Laure Hériard Dubreuil has a very acute sense of smell. Growing up in southwestern France, Dubreuil, whose family owns Rémy-Cointreau, learned from a young age how to recognize the different eaux-de-vie that go into making Cognac. As a six-year-old on vacation with her family, she got lost in a labyrinthine hotel but found her way back to them by following the trail of her grandmother’s perfume. “I am very sensitive in that respect,” says Dubreuil, an attractive, assiduously tanned 38-year-old. “I actually wanted to be a nose until I was 20.”
Though her dreams of working in the fra- grance industry evaporated after a couple of ill-fated internships for perfume companies (“I soon realized that it takes so long to bring a fragrance to market and that the slow pace wasn’t for me,” she says), Dubreuil has developed quite the nose for fashion.
In December 2007, just as Miami was booming but the retail sector was imploding, Dubreuil sniffed out an opportunity and set up shop on a style-forsaken strip of Collins Avenue better known for budget accommodations. The Webster, her multi-brand boutique in the erstwhile Henry Hohauser–designed Webster Hotel, introduced the city to fashion with a capital F—Alaïa! Margiela! Balenciaga!—and added the biggest injection of glamour since Gianni Versace rode into town in the early ’90s.
“You can’t overstate the impact that Laure has had on fashion in Miami,” says Lisa Marie Fernandez, a stylist-turned-designer who named a body-skimming seamed dress in her collection after Dubreuil. “There was nothing like The Webster before Laure arrived. When it opened, I remember thinking, Who the hell is going to buy Margiela in Miami? But she has proved everyone wrong.”
It’s an inclusive-exclusive approach that has not only resonated on South Beach but also in Bal Harbour, where The Webster opened in 2013. (A stand-alone men’s store opened next door to the women’s in late August.)
Dubreuil’s professional interest in Miami was piqued during a vacation to Florida in 2006. She was living in New York and was encouraged by friends to extend her trip and stick around for Art Basel in Miami Beach.
“I said yes, but I had nothing to wear,” recalls Dubreuil, who is donning an Yvonne S dress, a turquoise bathing suit by Eres (she is a brand ambassador for the company) and green hoop earrings by her good friend, the jeweler Aurelie Biedermann. “It was really impossible to find trendy clothes and heels that were to my taste. I saw the level of refinement of all these people coming to Art Basel, and all the new ho- tels and real estate developments in a city that is the gateway to Latin America, and I figured there was something that could be done here.”
Though some friends were surprised by the subsequent move to Miami, the foray into retail made sense to anyone who knows her. “New York would have been more expected, but Laure has always been crazy for fashion,” says accessories designer Pierre Hardy, who has known Dubreuil since she was in her early twenties. “To me, opening The Webster was quite logical because she is a well-educated girl who knows the fashion system inside out and has the courage and means to dare to dream this kind of adventure.”
Dubreuil has certainly put her fashion bona fides to the test. In addition to selecting every piece sold in the three-story store, she has created a rewarding shopping experience that draws on her experience as a merchandiser for Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquière and for Yves Saint Laurent under Stefano Pilati.
The Webster is all plush carpets and soft velvet couches—“I want people to feel extremely comfortable, to take off their shoes and try it all,” she says of the welcoming, apartment-like environment she’s created— and unlike many stores, where there is one consistent sight line, the stock is placed at different heights so that the eye is constantly dazzled. Importantly, the clothes are grouped thematically and not by designer.
“I mix them because it’s really the way I wear clothes, and the way the men around me wear their clothes,” says Dubreuil, who is engaged to the artist Aaron Young, the fa- ther of their one-year-old son, Marcel Mid- night Young. “It’s really all about mixing and matching and creating your own identity through my selection.”
And then there are the many exclusives, which range from brands and styles that are available only in Florida or the States through The Webster to pieces that are made specifically for the store by Dubreuil’s designer friends—all catnip for her well-heeled and well-traveled clientele. “Our customers are shopping everywhere—Paris, New York, Milan, St.-Tropez, Gstaad, Aspen,” Dubreuil explains. “So it’s very important for them to find pieces they haven’t seen anywhere else.”
The Webster is at 1220 Collins Ave.; for other locations, go to thewebstermiami.com.