high-low trend, while the city’s many boutiques and flagships ensure that the Swedes remain at the top of the pile when it comes to stylish Europeans. Stockholm is an incubator for Swedish designers to innovate, and it hasn’t taken long for the city to become one of the most prolific fashion locations in Europe.
Why It’s Important: Fashion has been slowly strutting its way over to the West Coast in the past few years and Los Angeles, previously regarded as the land of distressed denim, graphic tees and flipflops, is starting to catch the eye of designers all across the board. Though it has a long way to go before it joins the likes of New York and Paris in high fashion prestige, the City of Angels has become a hub for the likes of Rodarte, BUSCEMI and Joyrich – all of whom draw inspiration from the city’s laid back, non-conformist attitude, while Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane is based there, too. LA’s streetwear pedigree, however, is indisputable; everyone from classic brands The Hundreds and Undefeated right through to contemporary trailblazers Fear of God and Odd Future call the city home.
Why It’s Important: Away from the fashion capitals’ hysterical trends and opulent luxury, Scandinavia’s designers quietly produce collection after collection of highly wearable menswear that stays true to their country’s heritage in modest, tasteful design. Nowhere is that truer than in Copenhagen, whose homegrown talent includes Norse Projects, Wood Wood, Han Kjobenhavn and Soulland, while industry trade show CIFF ensures the Danish capital can be a place to do business as well.
While Copenhagen may lack the same star status as Paris, London and New York, chances are your wardrobe includes a few pieces designed in the Danish capital, making it one of the most important places in the Highsnobiety world, regardless of changing trends and fads.
Why It’s Important: Milan is synonymous with the heritage of its luxury houses – Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Moschino, Versace, Missoni and the like are fashion legends and still inspire legions of designers and brands to this day. The city’s icons keep Milan at the forefront of the fashion conversation, and hip-hop’s love of Italian opulence – particularly Gucci and Versace – means the city still holds sway on the streetwear world, albeit subtly.
While Milan’s legacy in all things luxurious is undisputed, does the city risk losing relevance as men’s dress drifts further into more casual and athletic territory?
South Korea might lie in the cultural shadow of its bigger brothers China and Japan, but that hasn’t stopped its capital from developing a thriving fashion scene. Seoul is producing some world class fashion exports these days – JUUN.J, D.GNAK by KANG.D, LIFUL and WOOYOUNGMI, to name a few – who twist the Western fashion blueprint into something completely their own. The city’s street style, meanwhile, is starting to rival Pitti Uomo‘s in sheer spectacle. Ever more outrageous outfits are donned by flamboyant Koreans – some of whom have been propelled into TV and movie careers off the back of their street style stardom.
Seoul’s fashion week may only be 12 years old, but if recent years are anything to go by, then the city is a place to watch for sure.
Why It’s Important: The UK’s cultural influence has always far outweighed its size, and the country’s fashion industry is no exception, as Londoners J.W. Anderson, Craig Green and Nasir Mazhar have invaded the global fashion scene with their radical stances on gender, race and culture. At street level, Palace Skateboards has grown from cult board label into a worldwide streetwear juggernaut, while the city’s stylish youths excel in their own quintessentially British take on streetwear that favors Stone Island, Polo, and garish vintage pieces over all-black sportswear and hyped sneakers.
The city may still have a ways to go before it can challenge the likes of New York and Paris in prestige, but its burgeoning London Collections Men fashion week, fiercely independent street style and new breed of fearless designers and brands make the British capital one of the most exciting places on earth for men’s fashion right now.
Why It’s Important: Japan’s insular culture makes Tokyo one of the strangest and most fascinating places on Earth; so it’s hardly surprising that the city’s unique fashion ecosystem is home to some truly legendary labels and a world famous retail scene. BAPE, WTAPS, NEIGHBORHOOD and fragment design have all made their mark on the global stage with their eccentric riffs on streetwear, while COMME des GARÇONS’ bizarre family of labels continue to churn out some of the most avant-garde collections in high fashion today.
Retailers like the POOL aoyama, UNITED ARROWS and Dover Street Market’s Ginza location deliver unique, immersive experiences at every turn, and the city’s whirlpool of trends and subcultures make it an inspiration for countless brands, designers and stylists across the world, too. It may be difficult to comprehend at times, but the Japanese capital is undoubtedly one of the most unusual – and interesting – fashion locations in the world today.
Why It’s Important: Paris’s legacy in high fashion is indisputable and the city’s fashion week is as prestigious as it gets. The city’s legends include – deep breath – Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Hermes, Lanvin, Balenciaga and Balmain, while avant-garde icons like Raf Simons, Rick Owens and Junya Watanabe showcase their collections in the French capital, too. Away from the high-end glitz and glamor, newcomer labels like AMI, Etudes and Maison Kitsuné present innovative twists on their nation’s illustrious menswear heritage, and A.P.C. remain world leaders in all things chic. The Capsule trade show and Paris’s many showrooms make sure plenty of business gets done, too.
Paris may be lacking in homegrown streetwear brands (barring Pigalle, of course), but as the high/low trend shows no sign of slowing down and upcoming labels continue to look to luxury houses for inspiration, the City of Love remains an utterly vital place for men’s clothing – of all genres.
Why It’s Important: It comes as no surprise that the city that birthed hip-hop, graffiti culture and streetwear closes this list. The Big Apple has created more iconic streetwear labels than anywhere else in the world – from old school legends like Supreme and ALIFE right through to contemporary visionaries like Alexander Wang, Opening Ceremony and Public School. It’s not just brands that make NYC one of the most vital places in the Highsnobiety universe; the city has spawned countless trends, subcultures and aesthetics, from heritage Americana through to normcore and street goth. The city’s fashion week is one of the biggest events in the calendar, and the Capsule and Market Week trade shows make it a vital place for business, too.
The biggest shifts in the way men dress the world over have emerged in New York, and the city’s melting pot makes the Big Apple ground zero for all things high, low and everything in between.