Image: Shopping destinations
Jenny Vorwaller
More than souvenirs, clothes and accessories extend your vacation, bringing reminders of adventures abroad into your daily life.
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updated 7/10/2007 3:56:16 PM ET 2007-07-10T19:56:16

We all like travel stories, and shopping while on vacation helps you build a wardrobe with a story: the leather sandals that you (or your travel partner) bargained for at that souk in Fez, the vintage Pucci from that boutique in London, the made-to-order jeans from that stall in Bangkok. More than souvenirs, clothes and accessories extend your vacation, bringing reminders of adventures abroad into your daily life. And as the runway-to-chain-store fashion cycles get faster—and that Marc Jacobs bag gets knocked off before it makes it to Barneys—foreign treasures may just be the perfect way to personalize your look.

Start with a trip to an up-and-comer such as Copenhagen’s sterbro and Town Center areas. “If you want something that’s ahead of the curve, that’s the place to go,” Lucky magazine Editor at Large Gigi Guerra says. Many of the designers breaking onto the U.S. scene such as Malene Birger hail from the city. “The clothes are really inventive, but are easily wearable on a daily basis.” Because the city is so compact, it’s easy to navigate to stores such as Normann, a homewares and kitchen store housed in an old cinema, or eco-conscious Moshi Moshi. Plan your trip to coincide with one of the massive annual flea markets or with CPH Vision, an annual design fair held at the ksnehallen. This year’s festival runs from August 9 to 12.

For a hot design district with a friendlier exchange rate, check out Buenos Aires. The city mixes Parisian chic with a casual, rocker feel, and is a great place to score edgy menswear and leather goods. Women have long flocked to the old-world elegance of Recoleta. But in order to go beyond large international labels, you’ll need to wander through Palermo Soho. Although there are standout stores such as shoe-mecca Mishka or Sabater Hermanos—a designer bath goods shop decked out with cute beakers and lab flasks—the fun is in wandering the side streets.

An even friendlier exchange rate makes for guilt-free sprees in Bangkok, Thailand, where shopping is a national pastime. There is a market, boutique or mall to peruse at any hour of the day, and it’s nearly impossible to walk down the street without being tempted by small trinkets, local crafts or quirky jewelry. If you’re feeling energetic, throw yourself into the Chatuchak Weekend Market, which has as many as 9,000 stalls organized thematically—from a vintage clothes to pets to spices. However, the real finds are in the Siam neighborhood, which houses everything from massive malls to miniscule boutiques. Go here to find the perfect pair of jeans at one of the all-denim stores. Find a pair you like and have them hemmed and tailored while you wait.

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Similarly frenetic is Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood, where a lack of street names and labyrinthine layout means it’s “all about getting lost and letting yourself discover things,” Guerra says. Her favorite finds include the quirky Tokyu Hands craft store, the local chain store Beams and the Parco 1, 2 and 3 malls, which have small booths owned by individual designers and labels, as well as sushi restaurants and cafes for retail refueling. Look for select shops, boutiques that sell several different labels. But you might want to trim down before your spree—most size large items in Japan will fit the average size small in the States.

Sometimes shopping is as much about the experience as it is about your individual finds. That’s definitely the case in Morocco, where maze-like souks are an exercise in cultural immersion. Hire a guide to take you through the medina in Marrakech. Although you should steel yourself for pushy sales pitches and fevered bargaining, the payoffs can be rich. Expect to find intricate hand-crafted jewelry, rugs and woven bags.

For a more relaxed retail experience, head to St. Barth's, the only Caribbean locale with enough offerings to tempt the serious shopper. In place of the cheap liquor outlets and bland baubles that populate other islands, St. Barth's has beach-front cottages with a dizzying array of international designers. Because it’s a French territory, you can expect to find Parisian designers such as Vanessa Bruno.

But much like a Chanel suit, when it comes to planning a shopping trip, you can never go wrong with the classics: Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles. Although Paris used to be the destination for high-end designers, the shopping landscape is changing as the dollar loses traction against the euro. “Right now you’d be insane to go to Paris for what Paris is really famous for—the major fashion houses. What Americans should really look for are the fabulous weekend markets,” In Style Market Director Toby Tucker Peters says. You can still walk the Avenue Montaigne for a look at the opulent Gucci, Prada and Chanel stores, but much of their wares are available for much less in the States.

The exchange rate poses an even bigger challenge in London. However, the country pioneered a trend that only recently caught on in the States: commissioning high-end designers develop lines for national chain stores. Stop into the flagship TopShop store for a look at lines by design heavyweights such as Emma Cook and Christopher Kane, Guerra suggests. Or opt for the one-stop-shopping of Oxford Street’s Selfridges, which has outposts of all of the country’s top stores in addition to quirky and innovative window displays.

But if designer fashions are what you crave, make a retail pilgrimage to New York’s Fifth Avenue or Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills. These tried and true destinations will empty your wallets and fill your closets with Prada and Versace, Gucci and Ferragamo. “When you shop in New York, you need to have a strategy,” Tucker says. If you only have a few hours, you can get a taste of several designers with a stop into Fifth Avenue’s Bergdorf Goodman. Afterwards, wander down the street to classics such as Tiffany & Co., and Harry Winston. Similar strategies apply in L.A., where shops are more spread out. Focus your energies on Robertson Boulevard’s celeb hotspots such as Lisa Kline and Madison, and round out your day with lunch at The Ivy.

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