King of Prussia solidifies its reputation as a destination for fashionistas

When it comes to attracting upscale retail in the region, it was clear King of Prussia had an advantage over Center City.

But as of Thursday, we can say - in the fight for luring top fashion brands here - the mall has been victorious.

King of Prussia unveiled its gleaming, 155,000-square-foot expansion Thursday morning that looked more like New York's Fifth Avenue than the wing of an indoor suburban mall.

With brands like Carolina Herrera, MCM, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta, and Diane von Furstenberg - my New York Fashion Week designer favorite opening its first location in Pennsylvania here - it's a high-end shopper's dream.

And like any other neighbors eager to keep up with the Joneses, David Yurman, Burberry, Hermés, and Club Monaco moved from their current mall homes into the upscale burb. After all, like attracts like.

Even specialty stores that have a presence downtown, such as Vince, Stuart Weitzman, and Club Monaco, decided they wanted to join the well-dressed kids and opened additional locations in the new area.

In all, there will be 43 retailers and seven restaurants in the new space.

With this caliber of stores creating a critical mass, King of Prussia has solidified its role as the area's luxury shopping destination. Philadelphians who insist they can only shop chicly in New York now will surely think twice before heading up there just for retail therapy.

In the meantime, Center City's Walnut Street, once among the city's most-posh shopping destinations, is quickly becoming Athleisure Row.

Under Armour opened on the street this week joining Lululemon, Athleta, New Balance, and a revamped Modell's

These stores cater to a younger, on-the-go shopper, who spends as much time in high-intensity workout classes than she does at work, their casual pieces suitable for working out on a barre or hanging at a bar.

Center City also is quickly becoming home of the outlet store. Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom opened discount stores downtown, while Century 21 is the deal-offering anchor east of Broad Street. More outlet stores are planned in the former Gallery, renamed the Fashion Outlets Philadelphia.

The new retail designations - all things upscale in King of Prussia and a more sporty feel in Center City - isn't entirely a bad thing.

With so many affluent families in the suburbs along the Main Line, it makes sense for King of Prussia to be the destination for shoppers who can spend thousands of dollars on a Hermés bag.

Downtown, on the other hand, is becoming a hub for makers and young families who would much rather spend time and money on experiences - a yoga class and a smoothie. Those who are label conscious don't mind getting the pieces cheaper at Century 21.

I know that's how I shop.

So while it appeared for a while that Center City may have a shot at getting one or two stand-alone high-end luxury stores to open, Thursday's opening is proof that the new reality is here.

King of Prussia is what Walnut Street wanted to be - and likely will now never become.