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World's Most Stylish Cities

Lauren Sherman, 06.30.09, 05:00 PM EDT

At the forefront of fashion and design, these 10 spots beg to be visited.

Its streets produced haute couture, New Wave cinema and art nouveau. It continues to innovate with concept boutiques like Colette, which is so well-known for its avant-garde inventory that it has the power to make a little-known label an in-demand brand. Even the country's first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, is known for her sense of style and often photographed in Dior suits, pillbox hats and demure flats.

Few would argue that Paris epitomizes chic. "It has a certain sense of natural style," says Michael Kazam, the business development director for Le Book, an international directory of creative professionals, founded in Paris in 1981. "It's a very [global] city with incredible charm and history worn on its shirtsleeve."

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In Depth: World's Most Stylish Cities

It comes as no surprise to Kazam that Paris was rated most stylish in the world in a recent survey that helped formulate the 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands Index. Milan, New York, London and Rome also received high marks for their fashion and design credentials.

Behind the Numbers
The 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands Index, released on June 16, surveyed 10,000 people from 20 countries in April of this year. Cities were judged on lifestyle, buzz, multiculturalism, cultural life and attractiveness. Respondents were asked to rank 50 cities on such varied subjects as climate, physical attractiveness, restaurants and nightlife. Formally known as the Anholt City Brands Index, the survey is the brainchild of city branding expert Simon Anholt. In 2009 he joined forces with New York-headquartered market research firm GfK Roper to create a new and improved report that included more respondents from non-European countries, as well as a mix of respondents from both developed and developing countries.

The top 10 cities have each made notable contributions to the field of design, but fashion specifically, as the list reflects the idea that fashion plays a leading role in any city's cultural evolution and identity. (Fashion is also firmly ingrained in modern, urban culture, as evidenced by reality television competition series Project Runway, soon to make its fifth-season debut on Lifetime Television, as well as big-box retailer Target's ( TGT - news - people ) Go International apparel collections.) The four top cities on the list host the four most important fashion weeks in the world. The other six cities each host their own runway shows that showcase local talent not necessarily ready for a global presence.

That's not to say places like San Francisco, Barcelona and Los Angeles aren't aesthetically driven. The Bay Area, for one, is home to dozens of important industrial design firms, including IDEO and Frog Design, not to mention Apple ( AAPL - news - people ), makers of the technology game-changer, the iPod. The company's senior vice president of industrial design, Jonathan Ive, has created many other products that millions use--and admire--every day.

Barcelona, on the other hand, is better known for its architecture, particularly the work of Antoni Gaudí, whose wild-looking, intricate buildings and gardens remain a fascination. Gaudí's Sagrada Familia, which has been under construction for the last 127 years and won't be completed for another 25, is the city's most-visited tourist attraction.

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And while Los Angeles may be thought of as a factory of bottled blonds and spray-tanned celebrities, the city also has rich architectural and fashion traditions alike. Cameron Silver, owner of high-end vintage boutique Decades--a style institution in its own right--particularly loves the mid-century homes of Schindler and Neutra, peppered throughout neighborhoods Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

Critically acclaimed fashion labels have also emerged from Los Angeles over the last half-decade, including Rodarte--whose designers won this year's Council of Fashion Designers of America's Womenswear Designer of the Year award--and Band Of Outsiders, designed by L.A.-based Scott Sternberg, who won this year's CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award. L.A. is much more than a one-tricky Hollywood pony.

Why the rush of talent flowing out of Los Angeles? The same could be said of all the other cities on the list, actually. Style-conscious cities, in general, benefit from the disruptive innovation a financial downturn often conjures. While the recession has undoubtedly hurt all of these cities' economies, it's also allowed creative types to take chances and chase their dreams simply because there's less to lose.

What's bad for the economy, it seems, is good for style. And every city on the list--whether it's geared more toward architecture, fashion, or product design--has something the Parisians understand better than anyone: je ne sais quoi.

In Depth: World's Most Stylish Cities

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