New York, Paris, London, Milan. Any fashionista worth her salt knows that those four cities act as global hubs for the fashion world, weaving their wands over design spectators twice a year with showings that virtually scatter around the rest of the globe like stardust; giving immense inspiration to both those who witness it first-hand gliding down the catwalk as well as those who view it through a scattered connection 4,000 miles away, dreaming one day of witnessing such masterful creations in the flesh.
But in recent years, other culturally-rich cities have been cropping up on the ever-growing fashion map, hosting mini fashion weeks of their own and showcasing their uniquely-stocked boutiques on the frontline. While I love visiting any of the four fashion capitals for shopping (and for their general ambience too, naturally), I’m a major fan of trying to uncover unexplored fashion hubs to shop in so I can deck myself in gear that’s dissimilar to any of my fashion-loving peers. I’m also an avid fan of travelling, so I’ve decided to try combine the two and create a mini-series of “Undiscovered Fashion Capitals”, showing non-hyped cities and large towns that surprisingly have an awful lot to offer on the boutique’s front – and, as luck might have it, more inexpensively than the overcrowded fash capitals. Hope you enjoy discovering my secret fashion-spots!
Famed as the small city that shares its name with one of the world’s most romantic lakes, Como is a mere half-hour drive or train ride from Milan – and guarantees you a much more stream-lined shopping experience (as well as dealing with a more pleasant mentality). While not being host to many fast-fashion brands (counting just Benetton, Tenezis, Calzedonia and Accessorize), the city hosts a plethora of charming & diverse little boutiques that will have you decked out in gorgeous, unknown or up-coming brands for a reasonable enough sum in the grand scheme of things – definitely better value than Milanese shops:
Como’s boutique combination is a rather unique mixture: certain shops showcase mid-range, colourful garments that seem worlds apart from the more monochromatic palette Comasco citizens would usually wear; studded bags & sequinned trainers line up some displays, alongside Marseille liquid soaps and Chanel logo-emblazoned plimsolls; one window flaunts a selection of multi-colour mirrored Spektre sunglasses (an emerging shades brand toted by Garance Doré et al) while another drapes hundreds upon hundreds of embellished bracelets, bangles and neon perspex earrings on show. The description could appear naff but in the flesh it’s anything but – the city is also host to somewhat more subdued – yet still desirable – clothing stores, but it’s the marriage between these and the more youthful heartbeat in line with up-and-coming boutiques that gives Como its sui generis appeal; all shops taking post in gorgeous, architecturally-rich buildings.
Most of the boutiques that have become old haunts of mine over the past few years have traits unlike any other shops I’ve frequented – one of my fondest, named Marseta, has different stock and a colour theme each month (in May I could pop in and the rails would be awash with emerald; in June a beaming buttercup yellow), while another I stumbled across last year stocks 100% silk chiffon vests in every shade under the sun for €5 a pop! That’s another thing I love about Como: the city is a hive of secret back-streets known only to the locals, with countless hidden courtyards and unique shops tucked away from tourists (just how I like it really) that give you the opportunity to explore to your heart’s content and bookmark your discoveries. Some of my favourite explorations have been when I discovered a quaint little cafe/wine bar that also sold quality clothing dyes in every colour of the rainbow, and when I discovered a clothing & alterations boutique, beckoned on by the sound of perfectly in-sync sewing machines that filled the otherwise-silent design space.
My most recent boutique discovery (Like I said, love how you can saunter around the city for an accumulative eight years and still find something new!) was this jewellery & accessories boutique, just off the main shopping street stretch where the Coin department store is located. I had passed it numerous times, visually drawn in by the stunningly vivid window display and copious amounts of rings, sandals and earrings, but never once ventured in – until just last week, when I could no longer stand not taking a proper look inside! The end result was better than I’d ever imagined even, leaving with a multitude of delicately-packed, totally different-looking earrings for madly inexpensive prices and one special pair of Lennon-style shades for just 5 euro (!!) – and to top it off, the service was stellar! Here’s a glimpse at some of my coveted buys:
Last, but definitely not least, considering my penchant for Italian food & architecture, I couldn’t exactly leave either of those out could I?! Especially when Como has so much to offer in both categories…
Como is architecturally famous for its Duomo, whose mint-coloured dome rises above the yellows & peaches of the city’s various buildings; the mini metropolis has edifices that are very sympathetic to perceptions of Italian construction, with stone, sunny shades and different-coloured outside shutters featuring prominently along its streets. While many cafes and pasticcerie have a cozy, more traditional vibe, however, there’s a surge in newly-opened/revamped eateries that are bringing added vigour (and even new cuisines) to the city’s customers. When I’m planning a relaxed, sit-down panini lunch with family or friends I always head to La Quinta, just down from Coin, which serves heaps of delicious, varying sandwiches (try the Salmon Club if you make it there) – while my absolute favourite place, on the whole lake even, is Tina Beretta. Originally, when I first started coming to the place, there was a barely-feasible eating space and no bathrooms (I think the latter is still the case, though), but the food was so out-of-this-world I couldn’t not come back, plus it was easily enjoyed taken-away also; from freshly topped focaccias and sultana bread to lasagnas of varying favours (which are my current food fetish, can’t decide whether I like the pesto & french bean or ricotta & spinach one better..!!), the place is unbeatable, and has recently gotten a complete interiors makeover, changing the wooden stools into red glass tables and pop comic wall art – plus, the women who serve you are absolute darlings, literally couldn’t ask for anything more.
And that’s the magic of Como through my eyes, hope I’ve encouraged you enough to visit! I’ve compiled a little list of sorts just below so that if you’re visiting the city, you can indulge in some of my favourite cafes & boutiques without too much fuss in trekking around – happy travelling to all, I’m heading off to London tomorrow for work, wish me luck!!
Vanilla Como, Via Rusconi
Marseta, Via Indipendenza
Bijou Brigitte, Via Bernardino Luini
Boutique on Via Bernardino Luini (recognized by leather jackets & shoes on view)
“Pelletterie” Via Cinque Giornate (coming from the Coin end, i.e Via Boldoni)
Kiko Cosmetics (naturally!) Via Bernardino Luini
La Quinta, Via Boldoni
Loft: Coin Como (gorgeous rooftop terrace view of the Duomo, nicest just for coffee and a sweet treat), Via Boldoni
Tina Beretta, Via Rusconi
Pescheria Guerci (somewhat pricey but unique little sushi place) Via Muralto
Ole Ristorante Spagnolo (great recommendation from a friend, shall try it on my next visit and report back!) Via Muralto
Okay, now I seriously should go pack! ♥