Project Runway NZ judge Benny Castles and show mentor Andreas Mikellis on the destinations that inspire their style.


Project Runway NZ judge Benny Castles. Photo / Stephen Tilley
Project Runway NZ judge Benny Castles. Photo / Stephen Tilley


It's an obvious choice, but it is where I enjoyed one of my most profound fashion experiences.

While there for Fashion Week, each morning and evening I would strap into the subway from our rented apartment and act like a proper Parisian on my way to work. Slightly disaffected, with a croissant in my hand, I felt I looked the part but would clearly have been identified as a tourist by any real Parisian.


Each evening I would take the shortcut through Dior to the Metro stop, and pay special attention to the elongated dress room where the prices of dresses extended beyond any salary I'll ever earn.

Without thinking, I dismissed it as only for show or for just a privileged few but on our penultimate day, I was wandering through the store and I found the dress room in complete chaos. There was a riot of sophisticated women treating luxury as it needs to be treated — things to be worn, loved and enjoyed — dresses being fought over, tossed aside and squeezed into. It changed my perception of shopping and my appreciation of how luxury can be enjoyed.

A few years ago, we made our first journey to Milan to visit Esxence, the leading international event in Artistic Perfumery.

Walking from Via Mont Napoleone to the Duomo takes you past the Fashion Design School (which is more of a catwalk than a school) and many Italian and global fashion brands, as well as independent fragrance boutiques. It is a walk through the real interpretation of Italian fashion.

The gorgeous Duomo provides magnificent views. Enjoy it with a Negroni.

The magnificent structure is endlessly rewarding and hides behind it modern luxury super-store Excelsior, housing everything and anything that sits out in front of fashion-forward sensibilities.

The local Milanese are the real treasure. They saunter and stroll with an abundance of elegance and charm, stopping to window shop and look each other up and down — without any of the negative judgmental connotations that we would think of. They are simply interested in style and love to discuss it openly among friends, who all seem to be from completely different worlds. It makes their fashionable promenading so inspiring to watch and be part of.

Hong Kong
Travelling back and forth to Europe meant choosing a stopover point and Hong Kong has always been the choice for a night or two of dumplings, high tea and high-intensity shopping.


Get the MTR train to Ap Lei Chau and get off at exit A, codename Exit Prada. As soon as you walk off you'll find the Space Warehouse, which holds end-of-line and old-season Prada and Miu Miu. A short walk (or cab) away is the Lane Crawford and Joyce Warehouse, in a seemingly innocuous office block that holds any and every brand under the sun. It's like being Cinderella — if it fits, it should it be yours. And even if it's not quite right, you might buy it anyway, like I did with a Missoni vest that may as well be painted on.

Often regarded as a shopper's paradise, it is in Melbourne's suburban strips I think you can find the special experiences. A good sniff around the vintage furniture stores, mixed with niche artisanal stores like men's dress shoe store Double Monk on Smith St, should always end with a sandwich at Alimentari. Or if you are feeling the grunge and want the world's best burger, stop at Huxtaburger.

But perhaps my favourite is a little jewel in Hawthorn called Peony — a haute perfumery store of hand-selected scents from around the world, curated with a wonderful eye and retailed with elegance and thoughtfulness. It is a testament to the understated sophistication of Melbourne, where small independent boutiques still exist.

My one, very odd, trip to Japan was a breath-taking experience.
The city itself is a microcosm of design and thoughtfulness, each element of the buildings, roads, people and culture is littered with intelligent design decisions — even the burgers have a way of looking just that little bit cooler.

The journey from the Herzog de Meuron Prada store down Omotesando, along with all the side streets, down to Harujuku is about as alluring a walk as a fashion victim can take. Make sure you arrive at the park just in time to see the dancing Elvises start battling, both on the concrete dance floor and with fisticuffs.

Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Photo / Getty Images
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Photo / Getty Images

Tokyo has the conventional elegance and playful eccentricity that no other city quite matches. The people offer no judgment, just a kind and understanding realism that you are living with 28 million others who all need their own strangeness and space — even if that space is being squashed like a sardine into a JR train by a nicely uniformed man with white gloves.


● Benny Castles is director and designer for NZ fashion brand WORLD.


Project Runway NZ mentor Andreas Mikellis. Photo / Stephen Tilley
Project Runway NZ mentor Andreas Mikellis. Photo / Stephen Tilley

When I travel, I often check out the latest hangouts, cool districts, bars and restaurants, however they rarely inspire me in the way that markets do. Fashion for me is all about people and I usually find the most interesting ones there.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Brixton Market, London
I grew up in South London and one of my earliest childhood memories is of weekly grocery shopping trips to Brixton Market with my grandmother, who lived a few streets away. The distinctly multi-cultural experience of the people, flavours, fabrics, colours, music and the market traders' banter was mesmerising.

Although it has gone through several changes, it has still managed to hold on to its wonderful character. With its covered arcades and Saturday themed markets — Makers, Flea, Bakers and Retro/Collectables — it makes for a great local community-focused venue.

Brick Lane, London
Brick Lane is having a renaissance. It's probably one of the most dynamic and creative markets in London and although there are lots of tourists around, there is a distinct absence of the Union Jack-type souvenir vibe that you find at Camden and Portobello. On Sundays it is bursting with pop-up art galleries, street artists, emerging designers, local craft makers and vintage clothing stalls.


Start with a visit to the Whitechapel gallery on the way to the market from Aldgate East Tube, stop for a super spicy vegetable jalfrezi and a cold pint of Cobra beer at one of the many Indian restaurants in the lane and meander up to stylish Redchurch St for more of a fashion fix.

Chelsea Market/High Line, New York
The Chelsea Market has a vast array of wonderful artisanal food and produce, and if you are staying in New York for some time it's a great place to stock up.

In this case, however, the real inspiration for me runs around and above the market, parallel to 10th Ave. The High Line is a reclaimed elevated railway line that is now a stunning urban walkway covered in rugged shrubs, grasses and trees, with great views of the city on one side and peeks of the Hudson River on the other.

You are up-close and intimate with old buildings and warehouses and some stunning modern architecture, including the just-completed sinewy steel-and-glass apartment block (pictured) from Zaha Hadid Architects.

The Meat Packing District is at one end of the High Line with some cool fashion stores and also close by is the Whitney Museum of American Art, well worth a visit.

Market and Arcades, Cardiff
Central Cardiff was fully pedestrianised a decade ago and it's a great example of how to bring an old city back to life. Its cosmopolitan, people-friendly vibe and beautifully preserved Victorian arcades make for a laid-back shopping experience. The elegant arcades house a range of small independent galleries and shops with locally sourced produce — I usually pick up some lovely crumbly Caerphilly cheese and grab one of the best flat-whites outside New Zealand.


Cardiff market is comparatively small but worth a visit for its grocers, butchers and cheese stalls. There has been a market on the site since the 1700s, with the current incarnation a beautiful industrial architectural structure dating from the Victorian era. I head straight for Kellys Records on the upper floor — they have a seriously impressive selection of vinyl — and then pop into Hatts Vintage Emporium for exquisite men's vintage clothing from the 1800s to the 1980s.

Clignancourt Market (le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen), Paris
I have been visiting Clignancourt market since I was a teenager and it is still truly inspiring, from the transient hawkers who inhabit the outer limits of the market to the ageing dapper owners of the high-end antique emporiums. Clignancourt is a rambling, sprawling entity made up of 14 separate markets in a mish-mash of old industrial buildings, interlocked by narrow laneways, selling a mind-boggling range of second-hand objects and curiosities, from palatial 18th century chandeliers to plastic 1980s toy Smurfs. For a first-time visitor, the whole experience can be disorienting, and you can easily get lost, however the trick is to run with it and embrace the chaos.

● Andreas Mikellis is a senior lecturer in fashion design at AUT.

Project Runway NZ premieres tomorrow on TVNZ 2 at 7.30pm.