Dolce & Gabbana on a shoestring 4 Apr 2006
MARY FENWICK gets a guided tour of shopping paradise.
You get the feeling that the reigning queen of fashion, Miuccia Prada, doesn’t want you to find the place where you can buy her fab shoes for around a quarter of their normal price.
It’s like being a TV naturalist on the trail of the semi-mythical snow leopard. The Prada outlet store is somewhere off the motorway between Florence and Rome, but it’s not signposted … at all. Even when you close in on the location, your prey is disguised as just another grey steel and concrete warehouse. The only sign says "Space", and the gate is blocked off by a caribinieri (Italian police) car.
Fortunately I’m in Italy with fashion’s answer to David Attenborough, co-founder of Italy2shop, Francine Bosco.
Francine’s business partner, Clare de Lore, is originally from Christchurch. The two women met in London and discovered a mutual interest in designer gear, along with a reluctance to pay Bond Street prices.
Francine has been coming to this part of Italy for 12 years, and she’s decided to share her insider knowledge of where you can buy not just Prada but an encyclopaedic list of other Italian designers (Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Emmanuel Ungaro and Bottega Veneta for starters) at prices closer to Gap than normal Gucci.
The Italy2shop weekend offers a Saturday of cruising around designer outlets in chauffeur-driven luxury, followed by a Sunday based in the Italian coastal resort town of Viareggio, 20 minutes drive from Pisa airport.
Viareggio was, to me, the unexpected bonus of the whole deal. The trip is not just about pretending to be an international jet-set shopper, it’s also a brief window into a part of Italy that feels noticeably different from the regular tourist trail.
Viareggio has been a centre for yacht-building since the early 19th century and forms part of what’s known as the Italian Riviera – but this is definitely the end that attracts more Italians than tourists. It’s got all the Vespa scooters, gelati and attitude you could want, along with character touches such as the cycle path that parallels the main drag – even grannies in fur coats ride bikes here – and many shop assistants speak no English whatsoever. Plus it’s got a market and a Benetton outlet store of its own.
But that’s all for day two. Day one is devoted to the bargain-hunter’s version of TK Maxx on steroids. You know the wear-it-to-death classics are in there, which makes it all the more rewarding to push past the lime green snakeskin coat (1655 euros, Prada) and the purple fox fur in Pucci (reduced from12,000 euros – more than the price of a new Fiat Punto).
A few of the rewards: Armani jeans starting at 30 euros (£21); plain Prada trouser suits for 360 euros (£250) and classic Tod’s loafers in a dozen colours for 140 euros (under £100, just a smidge over half the usual price). And anything in leather – handbags, shoes, jackets – is always a bargain in Italy (I found an overnight bag in leather so soft it could double as a pillow). All of this is in a relaxed environment – but maybe that was the lack of having my own children around. Both the Italy2shop founders understand that.
"It’s always fun when you find something amazing that you absolutely love, at a good price", Francine says. "The worst thing is if you’re back in London thinking ‘I wish I’d bought those shoes’ ".
The outlet stores spring up, move location or close down virtually overnight, so it’s just as well to have a knowledgeable guide. Of course, now that I’ve been, I could tell you where the Prada store is ... But then I’d have to kill you.
Don’t forget to:
• Ask Francine where to get the best gelato.
• Borrow a bike from the Hotel President reception; it’s flat for miles and you can’t get lost as long as you know which side the sea is on.
• Visit Mantovani (via S. Andrea 179, Viareggio) to stock up on chocolate, pastries and sublime cakes in the last hour before you board the plane.
• Track down the Benetton outlet store on one corner of the Viareggio town market.
• Check out Kontessa for handbags in Pisa airport on your way home (or see www.kontessaccessori.it)
• Bring your sunglasses, this is Italy!
Being told off in Dolce & Gabbana for taking notes about a dress that featured – reading from the top – raffia, python, rhinestone, chain-mail, a zebra print and lace inserts. Did they think I wanted to copy it?
4 Dec 2013 News
New Zealand has been named the second most giving country in the world, largely thanks to more Kiwis giving up their time to help... more
4 Dec 2013 Environment
Campaigners convinced New Zealand's set-net fishing restrictions are a death sentence for the Maui's dolphins have laid cardboard... more
4 Dec 2013 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk Kiwibank board back in compliance after Gribben exit Dec. 4 (BusinessDesk) - State-owned lender ... more
4 Dec 2013 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk Tenon shares surge as it seeks US equities market exposure, flags cash returns By Pattrick ... more
4 Dec 2013 Entertainment
Veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen offered to walk away from his role in the Hobbit movies on the first day of shooting. The British star... more
4 Dec 2013 Property
Auckland house prices rose at the rate of $677 a day in November, based on the average price increase from October to... more
4 Dec 2013 Property
New Zealand Government Hon Dr Nick SmithMinister of Housing 3 December 2013 Bill to rein in housing development charges passes first... more
4 Dec 2013 Migration
The typical Kiwi on Census day 2013 was aged 38, earned $28,500 a year, worked in a service job and owned his or her own... more
4 Dec 2013 Travel & Tourism
Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are seen as the world's most corrupt countries while Denmark and New Zealand are nearly ... more
4 Dec 2013 Rugby
New Zealand rugby is today celebrating the All Blacks' clean sweep of the IRB's 2013 Rugby Awards for the second year running. World ... more
4 Dec 2013 Cricket
By Lynn McConnell New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner believes there is still assistance in... more
4 Dec 2013 Column
Column - Gordon Campbell Gordon Campbell on New Zealand’s PISA education rankings by Gordon Campbell Perhaps a bit more... more
3 Dec 2013 Column
Part One: Take the pressure off! The festive season is meant to be well, festive and even a little bit fun! But for many the idea of... more
2 Dec 2013 People
Universal College Of Learning Media Release Monday 2 December 2013 UCOL salutes its Top Scholars UCOL Bachelor of Nursing... more
29 Nov 2013 Recruitment
Article - BusinessDesk Unemployment to hit 4% by 2021, says MBIE Nov. 29 (BusinessDesk) – Job growth and higher... more