10 Aug 2021
When one thinks of the fashion capital of Europe, visions of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées of Paris likely come to mind. Known for its haute couture legacy, Paris shares this title with the home of Big Ben, London, an incubator for fashion creativity and the effortlessly cool Milan celebrated for its fashion craftsmanship. However, over the past few years, a select number of cities across the continent have begun to challenge the dominance of these fashion centres. Vying for a spot as potential contenders for the crown of the next major fashion hub, these cities attract emerging talent, positively disrupting the industry with innovations. At the same time, these metropolitans are also drawing in more luxury brands, ethical companies and retailers looking to put their stamp on the map. FashionUnited shares its pick of five European cities making waves in the industry, which could become the next major fashion destination.
An unassuming fashion capital, Berlin’s lack of a historic fashion pedigree has meant that the city has been undervalued – until now. The first European city to be awarded the title ‘City of Design’ by UNESCO, Berlin is home to the densest concentration of fashion businesses in Germany, with approximately 3.100 companies and 25.400 people employed in the fashion industry. Best known for its cool, sleek, tailored, and unpredictable sense of street style, creativity, and individualism are key factors of Berlin fashion. The Berlin Fashion Week has expanded to include dedicated sustainable fashion, technology, graduate shows and exhibitions.
Berlin has stepped up its efforts to establish itself as the greenest fashion centre, setting up a green fashion hub in 2020 to promote sustainable designs. With a dedicated focus on sustainability and technology, it’s no surprise that several leading ethical labels have also emerged from Berlin, including HUNDHUND, Philomena Zanetti and Ewa Herzog. A haven for start-ups, one of the most famous fashion funders, Rocket Internet, founded e-tailer turned e-com giant Zalando in Berlin in 2008. Generating close to 8 billion euros in revenue in 2020, other successful etailers like Outfittery have gained international attention over the years.
The first city in Europe to import fabrics from the Great Indies and the former capital of French denim, Marseille fashion roots are deeper than one may think. Affectionately known as the ‘Old Lady of the Mediterranean’, this port city has traded textiles and fashion products since the 16th century. The Rue Paradis and Rue Grignan are the main streets for luxury in the city, featuring the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermes, YSL, Kenzo, Emporio Armani, Chopard and more. But recently, Marseille has quietly been reinventing itself as a hub for creativity and emerging talents.
The birthplace of brands like American Vintage, Kulte, part of Kaporal, and La Nouvelle, the city supports a growing number of local designers and concept stores. One of the most famous concept stores, Jogging, is said to be the Colette of Marseille. Hosting temporary exhibitions for young fashion talent and a pop-up restaurant each summer, it's one of a kind. The city was also the source of inspiration for designer Simon Porte Jacquemus debut art book, ‘Marseille Je T’aime’. Working with 15 other artists on their interpretations of the essence and culture of the city, the launch coincided with a series of exhibitions and a fashion show in 2017 during OpenMyMed, a festival organised by Maison Mode Mediterranee.
Rotterdam is a dynamic and multicultural trading port known for its casual, laid-back yet contemporary street fashion sense. Home to 53 fashion brands, this architectural city supports local creativity, with brands like Made in RTTRDM offering fashion products produced in the city. An upcoming fashion hub, the city has been investing in different initiatives such as De Wasserij, an incubator for designers, stylists, photographers and students and Getting Closer Fashion Festival, an event designed to bring consumers closer to their fashion makers.
With a growing taste for sustainable and independent designers like Daisy Kroon, Jonathan Christopher, and Charlotte Kan, their effortlessly cool and ethical designs fit right into Rotterdam’s down to earth mentality and style. Other initiatives, like the SwapShop, where consumers can swap clothing, are gaining traction and participating in events like the Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week. Some brands like House of Afangaro are even working on hosting annual events like ‘Made in Rotterdam,’ a fashion week.
Brimming with creative energy, Valencia is famous for its thriving arts and design scene. Throughout the entire city, you will be sure to find an array of fashion boutiques, from luxury, high-end fashion to boho chic to local designers and second-hand thrift stores. Home to several international fashion brands, from Loewe to Carolina Herrera, two of Valencia’s most well-known designers are Francis Montesinos and Alex Vidal, who look to their roots and traditional costume for inspiration.
Valencia, a hub for handicrafts and artisans, is also a hotspot for emerging designers specialising in haute couture and evening wear. Notable local designers include Tonuca, Noelia Navarro and Higinio Mateu, whose designs have been spotted on runways throughout Spain and France. New events, such as the Clec Fashion Festival, which sees the city’s leading chefs collaborate with fashion designers, aim to fill the gap left by the fashion week.
A paradise for multinational businesses, including fashion, due to its favourable tax regime, there is a reason why several fashion corporations are relocating their headquarters to Zurich. Leading luxury names from Gucci to Philipp Plein, Prada, Zegna, Hugo Boss and Vetements all have set up administrative or supply chain hubs in the land of chocolate and cheese due to its location and tax regulations. Richemont, one of the biggest luxury conglomerates, is based in Switzerland. However, there is more to Switzerland and Zurich than taxes.
Consistently ranked as one of the world’s most innovative countries, Zurich is a hive for start-ups and digital investment firms and consultancies like Loomish, who launched the Fashion Innovation during Fashion Innovation Week in 2018. Others like the STF offer working space for textile start-ups and fashion professionals. The city has also nurtured a lively fashion, creative and design scene, which remains independent and open to international influences. For example, Berlin streetwear magazine Highsnobiety will open a luxury pop-up store at Zurich Airport come November to drive innovation in the luxury fashion realm.
Source for numbers: Numbeo.com