MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s sprawling capital city has long been synonymous with smog and grit.

But that’s starting to change.

Underpinned by a growing economy, a rising number of moneyed professionals are driving luxury and designer brands to set up shop in the megalopolis. This, coupled with big projects to revive old wealthy bastions and rising gentrification, is giving the 20-million-plus metropolis a long-yearned-for fashion edge.

“More and more, fashion is stronger in Mexico and especially in Mexico City where there are many fashion events and trendy areas with a streetwear proposal,” said Carlota de la Vega, a fashion expert and owner of Cantra consulting.

Francisco Saldana, designer and owner of the Mexican alternative brand Malafacha, agreed, adding that an influx of international professionals is “nourishing fashion,” making the city more cosmopolitan, driving demand for brands catering to diverse tastes and incomes and fostering an increasingly eclectic shopping and dining scene.

In the past, “the fashion proposal used to be quite conservative,” Saldana said, adding that alternative lifestyle and men’s wear concept stores such as Kamikaze and Common People have opened in the hipster-magnet La Roma quarter, as well as in the up-and-coming Colonia Juarez area.

“We are entering an era with a much wider and differentiated offer,” Saldana said.

The arrival of the new Downtown Hotel and a major revamp of the Madero promenade — now home to a clutch of foreign retailers and a huge Forever 21 flagship — have breathed new life into what used to be an otherwise forlorn and often dangerous Historic Center, or downtown district.

A new re-branding campaign called CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) has added a European flair to streets and boulevards leading to the center’s main Zocalo Square and Colonial Cathedral. As part of the efforts aimed at drawing tourists to its expanding cultural, cuisine and shopping offer, the city has set up Parisian-style meeting areas topped by giant green umbrellas bearing CDMX. Beyond the center, Mexico City has set up public bicycle bays and re-painted its taxi fleet white and purple, proudly displaying the CDMX slogan.

In other infrastructure investments, a new futuristic, spider-shaped airport is set to open in 2020.

Elsewhere in the city, the old-money Polanco Quarter is getting a face-lift, with the Presidente Masaryk high street, Mexico’s most expensive thoroughfare, recently drawing luxury brands such as Bulgari, Gucci and Prada to open shops.

Then there is the closely watched, $300 million transformation of El Palacio de Hierro’s Polanco flagship into what it boasts will be one of Latin America’s largest luxury department store, featuring huge facade windows for brands such as Dior, Fendi and Bottega Veneta. The building aims to attract shoppers to a “world-class luxury” environment infused by Mexican cultural elements such as bright colors and references to the city’s architectural gems such as Reforma Avenue, or La Roma quarter, according to executives.

Meanwhile, La Roma has become a hub for the hip-chic, boasting a bustling shopping, nightlife and restaurant scene. There, the fledgling Mercado Roma features an array of restaurants and stands serving organic food, tapas, tacos, desserts and specialty chocolates in a fusion of European and Mexican styles.

There is also the Corredor Cultural Roma-Condesa, which offers the best of the two neighborhoods’ boutique shopping and cultural amenities, with special collections and discounts on the weekends, according to observers. New concept restaurants such as Sesame, Paprika and Maximo Bistrot have added panache to the area, which has become a key spot for young professionals and socialites.

Not far away is the W Mexico City hotel, which hosts regular fashion and photography events attracting large fashion crowds, de la Vega said, adding that the Condesa DF hotel in the barrio Condesa is serving similar purposes.

Luxury shopping can also be found in the city’s outer areas, where the Santa Fe Mall recently added a new designer-brand boutique.

Mexico City has also recently boosted its arts scene with the arrival of the fledgling Jumex modern art museum in Polanco. The building houses Latin America’s largest private modern art collections, standing next to the other top venue Soumaya and located relatively close to the city’s renowned Anthropology Museum in Chapultepec Park.

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