THE DESIGN DISTRICT’S LUXURY RETAILERS, A NEW FASHION EDUCATION PROGRAM AND NAEEM KHAN’S PLANS TO RELOCATE HIS HEADQUARTERS MAY BRING THE TITLE TO MIAMI. NAEEM KHAN IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. HE MOVED FROM INDIA TO NEW YORK CITY IN THE 70’S TO WORK FOR HALSTON. A LOT OF LEARNING AND EXPERIENCE ALLOWED HIM TO LAUNCH HIS OWN LINE IN 2003. THE DESIGNER NOW HAS A LIST OF CLIENTS THAT INCLUDE MICHELLE OBAMA AND KATE MIDDLETON. IN 2008 KHAN AND HIS WIFE RANJANA BOUGHT A HOME IN MIAMI. “AS A DESIGNER, I TRAVEL THE WORLD, AND I DEFINITELY FELT AN ENERGY THAT ATTRACTED ME TO [MIAMI.] I FELT IT COULD BE A FUTURE BIG CITY, LIKE A MEGA CITY,” HE SAYS.
Planning to give back to the country that drives his career, Khan is leading a charge to reinvigorate Miami’s fashion industry roots.
Several decades ago, the city had prosperous neighborhoods known for manufacturing garments. But as production started to move overseas, so did the jobs. Today, Miami’s association with fashion has more to do with nightlife and swimwear. But Khan hopes to expand our perception of the city with plans to build his company’s future headquarters, a considerable area along the Miami River. By late 2018 or early 2019, his design, production, licensing and more will take place in Miami. “A city needs business related to production to create jobs,” he says. “We are creating jobs and bringing in a whole industry.”
This fall Miami Dade College will launch the Miami Fashion Institute with a two-year associate’s degree program in fashion design and merchandising. According to Marimar Molinary, the school’s Director of Ac- ademic Development, Miami has the elements to be the international fashion hub, but the industry won’t reach its full potential unless it has an educational infrastructure to prepare a skilled workforce. The application process will open on June 29, and the Miami Fashion Institute plans to accept 50 students for its first class.
The Design District is another force of Miami’s potential of becoming a fashion center. Last year the spot attracted fashion brands such as Hermès, Dior (its biggest store in the U.S.), Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Marni, Marc Jacobs, Rick Owens, Cartier, Céline, Givenchy, Loewe and Tom Ford, among many others. For 2016, the Design District will welcome flagships for Isabel Marant, Saint Laurent, Rag & Bone and Tory Burch. In 2017, Alice & Olivia and Diane von Furstenberg also have plans to open up shop. “Those are indicatives that Miami is considered a very important market,” says Craig Robins, CEO and President of Dacra, the company behind the development of Miami’s Design District. “Only a handful of cities in the world can be so successful so quickly,” adds Zach Winkler, a senior associate of CBRE Miami’s urban and high street retail leasing practice. Winkler believes that Miami’s appeal to international retailers has joined the ranks of cities like New York and Los Angeles, especially for European and Latin American brands looking to enter the U.S. market. “It’s actually amazing that they’re considering Miami as their first stop now, even over a city like New York,” he says. “Miami is a true gateway city to the rest of the world. There’s so much going on here right now.”
One major leading force of Miami’s increasing relevance in the fashion industry has been Art Basel Miami, an international art fair that has taken place every December since 2002. “That was one of the biggest things that began to change the city for the better,” says Roma Cohen, who founded the high-end boutique Alchemist with his wife Erika. “It brought all sorts of different demographics to Miami during a beautiful part of the year. People began to appreciate the landscape and the weather and the Art Deco vibe and all of what the city was about.” Art Basel Miami has served as a great marketing platform for brands across the globe, including Alchemist.
Fashion players from New York City have also migrated to Miami to continue their careers. One of them is Kelly Framel, also known as The Glamourai. She started splitting her time between the two cities by the end of 2014. Framel and her boyfriend are residents of Mid-beach, which she claims is another upcoming area for the fashion crowd. The neighborhood is already home to fashion-friendly hotels like the Faena, the Edition, the W, 1 Hotel and Soho House. Currently, Framel is working on a project in Miami that she still keeps as a secret, but explained why she made the big move: “There’s a scene bubbling up here that’s really palpable and that I haven’t seen in New York or LA in a long time,” says Framel. “It’s definitely in its nascency, the early days, but a scene is most special during that time. I don’t know anybody that’s not spending time in the city. My boyfriend and I joked that it’s the sixth borough — we see our New York friends more in Miami than we do in New York.”