On Location: Miami

MiamiOnLocation1 By Meredith Fisher
Miami dress code is an anything-goes proposition. Flips-flops dominate as much as stilettos. Finding the right balance of style and substance in South Beach simply means veering off the beaten, but sandy path just a bit. Just off Lincoln Road and down Collins, new stores are springing up in some less likely spots, and they're showcasing designers that are hard-to-find even by New York and Los Angeles standards. The new South Beach boutique owner is catering not only to sun-kissed locals but also to the influx of well-heeled visitors flying in for such seasonal hot-spot events as Art Basel.
Regardless of the reason, Miami stores are taking a cue and polishing up their aesthetic, stocking wares that have a place well beyond the beach. Here are a few--old and new--that are leading the pack.
Here is a roundup of our favorite shops:
Tomas Maier, 1800 West Avenue, 888-373-0707, www.tomasmaier.com
A block from Publix in a neighborhood most often distinguished by auto body shops is the last place you'd expect to find Maier's eponymous boutique. The German-born designer is widely known for his cult favorite swimwear collection and as the creative director credited with the revival of Bottega Veneta. In between modernizing the iconic Bottega weave, and extending his own brand to include resort-focused separates, he set up shop in Fall 2004 in one of the cities he calls home, Miami Beach. The boutique is housed in a 1930s Mediterranean-style apartment building, where adjacent apartments were connecting to create a series of individual showcases. In addition to carrying his own lines (Bottega sunglasses and itty-bitty bikinis), the racks read like a who's who of high-end, hard-to-find fashion: dresses from Motu Tane (former Azzedine Alaia designer Sophie Theallet's line), four-inch Manolo sandals made especially for the store, and Jean Yu made-to-measure lingerie. You can grab a pair of trim Marni capris, or capricious cotton totes from Roberto di Camerino. There's a full men's section, as well as an assortment of Maier's favorite objets (Christian Tortu candles, tea from Mariages Freres, jewelry from Dinh Von). He aims high, and carries brands that any international traveler is pleased to find closer to home, and ones that are worth a visit to his out-of-way locale.
Leo, 640 Collins Avenue, 305-531-6550, www.leomiami.com
The latest boutique to roar onto Collins Avenue is aptly named Leo after co-owner Christina Minasian's sun sign. Christina opened the store this past November with her brother Armen, and the Batievsky brothers in an effort to inject a little L.A. style into Miami Beach. As the former creative director for the celeb-heavy haven Kitson, Christina envisioned a more sophisticated spot for her Miami debut. For spring she chose conservative pieces (by Miami standards) like Vena Cava navy dresses, white Foley sailor pants, and delicate knits from Nicolas K. More playful collections come courtesy of Samantha Treacy (heart-patterned dresses) and Imitation of Christ (a canary-yellow apron dress).
Arrive, 100 16th Street (off Collins Avenue), 305-604-5818, www.arriveMiami.com
This new lifestyle boutique is the collaborative vision of a creative director (Dao-Yi Chow), a local party promoter (Max Pierre), and a former investment banker (Dennis Jiu). The 3,000-square-foot store reflects the diversity of its owners, selling directional but well-known labels (Alexander McQueen), private in stores lines (jeans by PRPS), and coffee-table books (Phaiden and Taschen). The road to creating a store unlike others in the area has been paved with other exclusive lines: New York menswear fave Cloak, L.A.-based Society for Rational Dress, and limited-edition shoes from Jhiung Yuro designed specifically for the store. International brands like Evisu from Japan, Iodice from Brazil, and Hussein Chalayan from the U.K. emphasize the owners desire to sell items for those that live (or aspire to live) a global lifestyle. The minimalist interior, designed by Otto Design Group, is offset by a 400-pound Victorian glass chandelier, which commands the entrance, creating both a modern and classic laboratory for fashion. Since opening, Arrive has also extended its reach to include a variety of non-fashion innovators: apothecary Malin & Goetz, art exhibit Little Brooklyn, and Tsunami benefit jeans from Red Monkey.
Lavish, 841 Lincoln Road, 305-532-7006
Lauren Goldfarb opened her new boutique Lavish in an unlikely location--the rear upstairs of beauty emporium Brownes & Co. Fortunately for this one-time department store buyer, her hidden spot hasn't deterred locals from buying up her edgy collection of clothing. She is one of few stores in Miami, and in the U.S., to carry American in Paris designer Erin Fetherston's empire-waist, toile dresses (Kirsten Dunst is her muse). Other frocks of note include floral creations from Nieves Lavi, striped knits from Missoni, and checkered minis from Imitation of Christ. Sharing space with these well- known brands is local favorite Orangia, whose ruched, nude-toned dresses could easily make the transition from beach to street. Look out for Uli Herzner, a Miami-by-way-of-Munich stylist whose colorful floating dresses were already sold out, thanks to her recent runway show at GenArt Fresh Faces in Fashion in Miami.
Sasparilla Vintage, 1630 Pennsylvania Avenue, 305-532-6611
The luxury consignment and vintage store Sasparilla has become a Miami landmark thanks in a large part to owner Ken Harvey's ability to foresee what pieces can make the transition from past to present. Relying on both the overflowing closets of local ladies and his own acquisitions, Harvey has created an environment where every piece feels new rather than handed down. While the focus is mostly on high-end designers--Courreges, Gucci, Halston, Chanel, and Ungaro--there are also plenty of racks filled with no-name labels. You can find pop-printed '70s dresses sharing space with '80s YSL blouses, grey flannel Lanvin tunics with high-waisted classic Levi's, or Gucci horse bit purses with faux snakeskin clutches. Shoes are a mix of used and Prada (from seasons past), mostly with the look of one-time-wear. And there are baskets full of pretty scarves, gloves, and a case of estate and costume jewelry. Harvey keeps his prices on the reasonable side, so finding forgotten classics you can afford is a piece of cake. Deciding which ones to buy is another story.
11th Street Diner, 1065 Washington Street; 305-534-6373
This authentic art-deco diner was shipped in from Pennsylvania and planted at its current spot a block from Ocean Drive. While you might just be starting the day with typical diner fare (eggs, waffles, pancakes), others are greasing their wheels from the night before.
Icebox Café, 1657 Michigan Avenue; 305-538-8448, www.iceboxcafe.com
Avoid the crowds of Lincoln at this petite eatery, but come early on weekends when there's usually a wait for its cozy food. Though there's a full menu for lunch (salads and sandwiches) and dinner (fish and meatloaf), their known for their daily baked goods, especially the dense layer cakes and brownies.
Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market, 398 NW N. River Drive; 305-375-0765
Cool down with a Corona and some calamari at this seafood store-turned-restaurant on the Miami river. The food is no fuss, and the décor is no frills, but the fish focused menu is as fresh as it comes.
Macaluso's, 1747 Alton Road, 305-604-1811
Meatballs reign supreme at this storefront Italian, where the décor is minimal but the portions are anything but. Everyone has their favorites: the Vito Salad, the Shrimp Scampi, the Tiramisu. If you do manage to secure a table (no reservations) don't think of making special requests; the menu is full of rules, including no dressing on the side.
Mosaico, 1000 S. Miami Avenue; 305-371-3473
Worth the detour off the beach, chef Jordi Valles is bringing a little taste of Spain to Brickell. Grab a seat on the outdoor terrace upstairs for a breezy view of Downtown Miami. Though he trained under Spanish chef/scientist Ferran Adria, Valles' culinary interpretations--gazpacho, poached lobster with avocado sorbet, slow-roasted pork--are innovative, accessible, and most importantly, delicious.
Michy's, 6927 Biscayne Boulevard; 305-759-2001
Michelle Bernstein (formerly of Azul at the Mandarin) recently opened this casual 50-seat restaurant within walking distance from her own home in Miami's version of the Upper East Side. It's a precise merging of low-key neighborhood spot and top-notch dining destination. Sample the super fresh selection of oysters from the raw bar, the foie gras (with pineapple, ginger, and peanut brittle), and the steak frites.
Shedding a flip-flops and tank tops-only dress code, a more polished South Beach is emerging. Refinery29 hits the streets—on and off Lincoln Road—for some sunny shop-hopping in this beachside city.

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