Destination: Austria: Vienna
With the strong euro, American travelers in Vienna are unlikely to shop for Balenciaga, Nina Ricci or Behnaz Sarafpour, but this high-end boutique—whose sexy interior, including purple carpets,resembles the inside of a jewelry box—is proof that the city is slowly discovering the joys of haute fashion. Starting this spring the shop will carry the new line of Viennese native Helmut Lang. If you’re already in the neighborhood of the Dorotheum and Lobmeyr, it’s worth a visit. Closed Sunday.
At First Sight
Another one of the Spittelberg neighborhood’s new hip boutiques (it opened last fall), At First Sight carries an eclectic mix of fashion and accessories by designers from Berlin, Tokyo and Vienna. Owners Vivien Sakura Brandl and Tina Haslinger, whose labels are also found here, felt that Vienna needed a dose of cutting-edge Berlin, a city teeming with concept stores, and are running At First Sight like an artsy showcase for lesser-known labels. The space, a former bookstore, is not large but the variety is impressive, and in our homogeneous shopping world, it’s a pleasure to come across new designers. On a recent visit I discovered Schneeweiss und Rosarot, a Berlin-based duo whose cool wool dresses come with matching handbags; Rummelsburg, a Berlin designer who makes retro leather handbags; Linebins, by Vienna-born Evelyn Nothnagel, which features loose-fitting wool coats in eye-catching colors; and Berlin’s Smil, whose small change purses of antique fabric make great gifts. A bonus for American shoppers feeling the effects of a strong euro: most of the labels are available only in a handful of locations—none so far in the U.S.—so at least you’ll be purchasing items that you won’t see on everyone back home. While visiting At First Sight, pop into nearby La Petite Boutique and Lila Pix. Closed Sunday.
Before I visited Vienna the first time, I asked friends for shopping suggestions. They sent back a list that included H&M along with a note that said, “You’ll get it when you see it.” Indeed, it’s worth visiting the Swedish conglomerate’s branch on the Graben—not for the clothes, which are the same as anywhere else, but for the setting. Since 2002, H&M has occupied three levels of the six-story E. Braun & Co. building, a gorgeous 19th-century structure that housed the famous textiles. Even H&M’s affordable knockoffs look more elegant in the fin de siècle interiors, which include the original wooden staircase, chandeliers and the elevator. Incidentally, the craze for H&M’s limited-edition collections doesn’t seem as extreme in Austria as in the States. I visited the week after people queued up for Karl Lagerfeld’s line in the pouring rain in New York; in Vienna, the pieces hung unnoticed in a corner. Closed Sunday.
La Petite Boutique
This jewel-box boutique is a good example of Vienna’s ever-changing creative scene. For years it served as the atelier of talented designer Sandra Gilles whose line of whimsical hand and market bags, as well as sleepwear and some fashion, developed a real hipster following. With Gilles having returned to her native France, the boutique has been taken over by goldsmith Michaela Arl de Lima who produces a line of high-end gold jewelry in the back of the shop. The plan is for Gilles to return once or twice a year for a shopping event with her latest design. A true collaboration and a shop not to be missed when you’re in this area near the MuseumsQuartier.
The displays at Lila Pix, down the street from La Petite Boutique, are labeled like paintings in a museum, and indeed this small shop was conceived as a well-curated gallery. Owner Lili Ploskova, a textile and leather designer, chose the brands via a fashion contest; the sixteen winners hail from across Europe, including Russia, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The offerings are cutting-edge—think rubber necklaces made from bicycle tires and ultrawide studded leather belts—but Lila Pix is a great place to shop for pieces not everyone will be wearing. Ploskova’s light scarves and wraps showcase her signature silk-screen printing technique. Closed Sunday.
The creative fashion of renowned Austrian designer Michaela Mayer blends a modern-day aesthetic with beautiful fabrics and muted colors that make them decidedly wearable. On a recent visit I fell in love with an asymmetrical cashmere wrap in light mauve. The fantastical evening couture—sheer fabrics, clingy dresses and low-cut backs—is inspired by Mayer’s other calling, a theater costume designer. Mayer, who has an atelier behind her shop in the Singerstrasse where many of the more intricate pieces are made, has a new collection, Arlberg, that features supersoft winter and ski gear. Closed Sunday.
The two-level Park recalls Paris’s Colette, with an exclusive selection of cool but not obvious labels—think Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela 6 and Isaac Reina —and a well-edited collection of books, DVDs, accessories and even furniture. Best of all, female shoppers can drag significant others here with a good conscience. Owned by Helmut Ruthner and Markus Strasser (the latter, a former fashion lecturer at the University of Applied Arts), Park has an exceptional menswear collection. Closed Sunday.
Settling into its permanent home on Theobaldgasse, We Bandits was originally a pop-up store in several locations around the city. With a slightly lower price-point and funky, unique options, We Bandits focuses on featuring up-and-coming designers, local and from abroad.
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