By  on January 31, 1994

MIAMI BEACH -- The South Beach retail explosion has so far been confined to trendy local boutiques along Washington Avenue. But the transformation of the old Financial Federal Building into a 20,000-square-foot shopping complex in the heart of the Art Deco district has brought in high-profile stores like Versace Jeans and A.B.S. Here, WWD profiles three distinctive women's boutiques.

VERSACE JEANS COUTURE: Opened Dec. 30.

Headquarters for the South Florida franchise: Miami.

Other Locations: Versace Couture, Versus, both in Bal Harbour Shops, Miami.

Size: 3,000 square feet.

Projected volume: $1.5 million, according to industry sources.

Price Range: $50 for a T-shirt to $900 for a leather suit.

Inventory Mix: Versace Jeans Couture, a women's and men's collection introduced a year ago, consists primarily of basic and printed denim -- jeans, shorts, bodysuits, and accessories like baseball caps and handbags.

The store also carries Versace Sport, a new line of activewear, with shorts and T-shirts, and housewares and gift items, including porcelain pieces, bath towels and beach towels, sheets, comforters and throw rugs.

Target Customer: Mainly tourists, plus the local beach crowd.

Bestsellers: During the first week, basic black jeans, at $140, sold 30 units. A "Rock and Royalty" black, red and white printed denim vest, at $220, sold 15 pieces.

Interior Design: Inspired by an Italian villa garden, with gold and terra-cotta walls; stone flooring with insets of river rocks in earth tones.

Center skylight atrium is surrounded by loggias with vaulted ceilings. Displays and hanging systems are black iron with gold detail. Greenery includes tall topiary designs and plants on mantels.

Owner Melissa Sardinia comments: "Our customer is a real mix of local beach people plus tourists from everywhere. The clothing is young, fun and casual, as represented by whimsical print motifs, such as the New York skyline and the Beatles."AZUL: Opened Dec. 9.

Headquarters: Miami.

Other locations: Two Miami stores under the name Caron Cherry, in Bal Harbour Shops and Mayfair in the Grove.

Size: 1,000 square feet.

Projected volume: $1.3 million, according to industry sources.

Price range: $50 for a T-shirt to $5,000 for an embellished leather jacket.

Inventory mix: Women's and men's clothing, mostly European lines, such as Azzedine Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier, Michel Klein for Klein d'Oeil and Xulybet. Looks are young, body-conscious, including layered stretch separates, gauze swing dresses, vests, full pants and long cotton shirts worn as dresses.

Target customer: Young beach crowd and European tourists.

Bestsellers: A Chrome Hearts leather backpack with a silver fleur-de-lys, $31.35, sold 10 units from Dec. 20-27. A Xulybet gauze wrap top, $61, sold 60 units the same week.

Interior design: Tropical, Mideastern feel, with open, clean lines, highlighted by a starburst-shaped window. A sky blue and white Cuban tile floor is echoed by freestanding sky blue wrought-iron displays.

Owner Caron Cherry comments: "Azul is Spanish for blue, a name we chose to represent sea and sky. The store is much more casual than anything we've done before, with an individual, relaxed style."

ABS: Opened Nov. 8.

Headquarters: Los Angeles.

Other locations: 11 stores, seven in Southern California, four in the New York area.

Size: 2,200 square feet.

Projected volume: $1.4 million.

Price range: $95 for T-shirt to a gabardine top coat at $400. Bulk of merchandise is $150 to $300.

Inventory mix: Offers the full ABS collection, including sportswear, dresses, activewear. The Miami store carries more bodyconscious stretch Lycra spandex and sheer blouses.Target customer: Northern snowbirds and influx of South American and European tourists, as well as locals from surrounding Miami communities who flock to South Beach on weekends.

Bestsellers: Short Lycra "bowling pin" dress, $150, sold 44 units in first two weeks. Long burlap Empire smock dress sold 40 pieces in two weeks.

Interior design: Stark white, with high ceilings and ocean blue tile floor. Accents include black sculpted tables, multicolor Art Deco chair and oversize mirror on back wall.

Owner Allen Schwartz comments: "We've stocked this store as a double-A location. Opening here was a no-brainer, because South Beach has just begun. In the eight weeks since we opened, this has been our most consistent location."

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