If you happen to be in Japan these days, you should stop by the first Marni Flower Café in Osaka. On the third floor of the Umeda Hankyu department store, Marni breathes life into a new concept store. It is a meeting place where you can enjoy Italian products, purchase flowers and relax with Italian pastry in a lively ambiance with bright colours and scenic prints. It’s just one especially charming example among a number of cool cafes created by some of the world’s most iconic fashion brands.
As designers are putting out a new collection of their signature clothes every couple of months, many are also focusing on something with more staying power: Their own signature cafes and restaurants, whether it’s stand-alone establishments or in-store eateries. Many top design names have diversified their holdings far beyond fashion, branching out into the hotel business or gastronomy. Luxury brand cafes let you indulge your haute couture sensibilities over a lavish lunch, coffee or cocktail.
The latest addition to these fashionable gastronomic enterprises is Palazzo Ralph Lauren, a glamorous private club in Milan. Admission to this club, located inside the company’s Milan headquarters, the historic Casa Campanini, is by invitation only. It is of course the place to be during Milan Fashion Week. Don’t worry if you haven’t received an invitation. There are plenty of fashion designer cafes you can visit. Here are our favourites – and why we love them.
Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada, Milan
The Fondazione Prada in Milan is not just an art museum set inside a century-old distillery, but a place where people are encouraged to hang out, at the library, the coffee shop and of course the bar. Bar Luce is the coolest place of them all, designed by filmmaker Wes Anderson. Like a stunning mix of classic Milanese cafe and film set, it combines traditional features such as the arched ceiling and the decorations reminiscent of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele with elements that could come from an Italian film set of the 50s or 60s, complete with green Formica tables, pastel coloured seats and even pinball machines.
Tip: Take your sundowner outside and sit on the steps watching the sun set behind the Fondazione Prada.
Pasticceria Marchesi, Milan
Originally founded in 1824, this historic pastry shop on Santa Maria alla Porta, right next to Corso Magenta, is still managed by the same family—but it is now owned by Prada. The fashion house worked with its go-to architect Roberto Baciocchi to create a slightly more modern identity for the shop front, which features custom-made fine china by Rosenthal. Try their trademark fluffy Panettone cake when you go during the day.
Tip: You might be surprised to hear that Pasticceria Marchesi is open open until 9 pm, so come by for an evening glass of beer or wine.
Caffè Giacosa, Florence
With an illustrious history dating some 200 years, Caffè Giacosa is a Florence institution. Who better to restore this cafe than Florentine designer Roberto Cavalli who opened his store next door? He retained the original burgundy banquette seating and glass-top round tables, adding black and white prints of women in Cavalli designs to the wood-panelled walls. Choose pastry or sandwiches from the large glass cabinet or or come in the early evening for a Negroni cocktail, which was invented at here in 1920.
Tip: Take home some Cavalli-brand vodka, wine and fondant chocolates wrapped in his signature style leopard and zebra print boxes.
Le 68 Guy Martin Restaurant, Paris
Guy Martin, one of the most famous French chefs, and Thierry Vasseur, the “nose” of the renowned perfume house Guerlain, have teamed up to create a unique restaurant where gastronomy meets the world of perfume. Le 68, the name a tribute to the well known address of the Guerlain flagship store on the Champs-Elysées, is housed in the basement and is as elegant as the shop above, with Baccarat crystal chandeliers, a palette of gold tones with flashes of pink and tables depicting the flowers used in Guerlain’s signature perfume, La Guerlinade. The dishes are delicious and emphasize the link between olfactory and gustatory pleasures. They also serve breakfast and tea with a fine selection of pastries.
Tip: This restaurant is a little known secret, even among many Parisians, so it’s perfect to impress a date.
For Beige, Chanel and star chef Alain Ducasse – the two heavyweights of French fashion and cuisine, respectively – have joined forces. The restaurant opened in 2004 atop Chanel’s ten-story, LED-fronted Ginza store. The spirit of ‘simple and elegant’ that they both share is expressed in every detail of the cuisine and the décor. Decorated in the eponymous beige tones and Chanel’s signature tweed, the serene restaurant is the place for refined French cuisine. The food is spectacular and beautifully presented.
Tip: For the Chanel Fashionista, the branded logo chocolates are the finishing touch to a memorable meal.
The Polo Bar, New York
When Ralph Lauren opened his latest restaurant venture behind the flagship department store on Fifth Avenue in 2015, it was an immediate hit as a cosy in-crowd clubhouse. The Polo Bar is the kind of hot place where even knowing the secret email is no guarantee of booking a table any time soon, wrote the New York Times. It’s cosy and chic at the same time, and serves excellent American comfort food. With dark wood panelling, leather banquettes and walls decorated with hundreds of horse and jockey photos, the bar and subterranean dining room have the air of an old-fashioned sporting club. The waitresses are of course dressed in Ralph Lauren uniforms.
Tip: Reserve a table far in advance, as the Polo Bar is often booked out.
Ceresio 7, Milan
Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2 have opened a glamorous rooftop restaurant Ceresio 7 on top of their Milan headquarters. The modernist dining room with lots of marble, dark colors and floor to ceiling is stunning, but the best feature is the outdoor terrace with the two pools and stunning city views. The menu mixes a mostly Italian menu of homemade pasta with lots of salads, grilled fish and a full raw bar.
Tip: Come here for an Apero on the rooftop deck and watch the sun set over the city’s financial district.