(Editor’s note: Terry Boyd contributed to this post.)
Made in England Asos. Regular ordinary Swedish fashion giant H&M. Spanish-born Zara and Mango. You’ve likely not just heard of these four mega-fashion retailers but shopped them … with all having a presence in the United States. (Mango leads the way with 1,700 stores in 100 countries. H&M has 422 stores and Zara 68 stores; Asos is available wherever a computer is accessible).
Thus, it would be a cinch to pick up several pieces for your wardrobe while visiting their native Europe, yes? And let’s not forget the high-end shopping one could do in London, Paris and Milan at the flagship stores of Alexander McQueen, Dior, Versace, and so on.
However, you would only be at the top of the iceberg if such stores were your only stops. Allow us to open your eyes with this ongoing, comprehensive guide to all of the groovy fashion boutiques scattered throughout Europe, along with some brands and retailers making the jump to the European market.
Many (maybe too many) of the selections below offer so-called “heritage fashion,” where traditional clothing (think Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger) rules the day over more fashion-forward pieces.
But there are also new brands and designers such as Cecilie Copenhagen that are getting an incredible amount of media buzz for fresh designs.
(A lot of these stores, including Cecilie Copenhagen, can be accessed via Farfetch.)
• Cecilie Copenhagen: Cecilie Copenhagen, as the name suggests, is originally from Denmark, with their flagship store located at Valkendorfsgade 13 in Copenhagen. Founded by then-21-year-old creative director Cecilie Jørgensen in the winter of 2011, the namesake brand creates clothing for women “in unique designs and uncompromising quality” in a universe “made up by soft rays of light and striking prints, by vibrant colours and unique patterns.” CC recently got a lot of attention from fashion/lifestyle bloggers such as Pandora Sykes with a summer dress with a keffiyeh-inspire print.
Cecilie Copenhagen is quite literally the definition of an overnight success. The story of the Danish design student fashioning a tunic from her mother’s keffiyeh scarves will surely go down as one of the most quoted in recent fashion history.
• State of the Art: With 33 brand stores in the Netherlands and Belgium (including one in our HQ of Eindhoven), hundreds of outlets throughout northern and western Europe, and a limited online presence (if your country isn’t in the dropdown, you can’t order yet), State of the Art has every active man covered with their heritage fashion collections, from Oxford-knit polos and cozy pullovers (sweaters, if you’re American), to wool blazers and linen trousers.
Founded by Albert Westerman Sr. and his sister in 1936, baby clothes were once SotA’s bread and butter (over 40 million pieces made between 1936 and 1980), switching over to active lifestyle pieces in the 1980s when new materials, more competition, and falling birth rates prompted a new direction for the brand. Like Ralph Lauren, State of the Art boasts a strong history with the automobile, particularly in motorsport; don’t be surprised to see a classic Porsche race car on display as you enter door of any of SotA’s brand location.
• Laundry Industry: On the fashion-forward front, Amsterdam’s Laundry Industry designs and sells contemporary womens and menswear for the higher end of the fashion retail market. LI has one store, located within the historic Concordia building — once home to de Volkskrant for several years after World War II — on Sint Luciënsteeg 18 in Amsterdam. The shop also sells vintage handbags, home decor, and sneakers and shoes. For those needing refreshment after shopping for the chicest of ensembles, a bar with coffee, tea, and an assortment of juices awaits. This is just a cool place to hang out … how high-end retail should be!
• River Woods: The simulacrum of the American flag and typography bringing to mind heritage fashion (it’s what they sell, after all), River Woods is a Belgian fashion brand with traditional offerings for the entire family, from the littlest ones to their grandparents. RW’s brand is linked to the New England styles popularized in an era “of true friendship and strong values” under the majestic oak trees and cool summer breezes. River Woods currently doesn’t sell their wares outside of the European Union, but there are plans to expand to China and Hong Kong, and perhaps, one day, the United States.
• The Society Shop: The Dutch retailer is centered around Amsterdam and the southern half of the Netherlands, with two locations near Frankfurt and Nuremberg. Another retailer devoted exclusively to menswear, nothing sold by The Society Shop would look out of place at the Kentucky Derby or the Epsom Derby, from the colorful linen blazers and shirts from Corneliani and Fred Perry, to the matching SOC13TY sneakers and Profuomo cuff links. The retailer also offers tailoring for both one’s own wardrobe, and those meant for employees of a given corporation.
• Cartel Blue: There isn’t much yet known about the upcoming Los Angeles-based jean brand, but in early April 2016, the company announced a multi-six figure apparel order with Berlin-based distributor Indigo World. Cartel Blue will deliver their eco-friendly lineup to Europe for distribution from June 15 on, with larger orders expected for Autumn/Winter 2016. In the meantime, U.S. customers will be able to get theirs sometime this spring, with a percentage of select pieces donated to veteran-focused non-profits.
• The Sting: Headquartered in Tilburg, Netherlands, The Sting has nine stores in Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom, along with the 57 stores scattered throughout the retailer’s home country. Several brands – including Amy & Ivy, 55 Stage, Cotton Club, and Rockerbox – comprise The Sting’s selection of street fashion looks, ranging from edgy rock’n roll, to soft romanticism.
• Chasin’: Taking its name from a song by 1980s R&B artist Tashan, Amsterdam-based Chasin’ has been a huge hit among young men in the Benelux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg) market for the past two decades. Jeans are the brand’s stock in trade, from their classic EGO slim and tapered design, to their exclusive Red Threads collections. Chasin’ offers more than jeans, of course, such as pullovers, boxers, and fragrances.
• Turek: Vienna’s signature fashion retailer (you see the distinctive red ball logo and typeface everywhere, it seems), Turek was born six decades ago when founder Herbert Turek started the business in the 17th district, introducing jeans to the local market. Since then, Turek brings “only the best pieces” from the many international women’s, men’s, and sportswear brands the retailer seeks out annually, including those labels by new designers. No matter your style, Turek will have you covered should you visit Austria’s capital city.
• United Nude: Without shoes and accessories, you might as well be naked. Luckily, the Anglo-Dutch United Nude offers plenty of both, including the retailer’s own, architecturally influenced Möbius shoe. UN recently dipped their toes in the automotive world with the Lo Res Car, a 3D deconstruction of the Lamborghini Countach made of polycarbonate, powered by an electric motor, and capable of seating two once the entire body is lifted open for access.
• Desigual: Looking for sex, fun and love? Barcelona-based Desigual offers all those things in the form of sexy, fun, lovely fashion. Founded by Swiss entrepreneeur Thomas Meyer in 1984 at the age of 20, Desigual’s unique designs are considered “emotions” more than fashion, offering “atypical garments to celebrate life” for everyone. The brand over 500 stores in southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America, North America (including the U.S.), and throughout Europe.
• BIK BOK: We wrap up this first guide to Europe’s fashion retail scene in Norway’s capital, Oslo, where BIK BOK calls home. Born in 1973, the brand began selling jeans to young women at other Norwegian and Swedish retailers before opening their first shop in Oslo in 1978. Since then, 200 stores have opened up in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Austria, where the Coachella aesthetic is the order of the day, no matter how chilly the temps become in Northern Europe.