Saturday, March 8, 2008

Milan: Shopping Secrets in the Fashion Capital

Milan, Italy is known as the fashion capital of the world. When people think of this city, they think of couture designers-- Versace, Prada, and Roberto Cavalli to name a few. When they think of shopping in Milan, they think of Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga, areas where all the big names of the fashion world have outposts. These streets are fun for window shopping, but most of the clothing is so conceptual I don't think anyone would actually wear the pieces in their real lives. I know I would never spend that much money for something that only lasts for "a season!"

Designer brands aside, there is still some fabulous shopping in Milan. In fact, I think the most interesting shopping to be done in this city is the kind that's off the beaten path. That being said, I wanted to share with you a list of my favorite places in Milan that I've found through the years.

This neighborhood is home to the Brera Academia delle Belle Arti and its attached musuem, Pinacoteca di Brera. Both are places in Milan worth visiting. I love walking by the studios and seeing students sculpting, modeling, and painting.

Also nestled in the heart of this area are two of my favorite shoe stores in the world, which is not an exaggeration in the slightest.

Alfonso Garlando Via Madonina was founded by a ballerina from La Scala ballet in the 70's. The styles are timeless and the shoes are exquisitely made with the best Italian leather.

Spelta is another store nearby that sells handmade shoes. They have what seems like 1000's of ballet flats in every color, finish, and style. All of them made from leather so soft it's like butter.

In a neighborhood across town, I found another one of my favorite stores. It's called My Cashmere. This store sells, surprise, cashmere! The cashmere comes in all different colors, weights, and styles. I wear the things I buy at My Cashmere all year round in the cool Pacific Northwest weather. But, what makes these pieces so special is the fact that they are designed with the female form in mind. Each piece is cut specifically to show off the curves and the line of a woman's body.

Via Manzoni
Another amazing store called Ventillo is located on this street. This store from Paris specializes in embroidery and embellished silks and fine cottons. The clothing I find there is always unusal and beautiful, drawing on the vibrant color palette the French are known for. This last trip, I found an amazing coral-colored scarf with heavy pink and chocolate embroidered accents.

Via Monte Napoleone
Etro, a fashion company out of Italy, has a location on this street. I went in looking for a pocket scarf to give my husband Mimmo for Valentine’s Day. I found a cool vintage boho/hippy scarf that looked like it was right out of the 1970’s and my youth. It looked beautiful on Mimmo, and gave just a hint of spice to his classic navy blue suit.

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle
This area, named for King Victor Emmanuel of Italy is located right next to the city's Duomo. I have one more favorite shoe store in this area called Lolita. They sell all types of off-price, surplus shoes from winter boots to flats to slippers. I found two pairs of ballet flats for 18 euros each there (what a bargain!). They're beauful, they fit wonderfully, and they make my feet look petite and feminine.

1. Special clothing often comes from special places. Look beyond designer labels to independent boutiques to find some extraordinary pieces.

2. Incorporate a few singular items into your wardrobe to create a style unique to you.

3. Dress high-low. Pair an expensive piece with something inexpensive. The effect is surprising; the inexpensive item takes on a sophisticated look.

4. Take fashion chances. Don't follow what everyone else is yourself!

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