MIAMI — Alchemist has made the leap to lifestyle.
The men’s and women’s designer boutique expanded with a larger concept on the ground level of Lincoln Road’s high-profile 1111 Building, where it continues to operate its glass-box location on the fifth floor. Founders Roma and Erika Cohen closed their original store of the same name on the pedestrian mall’s east end.
“It’s more convenient to have both locations under one roof,” said Roma, who differentiates fashion offerings by reenvisioning upstairs as a versatile gallery limited to a few cult designers along the lines of Rick Owens Hun and a single handbag collection like Céline, with the occasional event and floor-to-ceiling ode to a seasonal trend. “There’s a synergy, yet they’re two separate worlds and experiences.”
Once again the couple commissioned Miami-based architect Rene Gonzalez, whose minimal interior is cheekily inspired by the Styrofoam coolers that day-trippers lug to the beach. There also are pebbled floors that mimic Miami pool decks and multicolored LED light sticks that glow from walls of white acoustic foam board. Paris Kain, better known as the designer of Abraxas Rex, filmed tropical videos that loop on a panel of flat screens. The whole effect morphs into a nightly art installation long after shop hours.
Zaha Hadid’s duo of combination benches and display tables in chartreuse lacquer stretch down the 2,500-square-foot space; one piece conceals a cooler of juices blended nearby at the hip Jugofresh bar and bottled with Alchemist’s ruby red logo.
“We’re exploring collaborations beyond traditional fashion,” said Roma of more examples, like a red lipstick shade developed with the Uslu Airlines cosmetics brand in Berlin, and products in the works from Joya and Dr. Brandt. “We’ll eventually release our own fragrance that blends Miami with the store’s avant-garde aesthetic,” he said.
Erika, a former beauty editor, buys the category based on exclusivity and personal affinity; currently she’s feeling RGB’s nail polish pens, the Eau d’Italie bath line created by a family member of Le Sirenuse hotel on the Amalfi Coast, and Kahina Giving Beauty’s eye serum made with Moroccan oil.
“Packaging’s key. It can’t be anything that looks like it belongs in a department store,” she said.
Across from beauty in front are stacks of random reading material, housewares and novelties. Roma curates its blink-and-it’s-gone selection of paperbacks from Richard Prince’s private collection, Andy Warhol memorabilia and a range of books from a signed copy of Patti Smith’s autobiography to a first edition of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Tourists also snap up Lomography cameras and eco toys from Japan.
“We knew going into lifestyle that it demands the high-volume traffic that only an address of this kind guarantees and the electric assortment to match. It can’t just be a pile of books and candles,” said Roma, reserving pricier art — Damien Hirst prints and Los Carpinteros’ suit cutouts — and objects (Flea’s custom bass guitars) for upstairs.
The lifestyle store’s layout furthers the sense of discovery. Lining both sides, zigzag shelves and racks display small items from the front and clothing from the back. Collections carried at the store include Givenchy, Thakoon, Alaïa, J Brand, Comme des Garçons and Alexander Wang.
“I describe the vibe as if the Harajuku spirit dropped down in Miami,” said Roma, of the floor’s mélange of ice cream colors and playful silhouettes mixed in with statement pieces like The Row’s hooded chubby in mink-lined black chinchilla.
Upstairs favors staples Rick Owens and Chrome Hearts, as well as newcomer Raf Simons for Dior. Saint Laurent receives a spot soon. Spring introduces Thom Browne and Maurizio Amadei’s MA+ in men’s wear, which is also carried exclusively upstairs.
Jewelry also leans toward designers with a core following. Having success with Lydia Courteille’s wearable art especially around Art Basel, they expanded with Istanbul-based Sevan Biçakçi’s intaglio pendants and cocktail rings of tulips and mosques embellished with ornate micro mosaics.
Roma estimated 70 percent of customers are tourists, of which a high majority hail from abroad.