Architect Morris Lapidus’s pronouncement that “More is more!” has always applied to Miami—the city where he built many of his 250 hotels—but never, well, more so than it does right now. The top-to-bottom billion-dollar renovation and expansion of Lapidus’s iconic 1954 Fontainebleau hotel opens this month, among the latest in a pack of new ultraluxe hotels that have debuted in the last year, presaging many more to come. A group of smart restaurants with namebrand chefs or owners have also arrived, and quite a few old-time favorites have moved to newly redesigned settings. And, not least of all, fashion retail is positively exploding—even despite recent Wall Street woes.
The city has been a magnet for models and other fashion plates for some time, of course. But over the last two years, dozens of newcomers have popped up in South Beach, and now they’re overflowing to the mainland’s Design District, as well as to the Coral Gables and Biscayne Corridor neighborhoods.
On The Beach
At last December’s Art Basel Miami Beach, the international crowd in particular delighted to Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, and Jil Sander at the newly opened Alchemist boutique on South Beach’s Lincoln Road. “Art Basel is our busiest week of the year now, even better than Christmas,” says co-owner Roma Cohen. “It’s like a supermarket in here for curators, artists, and the press.” Among the just-for-Basel offerings this year is a $30,000 coat from Owens’s Palais Royal fur collection, a drum set covered entirely in black leather by accessories designer Natalia Brilli, and Delfina Delettrez Fendi’s ruby-spotted frog cocktail rings. “Increasingly we’re gearing our merchandise toward the Art Basel customer.”
During Basel, the fashion emporium The Webster will make its official debut, displaying limited-edition men’s and women’s pieces from Balenciaga, Tom Ford, Lanvin, and Martin Margiela, among others, many of which the brands’ own stores don’t even get. Of The Webster’s two front men and one woman, one, Laure Hériard-Dubreuil, is a well-connected Champagne heiress and the second, Milan Vukmirovic, is both creative director of the fashion brand Trussardi and the man formerly behind the lifestyle concept at Colette in Paris. Together they see to it that the racks are meticulously merchandised.
Once an Art Deco hotel of the same name on South Beach’s Collins Avenue, the renovated three-story Webster could be compared to New York’s Jeffrey, with splays of shoes from Lanvin sneakers to Pierre Hardy pumps, and maybe even Monsieur Hardy himself browsing. “Unlike Colette, The Webster is only about fine apparel and accessories—no emerging designers, candles, or CDs,” says Vukmirovic, who did allow for a café, the first branch of Paris’s Caviar Kaspia.
The seven-month-old Gansevoort South Hotel, Spa, and Residences, the South Beach sister of the Manhattan original, has cultivated its on-site retail offerings, too, with an Inca swimwear shop and multibrand contemporary fashion boutiques like Big Drop NYC and the soon-to-open Curve Soleil, all of which are also branches of New York shops. Nevena Borissova, Curve’s owner, is reimagining her store for a Miami audience, launching a new resortwear line for the property. “We’ve got everything from caftans to coats, but it all has a vacation vibe,” says Borissova, who’s created a chic eco-organic look for the store, with bleached wood-veneer wallpaper, driftwood displays of jewelry, and rope furniture.
Borissova stocks edgy labels like Preen and YaYa and accessories from Givenchy, Valentino, and Burberry Prorsum. There’s a Kiki de Montparnasse shop-within-a-shop, too, and for men a selection of Genetic Denim.
In September Shy Iland, co-owner of Big Drop NYC, opened his first store outside Manhattan, in a modern cement-and-stainless-steel space. Here, the striped V-neck sweaters, printed T-shirts, and fitted dark blue jeans from downtown labels like Ksubi, McQ Alexander McQueen, and Trovata take care of the men, while women have all these brands plus Rebecca Taylor, LAMB, and Ingwa; Melero.
“ ‘Big drop’ is surf slang,” says Iland, a self-described beach bum. “So we get the market.”
Tucked off Lincoln Road since January, the Tuccia di Capri shoe shop also fits in with the beach locale. Cobblers here craft men’s, women’s, and children’s custom sandals in under an hour, in dozens of leathers and bright colors and often embellished with Swarovski crystals or refashioned antiques. Of the designs, all named for 20th-century style icons, the intricate Barbara outsells the Jackie (a simple knotted thong) and the Sophia (its sparkling counterpart). Barb is less famous than the others, though, having been named for co-owner Tove Nord’s mother. Nord, who spent months studying under a top Capri artisan, says, “We import everything from the island or from Naples, so it’s the real deal.”
A focus on the traditional continues at Asprey, which in January opened in a slim apothecaryesque space just off the Setai hotel’s lobby. It’s filled with jewelry, silver alms dishes, silk scarves, and a plum crocodile travel bar set that’s great for the yacht or the plane.
South Beach has long been the place to find the right swimsuit. And in September the area also became home to a small swimwear shop from OndadeMar. This women’s line from Colombia has a stylish South American follow-ing and uses high-quality Italian, Spanish, and French fabrics to make bikinis and trendy monokinis in the season’s mix of bright colors and neutrals.
Beyond The Shore
Latin American brands, like Colombia’s Silvia Tcherassi—which makes avant-garde, highly detailed women’s ready-to-wear, along with ball and bridal gowns—congregate even more heavily in Coral Gables than they do in Miami Beach. There Brazilian label Carlos Miele found its niche, opening in August what is only the designer’s second U.S. location. (His first is in New York’s Meatpacking District.) The all-white shop displays Miele’s sleek evening gowns, favored by Heidi Klum and Camilla Belle. Highlights of the resort collection, which will arrive in January, are a strapless Empire-waist number in orchid satin and a rosette-adorned halter in feather-print blue chiffon. There are caftans, too, and accessories like a gold and coral-enamel butterfly charm belt from Miele, the designer’s secondary line. The shop is part of the Village of Merrick Park, an open-air shopping spot that has several other luxe brands and a few restaurants.
The Design District, meanwhile, is best known for its home furnishings showrooms, but fashion retail and restaurants have recently moved in, with most along Northeast 40th Street. The compact warehouse-heavy area, a short way from Miami Beach on the mainland, has new stores from avant-garde labels like Y-3 as well as local boutiques such as En Avance, a multibrand fashion mainstay that recently relocated here from Miami Beach, where it helped pioneer that area’s nineties revival. The designer lineup features Jasmine di Milo and Robert Rodriguez for women and Conference of Birds and Etro for men. There are Santa Maria Novella soaps, balms, and colognes; a jewelry bar selling Robin Rotenier’s silver cuff links shaped like private jets and Irene Neuwirth’s rainbow moonstone pendants; and Italian shoes sold under the store’s private label (we love the peep-toe platform in purple python).
And just about a 30-minute drive up Collins Avenue from South Beach, Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Miu Miu, and Roger Vivier, plus jewelers De Beers and Madison Avenue’s Pomellato are all slated to open in the winter and spring at Bal Harbour Shops. Just about every other luxury brand boutique here will also freshen up decor and merchandise for high-season traffic, with Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, MaxMara, and other big names unveiling entirely new spaces.
Over the next two years branches of the W and Dream hotels, plus a Soho House and a Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences will all debut. But right now it’s all about the redone Fontainebleau Miami Beach, with its 1,500-plus rooms, a 40,000-square-foot spa, and three pools, one of which twinkles with starry fiber optics at night.
“I’m trying to recapture Morris Lapidus’s dynamic destination,” says designer Jeffrey Beers, “where the pool is also a daytime nightclub for people-watching and socializing.” To that end he’s customized compact cabanas with curtains, flatscreen TVs, and fans.
Beers has preserved original Lapidus flourishes like the lobby’s staircase to nowhere and the bow tie–patterned marble tile floor. And he channels his predecessor’s flair with a check-in area installation by contemporary artist James Turrell and the lobby bar’s blue mirror-paneled walls, blue glass floor, and glass chandelier cut to mimic cascading water.
“I connected the interiors with the ocean but also mixed in Miami’s sunset pastels. So the chandelier’s fiber optics can change from blues to reds as the day progresses,” says Beers.
Later this month a new boutique property called The Betsy arrives on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive. Originally opened in the 1942 rush of wartime patriotism as the Betsy Ross (and now on the National Register of Historic Places), the 63-room, whitewashed spot is the drive’s only surviving example of the architectural style known as Florida Georgian. Its interior designers have worked on homes for Ralph Lauren and shops for Bulgari and here they play up the past with plantation shutters and fans—a complete departure from the Art Deco and Miami modern styles of so much of the beach.
In early December the Mondrian South Beach, a 335-room outpost of the Los Angeles flagship, lands on Miami Beach’s Biscayne Bay with the decor by Dutch design master Marcel Wanders. He’s created, among other details, the two-story, black lacquer staircase that seems to float in the lobby, the light fixture that looks like a giant bedside lamp over the main pool, and delft tiles painted with scenes of Miami for the in-suite kitchens. A rare perk for the area is the property’s dock and marina, where guests can tie up before treatments at the Agua spa.
As for new hotels that have already opened, the midcentury modern Gansevoort South compound, on the area’s northern edge, has stolen a bit of the limelight from established places like Delano and the Shore Club since its April arrival. The hotel’s three pool decks have Atlantic views, and the Plunge bar by the rooftop adults-only pool has become a popular sunset destination. Guest rooms are some of the largest in South Beach, and the 50-foot shark tank off the bubblegum-pink lobby adds a touch of Miami Vice nostalgia. Just past the tank, at the nightclub Louis, designer François Frossard has created a French-punk collage of fleurs-de-lis, leopard spots, and Louis XV antiques.
Farther north on Collins Avenue, the Regent Bal Harbour opened in March as the sleepy neighborhood’s first luxury hotel in more than half a century. Its water views, proximity to Bal Harbour Shops, and attention to detail—note the chartreuse bananas sometimes accenting the lobby’s flower arrangements—have made regulars of fashion industry types, rock stars, and business executives. The soaking tubs of the hotel face floor-to-ceiling windows (a special glass provides privacy), oceanside cabanas feature whirlpools, and Guerlain has set up its first North American spa. Masseuse Christine Nigro is the one to book, as is the Exceptional Orchidée Impériale facial for antiaging, detoxifying, and eye contour treatments. The general manager, Guenter Richter, landed here by way of six five-star hotels, most recently New York’s St. Regis.
Miami’s dining scene is in the middle of a major upward cycle, one heavy on New York imports. Most of the activity centers on hotels, where a high-profile or celebrity-chef restaurant has become a required part of the package. At the Gansevoort, there’s a branch of Manhattan’s Philippe, where chef and co-owner Philippe Chow hand-pulls noodles and roasts Peking duck. The Fontainebleau hotel is stuffed with 11 restaurants and lounges (including Gotham Steak, from New York’s Alfred Portale, and Hakkasan, from London’s Alan Yao), while the Mondrian has an Asia de Cuba and The Betsy a BLT Steak from Laurent Tourondel. At the W there are plans for a Mr Chow and a Serafina.
Beyond the hotels, modern steakhouses are all over the strip right now, and the Kobe Club serves its beef with a dash of sex—flames! chains! swords!—and cuteness, too, using toothpick flags to denote the country of origin of its mostly four- to ten-ounce cuts of beef, and making gourmet pigs in a blanket with Kobe hot dogs and sesame-miso-mustard sauce. The beehive-shaped baked Alaska has honey-nut ice cream inside and is served accompanied by a bee made out of Cheerios. “People love these cool, upscale references to retro dishes,” says owner Jeffrey Chodorow, who goes on to spread the carnivore gospel. “Kobe actually contains the good fat.”
Café Barcelona is an unexpected find on the otherwise touristy Española Way. Since its summer arrival, the tiny, low-lit Spanish café and bar with colorful textured mosaics has become an after-hours hit with the city’s top chefs, who come in for pinchos, savory snacks served atop toasted bread slices. Chef Jose Justo makes them himself—with layers of Manchego cheese and tomatoes, figs and Brie, marinated steak and peppers—from a long menu averaging $5 for orders of two. And the red and white sangrias here are incredibly potent.
As with fashion retail, South Beach’s rising rents have sent independent local restaurateurs—many of whom jump-started the area’s reinvention—packing for the mainland. One such is Ken Lyon, who opened Fratelli Lyon in the Design District’s modern Italian furnishings showroom Driade in May. He’s adapted to his new surroundings with Pan-Italian cuisine in the authentic old-country manner of Mario Batali (antipasti platters, oxtail ravioli, ricotta tarts). The restaurant’s lofty space is done with a thick bar of Carrera marble and a museumlike wall display of contemporary chairs. All the furniture and accessories—say, Philippe Starck’s Toy chairs and Laudani & Romanelli’s Diamante stemless wineglasses—can be purchased in the adjoining showroom.
Jonathan Eismann, meanwhile, also moved to the Design District, reopening his 14-year-old Miami Beach institution, Pacific Time, there in May. The native New Yorker demonstrates his natural affinity for Asian food in dishes like grouper with bananas in red curry, yellowtail steamed with lemongrass and lime leaves, and tamarind-barbecued wild salmon with sweet sake sauce. There are Italian dishes, too: gnudi made with sheep’s-milk ricotta and a small plate of sunny-side-up eggs Milanese with prosciutto and asparagus. Top desserts are the bittersweet chocolate bomb and Key-lime baked Alaska. Just what’s called for before a long day at the beach.
Alchemist438 Lincoln Rd.; 305-531-4653; shopalchemist.com
AspreyThe Setai, 2001 Collins Ave.; 305-532-2990; asprey.com
Bal Harbour Shops9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour; 305-866-0311; balharbourshops.com
Big Drop NYCGansevoort South, 2321 Collins Ave.; 305-532-8800; bigdropnyc.com
Carlos MieleVillage of Merrick Park, 370 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables; 305-567-2667; carlosmiele.com
Curve SoleilGansevoort South, 2377 Collins Ave.; 305-532-6722; shopcurve.com
En Avance161 N.E. 40th St.; 305-576-0056; enavance.net
IncaGansevoort South, 2377 Collins Ave.; 305-604-1000; incagirl.com
OndadeMar231A Eighth St.; 305-531-5965; ondademar.com
Silvia TcherassiVillage of Merrick Park, 350 San Lorenza Ave., Coral Gables; 305-461-0009; silviatcherassi.com
Tuccia di Capri1630 Pennsylvania Ave.; 305-534-5865; tucciadicapri.com
Village of Merrick Park358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables; 305-529-0200; villageofmerrickpark.com
The Webster1220 Collins Ave.; 305-674-7899; thewebstermiami.com
Y-3150 N.E. 40th St.; 305-573-0620; y-3store.com
The BetsyFrom $700 to $800. 1440 Ocean Dr.; 305-531-3934; thebetsyhotel.com
Fontainebleau Miami BeachFrom $490 to $2,000. 4441 Collins Ave.; 305-538-2000; fontainebleau.com
Gansevoort SouthFrom $800 to $1,080. 2377 Collins Ave.; 305-604-1000; gansevoortsouth.com
Mondrian South BeachFrom $695 to $2,000. 1100 West Ave.; 305-672-2662; mondrian-miami.com
Regent Bal HarbourFrom $750 to $3,000. 10295 Collins Ave.; 305-455-5437; regentbalharbour.com