How Miami Became the Next Terrain of Fashion's Elite
Some might say the fashion industry is like your teenage self—eternally unsatisfied as it dreams (and seeks out) greener pastures. Others might call it prone to innovation: pushing limits and breaking new ground. The truth lies somewhere in between, and nowhere has this been clearer over the last few years than in its speedier need to corner new markets and crown them (with a better-dressed cast) its own.
The most obvious example is Los Angeles, where fashion’s crème-de-la-crème have migrated in droves from cities like New York and Paris, citing reasons like a freer spirit and more room to think (literally). But it’s been happening on a micro level, too, in cities like Austin, San Francisco, and Miami. The latter, however, seems primed to take L.A.’s spot, as fashion places an even greater stake in Art Basel and its counterparts, and the industry’s most elite players flock to the area’s burgeoning luxury hotels and retail opportunities.
Kelly Framel, the creative powerhouse behind The Glamourai and a seemingly endless slew of side projects, was your typical tried-and-true New Yorker when she and her boyfriend, restaurant designer Zachary Lynd, decided to adopt the snowbird lifestyle and relocate to Miami for part of the year. The beachy yet decadent imagery that had begun circulating on her site multiplied, as did onlooker envy. “I genuinely feel that Miami may be the city of the future,” Framel tells me when I ask why she chose to move there in the first place. “The art scene has transformed [it] over the past 10 years, combining with the city’s rich Latin culture and the state’s friendly tax laws to create a perfect storm of possibility.” Indeed, Florida is one of only seven states without an income tax (insert praise hands here), making it an especially appealing location not simply for your grandparents but also the myriad entrepreneurial and business forces hoping to save some money.
As Framel further points out, there’s nowhere else but New York with such a high “level of internationality and conflux of major financial and cultural institutions.” The difference, she says, is that these forces are nascent in Miami, leaving “the ball game wide open” and lending to “a feeling of opportunity in the air here that longer-established cities can’t match.”
Whether or not it can eclipse New York as fashion’s hot spot remains to be seen, but it’s certainly giving Gotham a run for its money. Fashion-adjacent hoteliers like the Faena family and Ian Schrager have all staked out space in the city these past few years, with the former opening the beloved Faena Hotel Miami Beach and Casa Claridge’s, and the latter gifting visitors with The Miami Beach Edition. In the case of the Faenas, both interiors were designed with the help of Baz Luhrmann and his wife, Catherine Martin, who also happen to be close friends of one Anna Wintour. Designer Tommy Hilfiger also purchased the famed Raleigh Hotel in 2014, with renovation plans just now getting under way. As he told CNN, he’s owned a home with his wife, Dee Ocleppo, in North Miami for years and considers it to be “one of the most exciting international cities in the world.”
Those who have attended Art Basel’s Miami spinoff since 2002 might consider this old news, but the art fair’s popularity with the sartorial set is a more recent phenomenon. This is thanks in part to the relocation and refurbishment of luxury flagships like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Fendi over the last few years, not to mention the handful of hot-ticket designers like Loewe and Delpozo who have opened their sole stateside stores in the city. Local boutiques like Laure Heriard Dubreuil’s The Webster—a three-story Art Deco confection filled to the brim with high fashion, art, and photography—have also received international acclaim for their expert curation, collaborating with the likes of Target and warm-climate designers Mara Hoffman and Tori Praver. The Griffin, which only opened last year, could reach a similar fate. When asked why she chose to settle in Miami’s historic Coconut Grove, owner Lesley Griffith explained to WWD, “There’s nothing like it. There are trees everywhere. There’s a marina. … Everyone drives around in golf carts and people walk from their homes to restaurants. I wanted that vibe for my store.”
Local brands like Miansai, Eberjey, and Style Mafia have also flourished amid this stylish renaissance, many thanks to the larger brands around them. As designers have increasingly focused on the Miami market, Art Basel has turned into primetime for fashion fêtes, drawing in influencers and celebrities on a Met Ball level. This past year saw festivities hosted by designers as widespread and relevant as Jeremy Scott, Paul Andrew, Calvin Klein, Tome, Sandro, DKNY, Swarovski, Maiyet, and Roberto Cavalli. Others, like Louis Vuitton and Fendi, have been hosting these beachside events for years. Regular attendees (whose outfits are feverishly documented by the likes of Who What Wear, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.) include Solange Knowles, Miley Cyrus, Dasha Zhukova, Stacey Bendet, Hannah Bronfman, Virgil Abloh, Chelsea Leyland, and Kate Foley, to name but a few. Add in the ever-expanding crew of models and bloggers who want in on the scene (and are often paid to be a part of it) and you’re hard-pressed to find a cooler crowd.
All of these factors have converged in tandem, upping Miami’s fashion appeal tenfold and beckoning the industry’s biggest players as it does. Of course, it can’t be that hard to draw a crowd to such a historically glamourous and sunshine-filled locale. As Kelly Framel points out, “Miami’s Art Deco architecture is iconic and lends a sense of throwback femininity to the city—as if the entire town was a stage set,” and we all know fashion loves a stage. “Everyday life [here] is amplified, and people dress accordingly,” she continued. “No look is too much, no color too daring. Fashionistas commingle with fishermen in Cuban cabarets; movie stars and the creative cognoscenti arrive daily by plane, stirring the pot of potency and potential; everyone ends up on the beach, and the moonlight over the ocean makes it all so inarguably mystical. It’s true what they say: Miami is indeed the Magic City.” Spoken like a true—and utterly convincing—convert.
Which city would you like to see fashion turn to next? Sound off in the comments!