February 22nd, 2012
Wall Street Journal
Showdown Over Miami's Swank Set
by Arian Campo-Flores
MIAMI—For decades, Bal Harbour Shops has reigned largely unchallenged in this area's luxury retail market. With reported annual sales of $2,327 a square foot last year—more than five times the national average—the mall is one of the most profitable in the country.
But a challenger has arrived on the scene. Developer Craig Robins is creating a new luxury shopping destination in this city's hip and artsy Design District, 10 miles south of Bal Harbour.
Luxury sales have held up better than the rest of the retail sector during the economic downturn, powered in part by demand from emerging markets. In few places is this more evident than here, where the economy has gotten a boost from foreign buyers scooping up posh condos downtown—only minutes away from the Design District—and a growing influx of well-heeled tourists from Brazil and elsewhere.
In the face-off with Bal Harbour, Mr. Robins has spent $90 million over the past year to gain control of about 70% of the Design District. Meanwhile, Bal Harbour, owned by the locally prominent Whitman family, says it posted strong sales increases last year and is itself looking to expand.
One of the pioneers in developing South Beach, Mr. Robins says some 30 luxury brands already have signed, or are close to signing, leases with him, including many that are leaving Bal Harbour. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA says it will bring 12 brands, including flagship Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Bulgari. Compagnie Financière Richemont SA says it plans to bring 10 brands, including Cartier. Other labels that say they are coming include Hermès, Tom Ford and Ermenegildo Zegna.
The Design District "is the antimall," Mr. Robins says. "It brings back the street and neighborhood as a great retail destination." Already, he has made the district a cultural hot spot that is home to galleries, furniture showrooms and art fairs.
Mr. Robins plans, with a budget of $200 million, call for a three-block-long pedestrian strip anchored on either end by a plaza, as well as a boutique hotel and some residential units. The neighborhood also will feature public art installations and rooftop gardens. It isn't expected to be completed until 2014, but some retailers are moving into temporary spaces this year.
Bal Harbour—an open-air mall with koi ponds and hanging plants—has long had a stranglehold on the market. It achieved that in part by forcing tenants to sign leases barring them from opening another location within 20 miles unless they share a percentage of that store's sales. Though it is a common practice among luxury malls, brands are increasingly rebelling, says Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail group of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Bal Harbour's relatively small size hasn't kept pace with demand for luxury goods in the Miami market. "Miami has been under-retailed compared to the potential for the city," says Emmanuel Perrin, chief executive of Cartier North America Inc.
Despite the departures, Bal Harbour remains an alluring location for retailers. As space has become available in the past year, numerous brands have swooped in, including Balenciaga, Officine Panerai and Stella McCartney, said Matthew Whitman Lazenby, a member of the third generation of the Whitman family, in an email response to questions.
Sales increased 23% last year despite the departures of Louis Vuitton and Cartier, he says. And he says the mall is trying to expand its footprint by acquiring neighboring land.
"They will always be special," Ms. Consolo says. "There are simply other opportunities now in Miami."
Mr. Robins began buying property in the Design District in the 1990s.
As word spread of his plans for a luxury shopping destination, the price he paid for properties skyrocketed, from about $200 a square foot in 2010 to about $1,000 a square foot last year, he says. He financed the acquisitions through cash—including money from the sale of holdings in South Beach—commercial loans and investments from partners such as L Real Estate, a fund in which LVMH is a minority investor.
Mr. Robins says he began wooing luxury retailers in 2008, but repeatedly hit the roadblock of Bal Harbour's radius clause. He finally scored a success in 2010 with Louis Vuitton, which for years had asked Bal Harbour for either more space in the mall or a waiver of the radius clause, says Chief Executive Yves Carcelle. The retailer moved when its lease expired.
At some point, you say, 'Sorry, guys'…and you leave," Mr. Carcelle says.
Mr. Lazenby said in an email that "although we did propose a number of options in a number of different sizes and locations, none were deemed to be acceptable."
Freed of the radius clause, Louis Vuitton plans to have two stores in the Miami area—one in the Design District and another in a new luxury wing of the Aventura Mall, seven miles north of Bal Harbour. Numerous other luxury brands are eyeing Aventura as well, says Ted Siegal, vice president of leasing for the mall.
Once Louis Vuitton and other LVMH brands like Fendi agreed to open stores in the Design District, others followed suit, including Hermès. "There is a whole new dynamic that's coming into play with the Design District," says Robert Chavez, chief executive of Hermès U.S. "We wanted to be one of the pioneers."
June 10th, 2011
Wall Street Journal
by Emma Crichton-Miller
At its inception, in 2005, Design Miami/Basel was a leap in the dark. Inspired by the booming contemporary art market, founders Craig Robins and Ambra Medda conceived the idea of creating an art fair dedicated to collectible design. This was design re-described as art work: valuable because of its rarity; focused on prototypes, experiments and one-off commissions; and entirely different to the industrialdesign economy, whose annual showcase is the Milan Furniture Fair.
It would run in tandem with the contemporary art world's most prestigious biannual selling bonanza, Art Basel, and its younger sibling, Art Basel Miami Beach, and appeal to collectors rather than consumers. NOW, six years on, as the 12th edition of the fair opens Tuesday in Basel, Design Miami/Basel has become an institution-essential viewing for anyone interested in the flourishing field of limited-edition design.
Whether you collect, admire or are simply seeking respite from the art crush next door, you may be surprised by the sheer quality and coherence of this grown-up show.
In the early days, the combination of masterpieces of 20th-century European modernist furniture alongside contemporary designers and architects was a bit of a conceptual challenge. But this has eased into familiarity, aided by the fact that the world's highest-priced design pieces in the burgeoning auction market include both Marc Newson's now famous "Lockheed Lounge" chair (1986), which sold at Phillips de Pury for £1.1 million in 2009, and Eileen Gray's "Dragons" armchair (circa 1917-1919), which sold at Christie's the same year for €21.9 million.
Meanwhile, the number and quality of galleries seeking to exhibit has continued to rise-reaching 43 in this edition-with long-established players, such as Galerie DowntownFranr; ois Laffanour, David Gill Galleries and Dansk M0belkunst, as eager to join as the most visionary, new incubators of the avant garde.
For Evan Snyderman of R 20th Century, a leading New York gallery, "Design Miami/Basel is one of the few fairs in the world committed to the level of presentation and connoisseurship our gallery strives to achieve. The parameters set forth by the fair ensure that the work exhibited be of the highest level."
Despite its close physical proximity to the art fair, Design Miami/ Basel this year takes a further step in pronouncing its own separate identity. "The fair has come to maturity. Now is the time to go into depth," says the fair's new director Marianne Goebl, who succeeded Ms. Medda in February. "Collectible design is still a very young discipline, so our mission has to be to enhance communication about it."
Ms. Goebl says the key to the fair's identity is the functional object, whether or not it transgresses conventional borders between design, architecture, art, craft and technology. "It is about our relationship in space with designed objects."
What is special about Design Miami/ Basel is the opportunity to reflect the whole history of 20th-century design, Ms. Goebl says, adding, "It is important we fill in the gaps."
Filling those gaps this year will be Parisian Galerie Doria, with a special focus on 1930s decorative arts, including rare works by the Union des Artistes Modernes, and Galerie illrich Fiedler from Berlin, a Bauhaus specialist.
As well, the solo shows of artists - whether scholarly retrospectives of design heroes like Jean Royere or displays of entire bodies of experimental work by contemporary artists such as Max Lamb, Aldo Bakker or the Campana Brothers - have always been a Rey feature.
The Design On/Site section of cutting-edge design offers, among other curious delights, Nacho Carbonell's spooky epoxy-resin light pieces on show with Gal.erie BSL, Formafantasma's conceptual textiles and ceramics at Gallery Libby Sellars, and the Mike Bouchet and Natpalie Karg/Cumulus Studios collabortion to produce a garden lounger.
In the main body of the fair, Johnson Trading Gallery from New York is bringing Max Lamb's "China Granite Project"; Galerie kreo will present Pierre Charpin's solo show, "Ignotus Nomen," a newly commissioned collection; and Mitterand+ Cramer/Design will offer a sitespecific furniture wall by Studio Makkink & Bey.
Worth a look are the winners of this year's Designers of the Future Award, selected for their innovative approach. This year's winners, announced in Milan in April, are the poetic architect/designer Asif Khan, Austrian conceptual design-duo Mischer'Traxler and Studio JuJu from Singapore, each of whom has been commissioned to create and present here a new body of work.
A flnal mark of the fair's growing confidence is this year's curatorial invention with regard to display and performance. Galerie Patrick Seguin will present live daily, the setting up and taking down of a Jean Prouve six-square-meter demountable bungalow, created in 1944 for war victims in Lorraine.
"[Basel] is the perfect place to speak about architecture," says Mr. Seguin. "Now we .know there is so much cross-over between contemporary architecture, art and design. There are no more barriers."
December 3rd, 2009
Wall Street Journal
Wall to Wall: Art Basel Miami
by Alastair Gordon
Miami is a bubble, a construct for voyeurs. Despite the recession, new buildings still shoot up like bright lollipops along the beaches and bays. The sea-flecked light is voluptuous and for at least one week of the year–the first week of December–the entire city feels like a pop-up city, a pop-up mirage. Everything glistens with promise. Temporary event structures appear in vacant lots. Temporary stores appear overnight in empty storefronts. Art, design and commerce merge with seamless continuity in the showrooms and exhibition booths of Art Basel Miami, Design Miami, Scope, Pulse, Nada, and hundreds of other satellite events, banners, loud music, celebrity moments in an endless party atmosphere.
Monday started with the opening of temporary and sort-of-temporary outlets around the Design District. Craig Robbins and his company Dacra have transformed this once neglected area of warehouses and railroad yards into one of the hottest design centers in the country by matching commercial enterprise with high design. Gucci opens a store today in the Design District today (which will remain open through Christmas) but avoids using the term "pop-up" and calls it, instead, the "ICON-TEMPORARY" featuring the unveiling of the exclusive Miami Gucci Ronson sneaker.
Martin Margiela has set up his temporary outpost on the ground floor of the F Factory in the historic Moore Building. Margiela follows the trend of re-purposing waste into hand crafted one-off fashion. An asymmetric body-hugging dress is embellished with oversized sequins made from old LP's; an armor-like mesh top is crafted from hundreds of cheap flea market rings; a party dress is made from old canvas oil paintings.
Fendi has installed a work table on the site of their temporary store, across from Margiela in the F Factory, where you can watch a craftsman make a Fendi handbag from start to finish. "The theme is process this year," says Susan Ainsworth of Ainsworth Associates. London-based designer, Duncan Quinn, has the dirty dandy look down in a "to-Hell-with-political-correctness" attitude and has created a collection of cool guy stuff–think Michael Caine in "The Ipcress File"–that runs from bespoke tailoring to ready-to-wear, shirts, cufflinks, ties, socks to dare-devil helmets. The pad, in the front of the F Factory, is filled with vintage Ducati motorcycles, photos of Sean Connery as James Bond and racing greats like James Hunt, Jackie Stuart, Jacky X. A peach of a 1960s Maserrati sits in the front window.
Orchids sprout lushly from the corral facade of Christian Louboutin's surreal new store on 40th Street. Workmen are still finishing up, securing the shoe-shaped canopy out front. The walls are one-way mirrors so people can look in and see women trying on the high-priced shoes. "It's like the Peeping Tom," says Louboutin leaning back on a multi-striped divan, laughing. (He arrived late last night from Mexico to oversee the final touches.) Ultra high-heeled shoes are placed
in transparent niches like so many holy relics.
Blue, blown-glass chandeliers hang from the ceilings. The entry wall is made from intricate wood tiles inscribed with hieroglyphic symbols and braille alphabet. Pantyhose have been recycled by Dutch artist Madeleine Berkhemer into a multi-colored sculpture that stretches across the ceiling with some of Louboutin's signature shoes dangling in the overhead tangle of nylon like insects trapped in a psychedelic spider's web. "We were trying to capture the very moment of a woman falling in love with Christian's shoes," says designer Eric Clough of 212box Architecture who's designed several of Louboutin's other stores. But how has the global recession affected luxury brand shoe business? "You still need to walk," says Louboutin who explains how his clients continue to crave his product. (He maintains twenty exclusive stores around the world, including several in the Middle East.) "It's not my job to hammer the nail."
Audi unveiled their sleek new A8 on Monday night in a giant black box erected temporarily on a sandlot near the Eden Roc Hotel. (The structure features ornamental bands stretching around its exterior, something an oversized Venetian screen. It will all be disassembled next week but Audi has promised to build a children's playground on the site.) The event was MC'd by Lucy Liu, who was somewhat tongue tied when it came to interviewing Design Miami's Craig Robins and Brit designer Tom Dixon about the philosophic virtues of art, design and Audi cars. After a lengthy pep talk by Audi's CEO, Rupert Stadler, the A8 was unveiled and it looked very shiny with LED headlights but not unlike many other cars, then curtains parted to reveal a cavernous hall with drink bars and a collection of contemporary art culled from the Rubell Family Collection. Dixon created a special-to-Audi installation with silver balloons and shiny geodesic hanging above bright red tables and benches. Posses of white-clad young women were standing around looking pretty but not doing much. Five of them were standing behind a counter near the valet parking lot and when asked what they were doing, one smiled and replied: "Making sure that you leave the party safely."
Alastair Gordon will continue to cover Design Miami all week. Check back for daily updates from Miami.