Italian Lakes (2013)


Follow the fashionistas to Milan, one of the four corners of the fashion universe.

Fashion has always been fundamentally important to the Italians - they invented the term “bella figura” and brought in Giorgio Armani to design their police uniform, so perhaps it is no surprise that their richest city should become so central to the fashion world. We all know the names - Elsa Schiaparelli, Roberto Cavalli, Missoni, Ferragamo, Bulgari and Versace - but how to get the look? Women need hair - lots of hair, to toss in the breeze - figure-hugging shapes, whether jeans or evening dress, shoes with pointy toes and high heels, and plenty of make-up. Men need a light-coloured silk suit without a tie and a moody frown. Both sexes need oversized dark sunglasses, black leather jackets and tight trousers.

Whether shopping or window-shopping, the first stop for the fashionista or wannabe alike has to be the Quadrilatero d’Oro, the “golden rectangle” near the Duomo. Bounded by Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Corso Venezia and Via Manzoni, this tiny area of small streets comprises probably the richest and possibly the wackiest shopping area in the world, every window perfectly displayed with the latest trends from the biggest names - home-grown Italian talent Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Fendi, Valentino, Prada, Max Mara, plus international superstars such as Parisians Saint Laurent and Chanel, Brit Paul Smith, and Kenzo from Japan. Everyone is here; no one can afford to miss the party. And it isn’t just clothes - there are bags galore, shoes to die for (some look as if they would kill you if you tried to walk in them), watches and jewellery, clothes for children and even for pets. And then there are the cafés.

With fashion weeks held twice a year to highlight the new season’s designs, the fashion world descends on Milan for a feeding frenzy of catwalk shows, cocktail parties and gossip. The A-list editors and celebrities are courted for their ability to get the publicity shots, the buyers for their bulging wallets. Every hotel in town is stuffed, every model starving. Most shows are invitation-only, but the glamour rubs off on those determined to get a foot in the door.

Many of the designers have factory stores or send their seconds and end of ranges to outlet warehouses for a fraction of what you normally pay. Stock turns over fast, and it can be hit or miss as to whether they have your size, so you need to keep going back.


Versace fashions.

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Milan on a Budget

Designer shopping is often more affordable outside Milan. As well as the outlet malls listed below, most of which offer free shuttle buses, Alessi has a huge factory shop on Lake Orta, and there are designer discount shops along the Alto Adige Valley in Trentino.

Serravalle Designer Outlet

Via della Moda 1, 15069 Serravalle Scrivia; tel: 0143-609 000; .

The Place Outlet

Via Cesare Battisti 99, Sandigliano; tel: 015-249 6199; .


At the Mendrisio exit of the A2 (15 km/9½ miles from Lugano; bring your passport - it’s just over the Swiss border); tel: +41 (0)848-828 888; .

Franciacortia Outlet Village

Rodengo Saiano near Brescia; tel: 030-681 0364; .

Armani Factory Store

Provinciale per Bregnano 12, Vertemate, Como; tel: 031-887 373.

Out-of-Town Outlets

DMagazine , Via Bigli 4, Milan; tel: 02-3664 3888; .

Daily 10am-7.30pm.

Discounted clothes from the major designers in the heart of the fashion district. One of three Milan branches.

Diffusione Tessile , Galleria San Carlo 6; tel: 02-7600 0829. Mon 3.30-7.30pm, Tue-Sat 10am-7.30pm.

Heavy discounts on all the Max Mara brands.

Eldorado Stock House , Via Montenapoleone 26; tel: 02-7600 6027. Tue-Sat 9.30am-7.30pm. In the heart of the fashion district, with men’s and women’s fashion and constantly changing stock from D&G and Moschino.

Il Salvagente , Via Bronzetti 16; tel: 02-7611 0328. Mon 3-7.30pm, Tue-Sat 10am-7.30pm, Sun 11am-2pm, 3-7pm.

Huge warehouse operation offering last year’s collections from multiple designers at up to 50 percent discounts.

Vestistock , Piazzale Lavater, corner of Via Ramazzini 11; tel: 02-2953 4502. Daily 10am-7.30pm. Includes Armani, Versace, D&G, Prada, Cavalli, Missoni and many more.