Designer destinations

More than 170 designers showed their collections as part of the 2004 London Fashion Week recently. I asked four to tell me about their favourite cities.

Madrid

“It is an amazing city. I love the people, the weather, the night life and the relaxed pace of life,” says Rafael Lopez.
Raised in Aguilas, a small village in the province of Murcia, Spain, Lopez is now based in London, and his collections are sold at Selfridges in London and Manchester, as well as Harrods in London.

Where do you eat?

For cheap meals, La Austriaca, in Barrio Chueca in the heart of Madrid, serves traditional, home-made Spanish food. For a late-night, mid-priced meal, L’Obrador in the Latin Quarter stays open until 2am or 3am. And for a special treat, the renowned Viridiana in the middle of Plaza de las Cortes.

What’s the best bar?

For a midweek catch-up with friends, Le Ki and Kill Disco. For cocktails it has to be Chicote, once a favourite of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. For a glamourous night out, Coppelia, where the top DJs come to play.

Where do you shop for clothes?

Gallery is a spectacular menswear design shop. For bargains I go to the famous flea market, El Rastro, in the Latin Quarter. And I like Eks, a mid-range design shop in Calle Velazquez, and Sportivo for cool T-shirts.

And for interiors?

Vincon is a cheap option. El Rastro, again, for interesting 1960s and 1970s objects. Expensive, cutting-edge pieces can be found at Tiempos Modernos in Plaza Opera.

Your top tip for visitors?

Go to La Casa Encendida, where you can catch up with cultural events in Spain. There are always exhibitions.

Where do you go to relax?

During summer I like to escape to El Templo de Debod, a 2 000-year-old Egyptian temple in Parque del Oeste in the centre of Madrid; the surrounding gardens are very peaceful. La Latina, a working-class area full of trendy bars, restaurants and vintage clothing shops, is a great place for a fun day out.

Where do you stay?

Santo Mauro is a favourite with celebrities — it’s where Posh and Becks [Victoria and David Beckham] stayed.

Florence

“It has hidden depths. I go there three to four times a year and always find something new,” says Tracey Boyd. Her womenswear label was launched in 1996 and she has dressed a host of celebrities — Keira Knightley, Misteeq, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz and singer Sophie Ellis Bextor — as well as designed costumes for films including Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually and Suzie Gold.

Where do you eat?

Trattoria Mario in Mercato Centrale is small, busy, cheap (under R123) and very good. Coco Lezzone is built into an old public loo and serves the best pork stuffed with a huge handful of rosemary, smothered in fine olive oil and juices. For a special treat, Cibreo is olde-world smart with serious, traditional Tuscan food.

What’s the best bar?

For a quiet night out with friends, Cantinetta Verrazzano in the centre of town, just off Piazza de la Republica but totally hidden. It’s a wine bar and forno [bakery], which is the perfect combination. For cocktails, try Bar Amerini, a busy coffee bar full of smart Italians. And if you’re feeling glamorous, the bar in Gallery Hotel Art is great for people-watching.

Where do you shop for clothes?

Just outside Florence are the factory shops of Prada, Helmut Lang and Jill Sander. The train trip to Montevarchi is an experience in itself — make a day of it. Loft has a varied selection of streetwear.

And for interiors?

I like a tiny shop next to where the now-closed triangular Pucci shop was on the corner of Via Parioncino by the river. I don’t think it even has a name. It sells all sorts of 1950s stuff.

Your top tip for visitors?

Never go between June 15 and August 30, unless you like being in a sauna with the rest of the world. Visit midweek as lots of shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Walk everywhere — it’s a small city. Go on a diet before you visit so you can try [all the food] and still get into the clothes that you are bound to buy.

Where do you go to relax?

Oltrano on the south bank of the Arno, then up into the hills outside Florence. In early summer you can see a concert in the Boboli Gardens.

Where do you stay?

Hotel Principe on the Arno river or Porta Rossa, the oldest hotel in Florence.

Johannesburg

“The weather is consistent — blue skies and hot during the day, but cool at night. The people are friendly and fun,” says Hamish Morrow. Born in South Africa in 1968, he lives in London, dividing his time between his studio in east London and consultancy posts abroad. His spring/ summer 2004 collection is available at Selfridges and Liberty in London.

Where do you eat?

For cheap treats, Fourno’s, an Italian coffee shop, patisserie and deli with an all-day buzz. La Campagnola is slightly more expensive. For a special treat, the Saxon Hotel has exquisite food.

What’s the best bar?

Rhapsody’s has lots of young, good-looking people, good food and music. For cocktails, the Park Hyatt Johannesburg has superb interior design. For a glamorous night out, Circle Restaurant and Champagne Bar in Greenside.

Where do you shop for clothes?

The Young Designers Emporium for clothes made by local talent and labels. Mr Price for value-for-money items.

And for interiors?

Mr Price Home offers fabulous value for money. Loads of Living has everything from furniture to soft furnishings to kitchenware. Hadeda is good for trendy stuff.

Your top tip for visitors?

The best months are March and April. Visit De Hoek, an exquisite hotel in Gauteng, out of Johannesburg.

Where do you go to relax?

Big patios, gardens and swimming pools means we do a lot of entertaining at home.

Where do you stay?

The Grace or the Park Hyatt, both in Rosebank — a leafy, stylish suburb.

New York

“It’s so cosmopolitan,” says Elspeth Gibson, who opened her first boutique in 1998 in London’s Pont Street. You can find her designs in Browns and Harvey Nichols in London, or on view in the Victoria & Albert museum in London.

Where do you eat?

Bread, for its great sandwiches. Jerry’s for its relaxed atmosphere and Nobu for the quality of the food.

What’s the best bar?

Serena in the basement of the Chelsea hotel. I also like catching up with old friends over a cup of tea and cakes at Tea & Sympathy.

Where do you shop for clothes?

Barney’s for the best selection of designer clothes and accessories in New York. Mayle is a fantastic boutique with its own eclectic style.

And for interiors?

Anthropologie has an eclectic mix of vintage-inspired homeware with beautiful embroidery.

Your top tip for visitors?

Visit the museums, especially the Guggenheim, which has a great café.

Where do you go in to relax?

The Alice in Wonderland “monument” in Central Park.

Where do you stay?

The Stanhope hotel has a lovely, comfortable elegance. My second choice would be the Mercer hotel.—Guardian Newspapers 2004

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