With its sharply edited selection of designer apparel and accessories, sybaritic atmosphere and elevated service, the 20,000-square-foot Webster has become a stop on the global retail fashion tour. In Laure Heriard Dubreuil’s words, The Webster helped put Miami back on the fashion map.
This story first appeared in the April 5, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“There wasn’t any true fashion in Miami,” said Heriard Dubreuil. “Lanvin opened its first store in Miami, and we have the Design District developing.”
Heriard Dubreuil, who is The Webster’s chief executive officer, oversees the store’s operations, manages personnel and leads the buying process. “It’s all about the selection,” she said. “I make selections from 90 brands for men and women, including Chanel, Lanvin, Balmain, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, but also more contemporary and imaginative designers, like Julien David and Rag & Bone.”
Heriard Dubreuil puts great emphasis on exclusivity, working her connections to secure items that are unique to The Webster. “We have a Chanel dress that is only available in three stores in the world,” Heriard Dubreuil said. “I also collaborate with designers. See this Proenza Schouler bag? It’s in Webster blue.” Also for the store, Barnabe Hardy designed men’s leather jackets, embellished by a tattoo artist, with a flamingo and graffiti running down the arm, for $2,200.
“I want the fashion to be timeless,” Heriard Dubreuil said. “I don’t want pieces that go out of fashion after one season. I want pieces that you can give to your children and grandchildren.”
Heriard Dubreuil and her partner, Milan Vukmirovic, took over The Webster, a 1939 example of architect Henry Hohauser’s Art Deco style, five years ago. They spent two “very long years renovating” the property. “I used to call it my baby, but it’s actually my monster,” she said.
Heriard Dubreuil puts a lot of emphasis on the store’s environment, which has been carefully crafted to put shoppers at ease. Upon entering the store, consumers find themselves in the former hotel’s historic lobby. Walls repainted chocolate brown give the area a warm feeling. And if the chocolate shade prompts hunger pains, there’s a café.
The lower level houses contemporary labels, casualwear and beachwear for men and women. The space is flexible and subject to the whims of Heriard Dubreuil and her team. “We turned the lower level into a surf-shop pop-up,” she said, adding that a younger crowd shops there. “We do events and we have DJs coming in.”
The decor on the second floor reflects the luxury brands that inhabit the space. Heriard Dubreuil said the third floor is used for fashion shows, dinners and parties, especially in December, during Art Basel Miami.
Unlike some boutiques that segregate men and women, The Webster combines products for both sexes on every floor. “The woman wants to try everything, and the man wants to leave, and she’s frustrated,” Heriard Dubreuil said. “We solved that problem. You can have fun, enjoy and relax, and try everything as much as you want. There’s no pressure.”
Men’s wear accounts for 40 percent of The Webster’s total volume. The retailer decided to focus on two aspects of the business: casualwear and designer sportswear, and very trendy eveningwear. Heriard Dubreuil finds the two categories “crisscrossing all the time. Our clients wear eveningwear with sneakers or bow ties with shorts,” she said. The Webster’s male shoppers fall into a few groups. There are the ones who like to buy but hate to shop, and the fashion-forward gentleman who readily takes advice from the store team and is willing to risk new looks. The Webster also gets its share of celebrities, from Lil Wayne to golfer Rory McIlroy.
On May 6, The Webster will be featured at Target as part of the mass retailer’s new Street of Shops concept. The Webster created a 250-stockkeeping-unit collection for men, women and little girls. “It’s the biggest men’s collaboration that Target’s ever done,” Heriard Dubreuil said.
Opening new stores is “definitely” in The Webster’s plan, she said, adding, “Why not open in Shanghai?” Heriard Dubreuil studied Mandarin as a child and later spent time in China. “I’m also developing my collection. I have all the background to do products from when I worked at Balenciaga and YSL as a merchandiser.”