When fashion historian Amanda Hallay coined her favorite phrase, “Fashion is not an Island, it’s a response”. She might have had momentarily forgotten about an island that not just boasts fashion of its best kind, but has been a defining identity of Newport Beach’s trendy lifestyle since its inauguration on September 9, 1967. Celebrating 50 years of its stylish presence, the Fashion Island Mall, while having had undergone major constructional changes, has managed to maintain one particular thing through the generations it has catered to be a lifestyle destination.
From savvy vloggers out on a day of weekly catch ups with their equally savvy friends to eager tourists who are looking to check all of the important landmarks off of their maps, Fashion Island is where they want to be. And not without reason either. With an area spanning 75 acres and an outdoor space design principle, Fashion Island was always intended to be more than just a shopping venue. And it looks like the intention has been communicated pretty clear, with the shopping center attracting around 15 million visitors per year. But if the number of footfalls suggests a lifestyle choice, their annual sales figure of $765 million suggests that shopping is, in fact, the primary reason people go there. Fashion Island stores are a healthy mix of luxury labels like Neiman Marcus, Elie Tahari, BCBG Max Azria and affordable options like Forever 21, Bebe and Macy’s.
Although called “Fashion” Island, this Newport Beach shopping destination provides ample of non-fashion options (as malls should, you know) within the lifestyle segment; expect to find home décor and furnishings, gift shops, a Barnes and Noble and even automotives (we’re talking Tesla Motors, no less). And if you’re steering clear of shopping but still looking to have a good time, there are ample restaurants to take care of that. Maybe throw in a movie at the Island theater after. Or, do what every other broke student does: stroll around the sprawling premises and indulge in people watching. After all, it is with this non-judgmental ideology that Fashion Island was created, then known as Newport Center CA.
Fashion Island’s vision
The Irvine Company, which is responsible for developing the Newport Center property, had, in fact, started out with this very vision of creating a hub that would feature leisurely activities besides shopping and dining. But more importantly, it envisioned creating a brand that would change the way people looked at shopping, celebrating hallmark events like its grand opening back in 1967, the inclusion of the hugely popular Hard Rock Café in 1992, and the yearly installation and lighting of the Christmas tree—a practice that ticks off one of the most vital ingredients of shopping experience and customer satisfaction: building an emotional connect with the shoppers.
Nosy shoppers that we are, we decided to size up Fashion Island firsthand and review its present-day status as the premium shopping destination in Newport Beach. Here’s what I liked
A shopper’s paradise indeed—Décor
You can’t talk about Fashion Island without mentioning the magnificent décor. The open-air space design is the first thing that attracts you about the mall if you haven’t already been impressed with the spacious parking structure (you gotta be thankful for not having to hit another car while attempting to get out of yours). This Newport Beach mall, which has more than tripled in size over the years, is all about free-range space with lots of walking room, making it ideal for children and pets to tag along, which, if you ask us, is the ideal kind of weekend recreation. The design aesthetic has undergone multiple changes—a $100 million dollar-facelift included, no less—and the current style is very Mediterranean, with its white canopy-covered sitting areas, the cobblestone paths, rows of ivy-covered pillars and lots of lush green. A few of the design elements from the past—like the Guinness Book of Records title holder, the world’s largest wind chimes, holding 300 bells and created by Muralist Tom Van Sant—have been preserved and somewhat serve as the heritage of the past.
The main attraction that keeps the kids fixated on, however, is the Koi Pond—a feature from the original design and built in 1969—nesting thousands of colorful koi fish.
Fashion Island Stores
Owing to its branding and marketing as a luxury hub, the Fashion Island mall is largely seen as a rich man’s place where commoners are supposed to mostly stroll and eat, what with luxury brands Neiman Marcus, Elie Tahari, Trina Turk, Kate Spade flocking its courtyards. To be fair though, the mall does include a versatile mix of both high-end and high-street to ensure there’s something for everyone under the same roof.
I love the variety of fashion wear available and our top picks are as follows:
Yep, the popular choice is our choice too. Macy’s always does a fantastic job at balancing quality stuff and affordable prices and in our minds, it’s reason enough. And oh, the year-round sales!
If you don’t already know, it’s the only one in the county and you must already know that it houses all your favorites—Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana to name a few. How do you not want to go?
If you like Macy’s and do not mind to shell out a few extra bucks for even better quality, you’ll love Bloomingdales. They have great shoe collection of loafers, oxfords, and boots. But I don’t really have to tutor you on this widely popular retail chain, do we?
Always the best place for trendy apparel within the budget price, Forever 21 never disappoints. So okay, the quality might not be top notch, but that’s not what budget buys are about I think.
Takes care of all your Athleisure and workout wear needs, including leggings, yoga pants, etc. Lululemon is actually one of the very first brands to have started the athleisure niche of fashion as we know it today, so you know, buy from the best.
Yes, I went there real fast. But you need Victoria’s Secret everywhere! So don’t forget to hop in after you’re done with Macy’s.
Fashion Island Beauty and Wellness
Neimus Marcus features top on our list because it houses top of the line beauty products, right from Chanel to Gucci and Armani. Because skimping on quality with beauty and skincare is not something I advise!
When you’re borderline obsessed with skincare, the allure of handmade beauty products is irresistible. Both their bath products and cosmetics range feature high on our approved list.
L’Occitane is known for its quality bath products and I recommend their Shea Butter line of products, especially their lavender shea butter hand cream.
Bath and Body Works
Although they make some decent bath products (I like the body mists), I call on the candles and the room fresheners with more gusto! Their aromatherapy kits are effective and, well, therapeutic.
Moving on from skincare to hardcore makeup, this is an obvious destination. For the sake of replacing our overused Naked Palettes or discovering other not-so-popular but effective products like their eyeshadow and eyelash primers, Fashion Island sure did the right thing getting Urban Decay under their wing.
Fashion Island Restaurants
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
Fleming’s sure lives up to its name; if you’re a meat lover, the Sunday prime rib dinner offers good value for money, which also includes the high-in-demand Chocolate Lava cake. There’s also the option of seafood for those not too eager for meat.
Blue C Sushi
It’s hard to find a population anywhere, most of all the US, that doesn’t have enough sushi lovers. And this place caters to the needs of Newport Beach sushi lovers beautifully with their fresh-made rolls and that super fun conveyer belt! If you make it during the happy hour, the lower prices are a plus!
Fig and Olives
This dine-in restaurant fits in seamlessly with the Mediterranean vibe of Fashion Island and Newport Center, revolving around a Mediterranean cuisine with a heavy Spanish influence. A nice, romantic ambiance and delectable food is a winning combination indeed.
The Cheesecake Factory
This place is great for its cheesecakes and velvet cakes obviously, but their meals aren’t too shabby either. There’s a good selection of appetizers and their burgers will fill you out if you need to grab a quick lunch between your shopping sprees.
Whole Foods Market
For a faster whiz-in-and-out lunch option, Whole Foods is not just great, it’s the most opted for. Partly responsible for the popularity is the location and parking space available and the fact that for the most part, the food tends to be healthy.
There is also the Atrium food court and some juice bars if you’re not looking to indulge in anything fancy. Even the Nespresso boutique will let you have a full size cup of coffee in different flavors for free!
For the full list of brands available, go to the Fashion Island store directory here.
Overall experience in Fashion Island Mall
The biggest attraction of Fashion Island is going to be the sprawling space of course. This makes it a perfect weekend destination for a short ride with the family, toddlers and all. And you don’t have to leave your pet behind either! In fact, this mall is known to be one of the most dog-friendly places ever!(they even have water bowls for your dogs) Fountains and ponds, vines and cobbled pathways—it is a rather enjoyable place to keep the kids engaged in while you shop or window shop. There are fun events organized around the year, like the summer concerts, and the lighting of the massive Christmas tree is one of those celebratory things in the area that locals look forward to and tourists want to be a part of. Fashion Island also boasts premium services like personal shopping and styling assistance. And the concierge is reputed to be friendly and attentive to your needs.
To sum up, if you have shopping to do in Fashion Island Newport Beach, I couldn’t stress enough that this would be more than a convenient choice. After all, there’s got to be a reason for a place to keep running for half a century!