The World's Best Outlet Malls

LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- The best ones are usually located within an hour of the world's fashion capitals in warehouse-style malls that have become a tourist attraction in their own right.

Given the global recession, their usual lines and traffic-clogged roads are even worse as couture hunters travel far and wide to scout couture's best bargains. Once limited to names such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Armani, high-fashion brands Karl Lagerfeld, Balenciaga and even Chanel have joined the world's best outlet malls. But don't expect to find the outlet addresses on their corporate Web sites -- the luxury labels keep quiet on where to score up to 70% off season-old fashion booty.

For Europe's best outlet malls, travel to the retail wonderland known as The Mall in Florence, Italy. Located in the heart of Tuscany, The Mall is housed within a sprawl of warehouse-style buildings in a landscape of gardens and rolling hillside. With thrifty necessities like its own value-added tax refund office and concierge service, The Mall is also home to a fashionable cafe and bar as well a sit-down gourmet restaurant called Dot.com that served local produce, homemade gnocchi or grilled meats. In the stores, you'll find well-stocked outposts of Giorgio Armani, Bottega Veneta, Hogan, Marni and Balenciaga. The mall is surprisingly efficient, offering only high-end fashion labels and none of the usual Burberry and Nike outposts.

 Beijing Scitech Outlet
Beijing Scitech Outlet Shopping

In France's Seine-et-Marne region outside of Paris, it's possible to combine a trip to Euro Disney with a shopping spree at La Vallee Village. With its own Starbucks ( SBUX) to make an American feel right at home, the outdoor shopping experience lures a mostly French clientele to what is becoming one of Europe's top outlet malls. The mall is owned by Chic Outlet Shopping, a division of London-based Value Retail that boasts a series of Europe outlet malls within a two-hour drive of major cities like Dublin and Barcelona, Spain, and reports average shopping times of 3.5 hours per customer and average spend of 550 euros per target customer, according to company reports. La Vallee Village offers fashion and luxury houseware brands like by Baccarat, Maison Martin Margiela, D2Squared, Givenchy, Jimmy Choo, Lalique and Trussardi.

Outside of London is Bicester Village, a sister outlet of La Vallee that's also owned by Value Retail. Bicester Village has the distinction of attracting fashion icons like Jade Jagger and Elizabeth Hurley for discount shopping sprees followed by sojourns in its VIP lounge. For non-celebrities, there's Raymond Blanc's three Michelin star Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. Bicester Village is home to 130 stores including quintessential U.K. labels Molton Brown, Anya Hindmarch, Pringle, Reiss, All Saints, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.

In Japan, Gotemba Premium Outlets has been satiating Tokyo bargain shoppers for more than a decade. Located about 90 minutes outside the capital, a remarkably familiar scene of one-story western-style mall architecture is dressed-up with outdoor fountains and cobblestone walkways. The mall features an impressive roster of designers, including Jil Sander, Kenzo, Bulgari and Escada as well as electronics retailers Nikon and Swarovski.

In China, Swiss-based Fox Town has opened a premium outlet in Shanghai that complements the existing Shanghai Outlet near Zhaoxiang. And in the capital, Beijing Scitech draws shoppers searching for Anna Sui, Christian Lacroix, John Galliano, Lagerfeld, Ports 1961 and Kenzo. Its array of outlet-shy designers has made it our pick for best outlet mall in Asia.

If you live in America and aren't willing to travel overseas for a designer bargain, there are malls within a few hours of most major cities. But if know the difference between Miu Miu and Prada, head toward New York and Los Angeles to find the true fashion big wigs. Outside of Los Angeles, Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, owned by Simon Property Group ( SPG), has become a prime destination for Asian and European tourists. They gorge themselves on outlets from Crate and Barrel to Etro with rare outposts of St. John, Bottega Veneta and Salvatore Ferragamo you won't find in every outlet mall.

Outside of New York City, shoppers travel to the famed Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Mall, a mall that beats all others. Also owned by Simon Property Group, this mall lives up to its celebrity reputation by offering transportation by limousine and even helicopter. The New England-style buildings offer a shopping experience that's not only prettier than your average outlet mall but also better stocked with some of the best designers. In addition to the Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Liz Claiborne, you'll find fashions by Chanel, Catherine Malandrino, Balenciaga and Missoni.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.

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