We’ll Always Have Paris…

Fashion, Winter 2008
1. Berlin 
When Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay mayor of Berlin, described his  hometown as “poor, but sexy,” he was only exaggerating slightly. Recently, the eminently  affordable German capital has attracted an influx of international  artists, musicians and other creative types. The city’s art scene is thriving,  both in established venues like the Neues Museum, set to complete its massive reconstruction project in 2009, and  independent galleries, such as Arndt & Partner, which has opened a new space near the Museum für Gegenwart. But the beautiful things are not only in galleries: style-savvy shoppers flock to the quirky accessories boutique Hecking and the elegant new Fourstore. Long days of taking in avant-garde culture require good, old-fashioned beds, and the  elegant Regent Hotel is a great place to catch up on beauty sleep. Or try the Leonardo Royal Hotel Berlin, slated to open in August once the $69-million conversion of the former  east German Stasi office is complete. A luxury hotel in a former state police building? Now that’s  sexy.
2. Luang Prabang  
While Western backpackers flock to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam,  Luang Prabang, the former capital of Laos, remains pristine. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique blend of Lau and European colonial urban and traditional architecture, Luang Prabang sits along the Mekong River, and the Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si Falls are both an easy day trip away. A burgeoning silk industry means  that divinely soft shawls and pillows can be had for pocket change. And the upscale properties are arriving: La Résidence Phou Vao, set in a French colonial–style mansion, has been offering Western-style luxury since a 2002 renovation, and the  Villa Maly, which opened this fall – its central building is a former 1920s-era private royal residence. Each of its 33 rooms, spread out in five low-rise buildings, offers a view of the property’s stunning garden and pool. Paradise? Found.
3. Mumbai
Last August, when Vogue India featured impoverished street people modelling Birkin bags and Burberry umbrellas, Mumbai (where the magazine is published) was buzzing with controversy. Questions of  political correctness aside, the debate affirmed that fashion had become  a part of the daily conversation in the fast-rising city formerly known  as Bombay. This is also evidenced by the emergence of top-tier boutiques, including East-West fusion specialist Design Temple and Bombay Electric, which stocks Indian artisans’ cutting-edge designs. Galleries  like Bodhi Art and Chemould Prescott Road Contemporary Art Gallery are home to India’s  burgeoning contemporary art scene. Add ridiculously fresh seafood  into the mix (Trishna restaurant stands out) as well as luxury  properties like the much-hyped Four Seasons Mumbai, which opened last May, and the city emerges as the star of India, the East’s next world city.
4. Maldives
The 1,192 islands composing the Republic of Maldives are lowlands, with  none reaching over eight feet above sea level. Thanks to climate change,  long-term prospects for this equatorial island nation, south of India,  are questionable. But don’t tell that to the developers of the new  Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa, which, as of press time, is set to open in late 2008, or the tHe Regent Maldives, due to open  this summer, where each of the 50 private villas will have a plunge  pool. The closest thing to litter on these gleaming white beaches – made of coral, so they never  get foot-burningly hot – are coconuts and palm fronds. The water is a better-than-Photoshop  glassy blue-green and the coral reefs are a diving mecca, home to  unicorn fish, spotted eagle rays and whale sharks. The surfing is unreal; the  best breaks, of course, are accessed by helicopter. The less adventurous  can pass the day sunning on a dhoni, an indigenous sailing boat  handcrafted with coconut palm timber. It would be wise to visit soon,  though – before dhonis become the luxury properties.
5. Istanbul
In 1850, when French novelist Gustave Flaubert visited Istanbul, he declared that the Turkish metropolis was destined  to become a world capital. Now, the world’s third-largest city is  booming, with high-end hotels and boutiques popping up alongside  centuries-old mosques and markets. Though a W arrived last summer, the  buzz now is about the Park Hyatt Istanbul Maçka Palas, which just opened in the trendy shopping district of Nisantani – some rooms even offer in-room Turkish baths with heated stone seats. The hotel is home to Armani and Gucci stores, but for more locally inspired shopping, jewellery  boutiques Sevan Bicakci and Cem Lokmanhekim offer glimmering, one-of-a-kind pieces, while Gönül Paksoy designs wildly original dresses combining new and antique fabrics. Autoban is best known as an architecture, interior- and product-design studio, but its  boutique is a must-see for elegant furniture. Afterwards, head to  Müzedechanga, the glass, cube-shaped restaurant that Autoban designed.  Nibbling grilled octopus in caper-berry sauce on its patio, overlooking the Bosporus strait, you can’t help but feel that Flaubert was on to something.
6. Lisbon
Long dismissed as Western europe’s poorest capital, Lisbon is a rising  creative hub. The city’s diverse architecture is only getting better, with the  classic modern buildings of Álvaro Siza; a Norman Foster project (in the  planning stage) in the up-and-coming design district of Santos; and an  ambitious proposal by the Pritzker Architecture prize–winner Jean Nouvel called Alcântara-Mar, which would include restaurants, shops and apartments. Mude, a highly  anticipated fashion-and-design museum, is set to open this year. Until  then, the city’s got the Berardo Collection Museum, which opened last year with a collection that includes Dalí and  Warhol. Independent art is booming too, with galleries like Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art and Luís Serpa showing the work of young Portuguese artists. Dozens of hotels are  set to open here in the next few years, including a conversion of  Portugal’s highest tower, the Torre Vasco da Gama, into the five-star  Sana Torre Vasco da Gama Royal Hotel. For now, the art-deco style  ApartHotel VIP Eden, boasting a rooftop pool and a prime Restauradores  Square location, will have to suffice. Portugal is one of the last affordable Euro destinations – run there before it turns into Italy.

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