By  on April 4, 2005

MIAMI — Fashion is being used to sell residential real estate here.

In a new marketing twist, South Florida property owners are tapping designer trunk and runway shows to introduce stylish potential buyers to condominium towers and lofts.

David Martin, chief operating officer of Terra Group, a real estate development company in Miami, said fashion allows developers to create a branding image for each property.

“We’re building Quantum on the Bay in an emerging Miami neighborhood, so we paired with Gen Art for its summer styles fashion show hosted by Esteban Cortazar,” he said. “The energy or buzz created by a Gen Art fashion show is the same buzz we want for our property.”

Martin said Quantum is sold out and 900 Biscayne Bay, another bay-view high-rise, is 85 percent sold.

In a lifestyle-obsessed era, developers said buyers want to be assured their neighbors appreciate similar aesthetics. Of course, having a celebrity as a neighbor is best of all. Martin boasted that, after a book signing and lunch for “Ultimate Style” author Bettina Zilkha at the 900 Biscayne Bay sales office, society photographer Patrick McMullan stayed for two hours checking out property.

To spur sales for a residential venture that wraps around downtown Miami’s Freedom Tower, Martin is planning to host a charity fashion show of Oscar de la Renta’s spring 2006 collection in October. De la Renta’s Latin heritage and new boutique at Bal Harbour Shops made the designer a natural partner, said Martin, who said he was approached by Showroom Seven during New York Fashion Week to work with Imitation of Christ.

Andrea Greenberg, vice president of marketing for Fortune International, a Miami-based real estate development and sales marketing firm, is a self-professed clotheshorse. She attributes much of her company’s fashion marketing to her personal passion.

Greenberg has held a reception for Miami-based designer Rene Ruiz. An Escada preview where children iced cupcakes as their moms examined the clothes, and a second Escada party at the company’s New York store resulted in two sold condominiums with more contracts pending, she said.

Fortune sponsored ready-to-wear designer Louis Verdad in Los Angeles. Greenberg, who attended Los Angeles Fashion Week in April, saw to it that the logo of Jade Beach, Fortune’s oceanfront residence, was splashed all over the Verdad show venue and on brochures and water bottles. Fortune commissioned Verdad to design a promotional T-shirt.“It gives us the chance to let people in L.A. know who we are, and Louis is interested in breaking into the Miami market,” said Greenberg.

“Andrea is a great networker and knows about fashion,” said Louis Verdad, who plans to show his collection in Miami in the summer. “Fortune’s buildings and my clothes are statuesque and sexy. What you wear and where you live go hand in hand.”

Last year, the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences in downtown Miami and Neiman Marcus held a  “What to Wear to the Nasdaq” [tennis tournament] event. Four Seasons partnered with high-end Neiman’s because condominium prices start at $780,000, said Richard Baumert, vice president of Millennium Partners, the New York-based company that built the property. “Even if specific women didn’t buy, they told their friends, who are looking for real estate, which especially helps with out-of-town business,” he said.  

Baumert may try the fashion angle for Millennium’s New York residences, but said it really suits Miami’s affinity for parties.

“We’ve had to get more creative in Miami, which wasn’t as familiar with luxury,” he said. “You can’t just mass market. You have to be more efficient with your dollars there.”

To market its first residential endeavor, Canyon Ranch Living invited designer Douglas Hannant to Miami Beach for a trunk show and luncheon on Friday. Hannant has a loyal following in the area, as evidenced by his trunk show sales in South Florida, including one in Palm Beach this year that registered $460,000 in sales.  

“Douglas Hannant represents our customer base,” said Eric Sheppard, president and chief executive of WSG Development Co., the real estate development company in Miami Beach behind Canyon Ranch Living. “We cater to socialites, ceo’s and celebrities.”

Canyon Ranch rounded up a star-studded cast, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, to sell out its first tower and 60 percent of its pricier second tower, where units start at $1.3 million. WSG tied into a preview of Dolce & Gabbana’s fall 2005 collection at Neiman Marcus, which attracted more than 200 people and resulted in about $25 million worth of condominium sales.“It was such a beautiful, cool crowd,” Sheppard said. “I’d love to collaborate with top designers on decor, too. It would be interesting to have Giorgio Armani design an Armani ranch.”

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