How does an emerging brand’s store compete against multimillion-dollar buildouts by the likes of Hermès, Prada and Dior in the Miami Design District? A 40-foot, mini-vert skate ramp, for starters. Installed in fashion designer Gelareh Mizrahi’s yearlong pop-up in Paradise Plaza, the throwback to the neighborhood’s pre-gentrified days was a hit at the grand opening last week.
“When my skater friends arrived, it changed the whole energy of the event,” said Mizrahi, who also added the amenity as a gesture of goodwill to a community in transition and as a nod to her first piece, a python-swathed skateboard. “A skateboard ramp in the middle of all these designer stores is a physical manifestation of everything I had in my brain, of taking luxury materials and making them street.”
Miami became her jumping-off point for retail after her husband’s career relocated their young family from New York. She called Dacra, the local real estate and development firm behind the design district, for showroom space and wound up with a storefront. Her signature python handbags are available in exclusive colors at the new store. Her designs stand out for their witty motifs, such as model Lara Stone’s gap-toothed lips and New York references, from pizza slices to universal plastic bags emblazoned with “Thank You.” A small assortment of Ts is only carried at the boutique, too, part of her recent push into lower price points.
“Like my pins in the same fun themes as the bags, Ts allow people who can’t afford a $600 bag to connect to the brand,” said Mizrahi, who still believes in bricks-and-mortar retail despite building her five-year-old company initially through social media. “Some items won’t even be available on my web site, so people have to come in and experience if they really want them.”
Mizrahi studied fashion marketing at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and comes from a retail background. She grew up in Washington, D.C., where her mother founded Signature, a longtime destination for eveningwear and prom dresses. Harvey Nichols Kuwait placed a $300,000 order at her first trade show, Coterie, but Mizrahi eventually gave up wholesale when she became pregnant with her first son and Instagram took off.
“I saw it was the bloggers and not the buyers who had the power,” she said, limiting wholesale distribution to Barneys New York through an exclusive partnership.