If you find yourself questioning whether the beautiful women on the street are regular Miami citizens or if there are thousands of models just wandering the streets, the answer is: both. Miami is home to models and fashion worshippers alike.
A Fashion Capital
Miami is a fashion capital for several reasons. It has warm weather year-round, it boasts luxury boutiques and designer stores galore, and it is known as an international center of commerce.
Miami may be teeming with fashionable people in all corners, but it’s fair to say that South Beach is the capital of this fashion capital. Home to hubs for every major worldwide modeling agency including Wilhelmina Models, Elite Model Management, and William Morris Agency, along with renowned local agencies like The Green Agency, Miami plays host to models from around the world who move here to pursue their dreams.
The tropical climate lends itself to the perfect backdrop for photo shoots for commercials, magazine editorials and fashion shows. Photographer Bruce Weber, who has shot for the likes of Vogue, W, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, to name a few, is enamored with Miami. He’s made it his home and shoots most of his photos here. He even filmed a short documentary about Liberty City titled Liberty City Is Like Paris To Me.
Designers and Influencers
Bruce Weber isn’t the only fashion bigwig to call Miami home. Most famously, Gianni Versace fell in love with Miami and transformed a 1930’s apartment building on Ocean Drive into his own ornate mansion in 1992. Gianni Versace was tragically murdered at that location in 1997 as he returned home from a nearby café where he read the Italian newspapers every morning. The shooting sadly cemented the location as a fashion lovers’ landmark where people regularly pay tribute to the much revered designer. Versace’s brand, now helmed by his sister Donatella, has since remained one of the top in the world. Today, the Versace Mansion is known as The Villa by Barton G, an upscale hotel, restaurant and venue. The intimate 30-seat dining room serves The Villa Martini, their signature drink, in a Versace martini glass.
Miami has played host to designers and influencers from afar who are drawn to its weather and trendy scene. It has also grown its own crop of talented fashion people, such as Lazaro Hernandez, a young Miamian who has made a huge splash on the fashion scene, earning one of the most esteemed awards in the industry, the Perry Ellis Award for new talent from the CFDA, for his label Proenza Schouler. Lazaro’s skyrocketing career was launched in 2000 at Miami International Airport when he ran into Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. He nervously slipped her a note on a napkin through the flight attendant and she hooked him up with a job at Michael Kors. The rest is history. Proenza Schouler is a hip, haute label that designs perfect looks for a Miami vacation. Its womenswear and accessories reflect Miami’s colorful, tropical vibe.
Alejando Ingelmo, of his eponymous shoe label, has shoe design in his blood dating back to his great-grandfather in Salamanca, Spain, but it was in Miami where Ingelmo was born and raised. Ingelmo’s shoes and accessories are architectural and beautiful, exhibiting a high level of craftsmanship.
High Fashion Shopping Destinations
The Webster Miami is a luxury boutique that resides in a 20,000-square-foot Art Deco building in Miami Beach. The Webster is run by two fashion veterans who cut their teeth at the likes of Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Jil Sander, and has grown into a destination of its own for stylists, editors and fashion insiders. The Webster is a mega-center of fashion on South Beach, housing nearly impossible to find brands like Balmain, as well as designer exclusives from Alexander Wang, ACNE, and Lisa Marie Fernandez.
Miami’s Design District has a crop of high-end designer boutiques all located within a few blocks of each other. Maison Martin Margiela is a must-see in this area, as much for the beautiful interior in classic Margiela style, a blend of avant-garde museum worthy and scientific, as for its clothes in the same style. Margiela’s “temporary” boutique has been in the location since 2010, and hopefully will find a permanent home there, making it only the third retail location in the United States. At Margiela, everything is worth a second look; a seemingly simple T-shirt is sure to have a hidden detail or two. Even the staff’s uniform is double-take worthy; they wear scientist cloaks, only amplifying the bizarre aesthetic the designer has made his own.
Other noteworthy stores in the Design District include En Avance, a boutique showcasing global designers including Yigal Azrouel and Robert Rodriguez and Marni, the eclectic Italian men’s and women’s fashion label. Another stop to make in the area is Nektar De Stagni, a concept boutique that collaborates with artists on projects and houses its own label of interesting and beautiful accessories with a Miami flair like Shark “Pearl” Earrings, genuine shark teeth coated in pearlescent enamel.
Miami’s has some fashion staples, but it’s also home to loads of pop-up stores and fashion shows. Some of the best pop-ups happen during Art Basel in December, where designer Mara Hoffman collaborated with artists for a collection that featured bathing suits and beachwear. Another pop-up highlight of Basel 2011 was the Pringle of Scotland and Webster collaboration, showcasing a collaboration between Central Saint Martens, the esteemed London design school, and Pringle of Scotland. Miami’s fashion scene is a friendly and collaborative one; the pop-up shops continue to exhibit new and interesting concepts for ever curious fashionistas to talk about.
Miami plays host to a worldwide showcase of fashion in three major fashion weeks: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, Miami Beach International Fashion Week and Funkshion Fashion Week. In July, March and October, respectively, there are major showcases of swimwear, international design, resort and lingerie happening throughout the city.
Of course, any major fashion city is going to have some stellar malls for the vacationing shopper. If you’re looking for brand names that rival the Champs Elysees and Manhattan’s 5th Avenue, try Bal Halbour Shops and Village of Merrick Park, both beautiful open-air malls with fine dining and shopping that includes labels like Chanel, Prada, Lanvin, Trina Turk, Burberry, Carolina Herrera and more. Another outdoor shopping stop is Lincoln Road, a strip of stores and eateries that includes everything from an independent bookstore to an antique market on Sundays. For a more all-American mall experience, there’s Dadeland, The Falls, and Sunset Place, where you’ll find shops like Zara, Macy’s, and The GAP.
There are plenty of places to find some steals too. Dolphin Mall is the largest shopping destination in Miami and a major bargain mall. Dolphin Mall is a “retail value shopping center” and a must-stop if you’re looking for some serious outlet digging including Banana Republic Factory Store, Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store, Lord & Taylor Outlet Store and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, just to name a few. Barneys CO-OP, a younger, fresher take on Barney’s located on Miami Beach, is an in for a lesser price point with the same fine curatorial taste as Barney’s.
There’s no shortage of style in Miami, the only problem with this fashionable warm weather city is that there isn’t really much opportunity to show off winter and fall styles… but is that really a problem?