Vienna – the next fashion mecca?

When you think of the great fashion capitals of the world, Paris, Milan, New York and London are still considered the ‘Big 4” with a handful of other cities (Barcelona, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Dubai to name just a few) ascending the ranks in recent years. These iconic cities have evolved into meccas for anyone involved in the fashion industry and that’s no coincidence, as this is where the best talent, design schools, fashion magazines and evidently, the most affluent markets for fashion related consumption tend to cluster. With the global fashion trade estimated to be over US$3 Trillion, when these cities talk, the world takes note.

What these Big 4 iconic cities have in common, apart from being fabulous places to live, work and play (trust us, we speak from experience), is that each has a unique and strong identity and a rich and varied story of notable importance in the chronicles of history.

Vienna indeed, has a well documented, fascinating past, but for those who may need a quick reminder, Vienna’s bygone era can be best summed up as the home of famous composers (Beethoven, Strauss and Mozart) and the birthplace of psychoanalysis – thanks to Sigmund Freud, divided and controlled post WW2 in a similar way to Berlin, by the USA, UK, France and the Soviet Union, and a hotbed of east-west espionage and intrigue during the cold war, famously depicted in the film The Third Man.

Today, Vienna remains a multicultural hub. Sitting at the crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe, it plays host to many major international organisations such as the UN and OPEC and attracts millions of tourists each year from all over the world, especially during ball season and the annual New Year concert.

Vienna has always had amazing shopping and one of its best-known fashion exports, apart from Philippe Perzi Vienna of course, is Helmut Lang. However, Vienna is a city that perhaps hasn’t firmly stamped its authority on the fashion industry as yet, in so far as being classified as a ‘Fashion Capital.’ But, Vienna is emerging from its grand palaces and concert halls into the 21st Century fashion scene with a revitalised fashion quarter right in the heart of the city’s exclusive first district, as reported most recently in the The New York Times.

As the article highlights, the new pedestrianised area named “The Golden Quarter,” due for completion in 2014, will be home to big name designers such as Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Miu Miu, Brioni, Roberto Cavalli, Prada, and Saint Laurant. It seems Louis Vuitton couldn’t wait till next year to move in, so has already taken over a historic building and established itself in a chic and sumptuous fit-out.

The refurbished area, nestled between St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the stock exchange in the Unesco World Heritage area of Vienna, includes a building from a century ago located at the Am Hof square and the historic Hochholzerhof building in the Tuchlauben area. The area’s transformation into a pedestrian zone will also include a five-star Park Hyatt hotel and luxury apartments, along with other high-end stores.

The opening up of Eastern Europe has certainly re-energised Vienna and with increasing numbers of affluent Chinese visitors and many wealthy Russians looking to invest in bricks and mortar, this gilded shopping quarter can’t come soon enough.

Moreover, The New York Times points out that there is a greater and more organic mini-shopping revolution taking place beyond this prime development; an outbreak of small stores that are tucked behind the major shopping roads. Just a couple of minutes walk off the Graben, running parallel to the exclusive Kohlmarkt and opposite the Dorotheum (one of the world’s oldest auction houses and largest in Continental Europe) you’ll find Philippe Perzi Vienna’s flagship store at 25 Spiegelgasse – The distinctive red shop with brass trimmings is fast becoming the go-to haven for Vienna’s well-dressed men. But it’s not just Vienna’s exclusive first district, which is experiencing this revolution. The seventh district, west of central Vienna and Philippe’s playground before basing himself in Sydney, has established itself as the home of many up and coming fashion labels and creative brands.

7tm, a company that helps promote the fashion and design shops in the seventh district (The 7 in the company stands for the district and the tm stands for trademark), has helped create nearly 60 stores in this area, with names like Camille Boyer, Common People and Faux Fox. As the New York Times’ story points out, these Indie stores have the flavour of back-street Berlin and this area of the city, known as Neubau, has a young, liberal, urban population and refreshingly, there’s not a major high-street chain store in sight! This area also encompasses the Museum Quartier, which is home to Vienna’s fashion week, held every year in September – a celebration of Austria’s young up and coming designers.

Vienna’s new shopping revolution is obviously a big boon to the burgeoning tourism industry, but we think the Viennese themselves will be more than pleased to welcome this emergence of new avant-guarde designers and the well-established big name labels, because the Viennese love to shop and dress up. One thing is for sure, fashion mecca or not, Vienna will always have its own sense of style and sophistication. As they say,  ‘Wien ist anders’ or ‘Vienna is different.’ We agree and wouldn’t have it any other way.