As morning comes to the world’s most affluent cities, you’ll see them emerging from their hotels into the morning sunlight. They’ve breakfasted lightly – black coffee, perhaps half a grapefruit and a piece of wholemeal toast. They’re dressed simply, often in black. Their hair is tied up so it won’t get mussed over the course of the long day ahead. In a rare concession to comfort over style, they’re wearing flat shoes. Their makeup is immaculate, though; they carry designer bags, and the labels on the sunglasses they wear covering most of their faces or pushed high on their heads, depending on the weather, bear labels recognisable around the world. Come the late afternoon, they return, stepping out of the cabs that deposit them outside their hotels, a little wearier but flushed with triumph and laden with designer carrier bags. A short break for a shower, and they step out again, this time to hit the cities’ trendiest restaurants and cocktail bars. Now the black clothes are gone, replaced with a rainbow array of the latest fashion. The look of determination is gone too – they may even crack a smile if their companion admires a particularly stylish purchase. They are the global shoppers: travellers who treat their holidays with a sense of serious purpose – it’s all about stocking up on the latest, most desirable fashion the style capitals of the world have to offer.
In Milan, you’ll find visitors who are serious about shopping making their way to Via Montenapoleone, where luxury lingerie brand La Perla is Mecca for women looking for the most beautiful, delicate lace and silk confections – and for men looking to treat the special ladies who may or may not be their wives. The street is also home to Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Venezia, Gucci, Prada, Gianni Versace and Valentino – household names in the world of the big-budget fashionista. But Milan isn’t just for those whose platinum credit cards are in need of a serious workout. There are great bargains to be found in the city too – try Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, where designer outlet stores stock high fashion items with their prices slashed to a fraction of the original cost. Or head to 10 Corso Como Outlet, where you’ll find pieces by Chloe, Helmut Lang and Comme des Garcons at bargain prices – although of course even heavily discounted, labels like these don’t come cheap.
Many visitors to Paris walk the streets of the French capital oblivious to the iconic Eiffel Tower looming overhead, blind to the beauty of the Seine as it snakes its way through the city, passing beneath the Arc de Triomphe with barely a glance. They’re travellers on a mission: here not to see the sights of the city but to pass through the glass doors of the luxury department stores and boutiques that line the streets of Paris, to brave the supercilious gaze of the shop assistants, whose unerring eyes can spot a high-street purchase in seconds, but whose advice on line and fit is always on the money. Fashionistas in Paris make their way to the glittering counters of Printemps, Le Bon Marche and Galleries Lafayette, where floor after floor houses a fragrant profusion of clothes, shoes, handbags and beauty products. Or there are the huge international brands that have their flagship stores here – think Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior, as well as new kids on the arrondissement like Replay and Uniqlo. Wherever you go, you’re sure to leave the city with your suitcase significantly heavier and your purse a lot lighter.