Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

The Queen of Duty-Free

Michela Ratti, the global head of external relations for one of the beauty industry's most prestigious corporations, travels all over the world, which means she spends plenty of time in airports. To fuel her fashion obsession, she has staked out the best duty-free boutiques (and a few that are not yet up to snuff). Here is her review of 10 destinations for a shopping layover:

Dubai International: "Like a luxury mall. I have bought fantastic emerald-and-garnet hoop earrings here, and they have great embroidered pashmina shawls. For gold and diamonds, the best."

London (Heathrow): "T3 is great — Harrods, Gucci, Hermès, Hamleys toys. I used to call ahead to order Chanel to take out. T5 is growing on me — Harrods, Prada, Dior, Paul Smith, Boots chemist for vitamins. I get my Smythson diary refills here. The British Airways lounge has a good Elemis spa." Hong Kong International: "Worth taking a detour to just for the shopping. It's like a duty-free Fifth Avenue — plus Shanghai Tang, a local crafts market and amazing food and fashion."

Rome (Fiumicino, Terminal C): "Compact but great for Valentino R.E.D. and Loro Piana cashmere travel sets. They also have Bruno Magli, D&G Underwear, Custo Barcelona and a wooden toy shop for children. The spa has a 10-minute massage, and there's a cheese-and-wine bar by Frescobaldi."

Venice (Marco Polo): "O.K., but not a major hub. It has affordable, practical merchandise like Missoni Sport, Stefanel and La Perla."

Geneva International: "Not the most exciting shopping. There is a Bongènie shop with cashmere sweaters, T shirts and MaxMara coats."

Paris (Charles de Gaulle): "Stands out for the cheese selection and delicatessens."

New York City-area airports: "They are only just catching on to the retail environment."

Munich: "An odd selection — a sex shop, for example. (Maybe it's German. Frankfurt has one too.)"

Madrid (Barajas): "A huge selection of wines but not much in the way of fashion."