Miami is trying to prove it’s more than just palm trees and nightclubs — it’s also a bonafide fashion city.
Wednesday marks the start of Miami Fashion Week, and the event kicks off with a new designation as the fifth officially recognized fashion week on the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s calendar (it joins New York, Milan, London and Paris). The telling gesture points to Miami’s rise to fashion prominence and also the success of the event’s recent rebranding, calling for a focus on resort collections. It’s fitting, considering the city has increasingly catered to luxury clients and vacationers over the past two decades, following a swell in demand for luxury real estate that has only recently leveled off.
“Resort wear seamlessly fits the city’s aesthetic of golden sandy beaches, glamorous pool parties and vibrant nightlife, compared to high-fashion capitals like Paris and Milan,” said Aimée Leabon, communications and marketing director at HYPR, an influencer marketing platform.“The recent CFDA recognition is changing Miami’s positioning from a vacation favorite to a fashionable destination, particularly when it complements other annual high-profile events such as Art Basel.”
In addition to Miami Fashion Week, the city also hosts Miami Swim Week each July, started in 1982 to showcase international swimwear designers in tandem with a trade show to help sell products. The event draws 7,500 brands and buyers across 60 countries. Though MFW operates autonomously from Miami Swim Week, both have worked in tandem to solidify Miami as a critical location for resort and swimwear brands. Mark Beckham, business director of fashion weeks at the CFDA, said that, in addition to advancing resort collections, Miami has been vital in opening the market to emerging Latin American designers.
“The CFDA, through FashionCalendar.com, works with many international and regional fashion weeks to help streamline the scheduling process. Miami has a history with swim through the annual trade show. Additionally as the gateway to Latin America, it is an important market for designers trying to reach that audience,” he said.
At the core of Miami’s growth as a fashion capital is a shift in consumer preferences to resort wear — namely a desire for versatile pieces, whether it be outfits for an upcoming vacation or lightweight, transitional pieces that can be worn between seasons.
“The swim and resort apparel industry have transitioned over the past few years, from seasonal to year-round businesses,” said Rick Fatzinger, producer of SwimMiami, an official organizer of Miami Swim Week. “As part of this growth, demand for presenting these collections has also increased. We’ve experienced this incremental growth with more requests from brands wanting to increase their exposure to retail buyers and the press.”
Lizzy Bowring, head of catwalks at WGSN echoed Fatzinger, and attributed Miami’s growth in recent years to its focus on “seasonless” styles, and an increase in consumer demand for lightweight fashions that can easily be layered.
“We’ve been reporting how important seasonless fashion has become. When we think about fall and winter, we don’t think about just sweaters. We think about the ability to dress as you please, which includes layering. That’s the way that we dress now,” she said.
While Miami has certainly grown to be a premier destination for resort and swimwear designers to show collections, it will still need to expand its luxury presence to establish itself as a major player in the fashion industry, said Rachel Young, show director and producer at LDJ Productions, which runs Miami Swim Week. Though luxury brand representation has grown over the past two decades to serve the increasing number of high net worth local consumers, it still doesn’t hold the prestige of the major fashion cities.
“The next step is a having more higher end and luxury lines showing in Miami, which would definitely be attractive to the hotels, given the growth of high-end hotels along South Beach,” Young said. “Though luxury designers have shown in the past, it’s not something that’s been consistent.”
Photo courtesy of Robb & Lulu Swimwear