Miami’s Boom Time

LAURE HÉRIARD DUBREUIL may be thoroughly Parisian, but she considers herself a Miami tour guide. “I have so many requests from friends for where to go and what to do,” said Ms. Hériard Dubreuil, who co-founded the boutique the Webster, on Collins Avenue, in 2008. “For the past five years, I was always going through my email, cutting and pasting and sending.” Since opening store the store, which stocks labels like Givenchy, Balenciaga and Céline, Ms. Hériard Dubreuil has become intimately acquainted with the city, and instrumental in changing the topography of its fashion landscape. Now she’s put that body of knowledge into a new guidebook, written with French Vogue contributor Carole Sabas, called “Miami: The Fashion & Friendly Guide.”

The paperback volume arrives just in time for the Art Basel Miami Beach fair, which runs Dec. 5-9, and for those dreaming about winter weekend getaways. It’s slim enough to slip into a clutch bag but still brims with recommendations from Ms. Hériard Dubreuil and with addresses culled from the little black books of stylish folk who live in Miami or visit frequently. Inside you’ll find, for example, actress China Chow’s favorite Cuban restaurant (Versailles, 3555 S.W. 8th St., Miami), decorator Kelly Wearstler’s antiques dealer of choice (Gustavo Olivieri, 1627 Jefferson Ave., Miami Beach) and a dive bar that counts both singer Cat Power and hotelier André Balazs as fans (Ted’s Hideaway, 124 2nd St., Miami Beach).”The more you go inside the city, the more you discover its layers,” said Ms. Sabas, who is a frequent Miami visitor. “With Miami, you have the music scene, like Pharrell Williams and Chris Blackwell. Then you have all the artists. Zaha Hadid is always here. And you have all these entrepreneurs who want to return Miami to the fashion mold.”

One of those entrepreneurs is Craig Robins, an art collector and CEO of the real estate firm Dacra, who was responsible for creating Miami’s Design District in a once abandoned part of town. Mr. Robins’s ambitious plan with partner L Real Estate (an equity fund in which LVMH MC.FR -0.86% is a minority investor) is to turn that area into what Women’s Wear Daily predicted will be a “subtropical SoHo” with 50 store openings planned through 2014. Louis Vuitton, Céline, Prada and Cartier are already there—having relocated from the tony Bal Harbour shopping center to the north—while Dior Homme will open its doors right before the art fair.

That’s strategic timing since Art Basel’s fashion factor grows exponentially with each fair. Brands seem to feel required to have a presence there, whether the reason is a collaboration with an artist, a party thrown in honor of one or simply showing off new wares. (For more on that, see the box below.)

It all adds up to an image that transcends the expected look of lots of sequins and even more skin. Another force that’s helped to rehab Miami’s fashion reputation is Alchemist. Owned by husband and wife Roma and Erika Cohen, the glass-walled store designed by architect Rene Gonzalez occupies a surreal location on the fifth floor of the striking Herzog & de Meuron-designed parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road.

The store opened in late 2008, during the dark depths of the financial crisis. “We thought, no one needs to buy more clothes right now,” said Mr. Cohen. “It needed to be something really whimsical and crazy.”

Alchemist also sets itself apart from run-of-the-mill retail with its constantly changing themes—goth glamour one season, jungle prints the next—and collaborations with artists. The couple is now putting the final touches on a second space, on the ground floor of 1111 Lincoln Road, that Mr. Cohen said is inspired by the energy of certain neighborhoods in Tokyo.

The new store, also designed by Mr. Gonzalez, features some lifestyle merchandise, like skin care from Dr. Perricone and Linda Rodin, Cire Trudon candles and juices from local business Jugofresh. The Cohens also teamed up with Damien Hirst’s commercial arm, Other Criteria, and with the gallery Fulton Ryder to sell pieces from artist Richard Prince’s personal collection, including vintage Keith Haring coloring books.

Ms. Cohen ran down the highlights of new merchandise slated to arrive in both stores: Joseph Altuzarra’s ikat prints, Proenza Schouler’s iridescent bags, Givenchy’s paisley prints and Turkish designer Sevan Biçakçi’s meticulously detailed cocktail rings.

Miami’s new look clearly involves balance. Alchemist does a brisk business in Rick Owens’s stark clothes, but Ms. Cohen added, “we also try to buy a lot of color and bright stuff.” Ms. Hériard Dubreuil stocks the best of French luxury brands, but said, “I’m not buying gray flannel suits and business attire. It’s the paradise of cocktail dresses—light and colorful. But still something you could wear in the summer in Paris.” As she sees it, however, Miami might just be the ideal locale to sport your best pieces: “You don’t ever need to wear a coat and scarf. It saves the looks!”

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