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Full Slate of Fashion, Fun

Miami likes to mix business with pleasure, and that makes for a packed calendar of fashion events.

Trade shows and resorts like Gansevoort South draw throngs of trade show visitors to Miami each year.

Miami likes to mix business with pleasure, and that makes for a packed calendar of fashion events.

According to organizers, the city’s great weather and party atmosphere hook fashion week and trade show attendees, from front-row celebrities to Midwest retailers eager to hit the beach after a morning writing orders.

The Coast trade show, which hosted its triannual Miami event March 10 to 11 at The Savoy Hotel, this year introduced a fashion show with Laundry, Rebecca Taylor and Castle Starr, among others, according to Karen Bennett, Coast president.

“Our attendees come for the weather and vacation aspect, and they love the hotel setting,” Bennett said. “They have said they don’t want the show moving to a convention center.”

Capped at 155 exhibitors, the roster included regulars like Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, Max Studio and Custo Barcelona, with 25 percent new vendors like Sea, Odd Molly and Charlotte Sparre Copenhagen. The next show is July 20 to 21.

March also brought Funkshion: Fashion Week Miami Beach, a biannual event wrapping up its fifth year and 10th season with 25 designers including fall 2008 collection premieres from Sweetface, Heatherette and William Rast.

“Financially, it makes more sense for these lines to show here because it’s cheaper to fly in buyers and press than pay for a slot during New York’s fashion week,” said co-founder Sale Stojanovic.

Several events are planned for this month. Miami Fashion Week celebrates its 10th anniversary April 9 to 13, with nightly runway shows at Soho Studios, and instructional seminars held daily, in which legal and business experts offer designers information about establishing and conducting business. Founder Beth Sobol reports Latin American designers make up half of 2008’s 60 participants. She works with government-sponsored trade commissions in countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well.

This year, collections hail from Australia and United Arab Emirates for the first time.

Material World Miami Beach and Technology Solutions also marks its 10th anniversary at the Miami Beach Convention Center April 8 to 10. President Tim Von Gal said attendance, primarily from the Americas, has grown 50 percent since its inception, and the glitzy locale has a lot to do with it.

“Miami is not only an international trading hub and the U.S. gateway to Latin America, but it has become a world-class destination for dining, nightlife and fashion trendspotting,” said Von Gal.

Since the retail and financial outlook in Miami is challenging, some stores do depend on tourists from areas such as Canada and Europe to make up lost domestic dollars.

In March, the Census Bureau found Miami-Dade County’s population grew less than 1 percent, and more South Florida residents left than arrived in 2006 to 2007 due to the high cost of living. Foreclosures — as of March, there were 24,000 pending foreclosures in Miami-Dade County according to South Florida Foreclosure Group — and job losses, particularly in housing sectors, have many retailers preparing for a lean 2008.

“There are a few insulated pockets like South Beach or Bal Harbour Shops, but we’re going to see more stores of all varieties close here, and even foreign buyers can’t replace U.S. sales for long,” said Jack McCabe, founder of McCabe Research & Consulting, a real estate tracking firm in Deerfield Beach. “Sales tax collection for 2007 in the entire state of Florida was $2 billion less than expected.”

But judging by the development of luxury, mixed-use properties and big-box centers, with independent boutiques and nationals’ multiple stores in the same neighborhood, conditions aren’t all gloom and doom. “Miami actually didn’t build enough retail space for when all the residential units are up and occupied. It’s traditionally been under retailed,” said Michael Comras, principal of Miami Beach-based Comras Co., which specializes in retail leasing and development.

For its fifth annual Fresh Faces in Fashion, Gen Art Miami culls designers of women’s and men’s apparel, women’s accessories and swimwear. New York-based lines Bensoni and Grace Sun join seven regional designers — Megan Huntz, Septimo, Nazly Villamizar, Shumaq, Malcolm Fontier, Fabiana Ferreira and August Alexander (men’s wear) — for a runway show and exhibition at Miami Beach’s Gansevoort South hotel April 12.

The Swimwear Association of Florida’s SwimShow 2009, July 19 to 22, at Miami Beach Convention Center coincides with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim at The Raleigh hotel July 18 to 21. SwimShow executive director Judy Stein reports applicants grew from 70 to 250 vendors from 2007, due to the previous show’s 25th anniversary buzz and a growing swim market. Stein expects 350 exhibitors showing 2,000 lines.

Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion, agrees her company’s swim week belongs here. “The city ultimately speaks sun and beach,” she said.

This year, the biannual Trafik trade show, which grows 25 percent each year in attendance according to show director James Costa, will move from August to late September. Official dates haven’t been set.

“It just didn’t make sense to be the same time as other domestic shows, so we decided to be last,” he said, also planning to push the traditional February date to March in 2009.

Inspired by Art Basel Miami Beach, September’s theme is Pop Art with primary colors, live installations and collaborations between artists and fashion companies. Sixty percent of its approximately 325 exhibitors are women’s wear collections, with most buyers from the Southeast.

“But from the South, Chicago or California, everyone loves that you can just walk across the street to the show or the beach. It’s so relaxed,” said Costa.