The GPO building is one of Melbourne's premier shopping destinations

New York, London, Paris, Milan – any serious shopper knows these fashion capitals and all their fashionable secrets. But savvy travellers know that it’s the untapped potential of lesser-known destinations that sometimes gives the best results, whether it’s a great bargain, a lovely shopping experience, or simply lots of new talent. We’ve compiled a list of the top five undercover fashion cities that are ripe with great shopping, stylish citizens, and best of all, plenty of new treasures waiting to be discovered.

Gothenburg shopping 200Pick up some much sought-after swedish brands in Gothenburg
Creative Commons / Johan Jonsson

Gothenburg, Sweden:
Sweden’s second city is home to a design academy which pumps out fresh new talent each year, and despite the presence of established retailers, Gothenburg is awash with great independent home-grown talents too – Acne, Weekday and Whyred to name but a few. The Hagagatan district in the beautiful Old Town is the place for vintage shopping, whilst Kungsgatan is the main shopping street – you’ll find all the big brands here. Magasingatan is great for those with a design bent – check out Norrgavel for Swedish-made products and Grandpa for a mixture of vintage fashions and boutique Swedish labels. 

Top tip: With all that’s on offer, make sure you approach it the Swedish way and schedule hourly stops for fika (a cinnamon bun and a hot drink) at one of the numerous independent cafés.

Melbourne shop 200Find quirky street brands as well as designer clothes in Melbourne
Creative Commons / Ross Hill

Melbourne, Australia:
From up-and-coming experimental designers to established names, great bookshops and artisanal food producers, Melbourne’s streets are packed with eclectic talent. Lose yourself in the laneways, where you’ll find all manner of small independent boutiques, or head to the GPO building, a former post office built in the neo-Renaissance style, which now houses Australian and international designer labels. If you only head to one place, make it Gertrude Street where you’ll find the quirky Industria store, beauty brand Aesop (the stores are renowned for their great interior designs) and lots of great restaurants for when you need to refuel.

Top tip: For factory outlet bargains, head to Richmond, in the suburbs of Melbourne. Swan Street and Bridge Road are great places to pick up good deals.

Reyjkjavik shopping 200Reykjavik's fashion scene is flourishing
Creative Commons / jayneandd

Reykjavik, Iceland:
Don’t let the ash cloud put you off - Iceland has lots to offer, not least in the way of fashion. The tiny capital is dense with wonderful independent boutiques. Home-grown labels to investigate include Andersen & Lauth, whose womenswear uses vintage lace and traditional Icelandic techniques of embroidery, and Kron Kron - originally shoe designers whose candy-coloured line has now expanded to include womenswear and a multi-brand boutique. Friða Frænka in downtown Reykjavik is a jewel of a shop. Stocking everything from china and silverware to vintage fabrics and furniture, it’s a must for antique collectors. The presence of traditional handicrafts and the Kolaportið flea market (on every weekend) means there’ll be something to tempt everyone in this undercover city.

Top tip: Visitors are entitled to a 15% tax-free refund off purchases over ISK4,000. Just ask for a tax-free form, and you'll be able to claim money back when you leave.

Austin Texas shopping 200Find all manner of vintage clothing in Austin, Texas
Creative Commons / Phil Campbell

Austin, Texas:
‘Keep Austin Weird’ is the unofficial slogan of the Texas state capital, reflecting the city’s pride in its reputation as a haven for alternative lifestyles and independent businesses, something which is truly reflected in its shopping. Avoid the big-box malls and head over to SoCo (South Congress Avenue Shopping) where you’ll find a plethora of cool cafés, vintage clothing shops and antique stores - Uncommon Objects has a sprawling selection of antiques, random bits and pieces, as well as vintage clothes. For vintage clothing with a more modern sensibility, check out Feathers boutique which has a nicely edited collection of clothes and jewellery amassed from all over the state.

Top tip: In Austin, summer temperatures can reach a sweltering 35°C so avoid shopping during early afternoon.

Singapore shopping 200Singapore is a shopaholic's paradise
Singapore Tourism Board

Singapore has all the big international brands you could want, but if you’re looking for items that are a little more unique, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. First take a trip to Kampong Glam. This quaint historic district features numerous boutique shops, a world away from the malls you’ll find in Marina Square. Haji Lane is the main draw, populated with independents such as menswear store Know It Nothing, vintage at Dulcetfig and interior design at A Thousand Tales. The bohemian vibe of Ann Siang Road and Club Street in Chinatown is also worth investigation (Asylum being a must-see) and for flea market hounds Tong Mern Sern is a veritable treasure palace, stocked to the rafters with enamel pieces, furniture and bric-a-brac.

Top tip: Summer visitors to Singapore can take advantage of discounts of up to 70% during the annual Great Singapore Sale, which runs between May and July.

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