Leaders pushing for Miami as hemispheric fashion hub
By Risa Polansky
Miami's hip image and ties with Latin America mean it could one day be on par with Milan or New York when it comes to fashion, Miami-Dade County's Beacon Council says.
And establishing a fashion hub here would be a boon to both business and tourism.
"Setting up a whole new sector in Miami, being the fashion industry, is a great new opportunity for us," said Frank Nero, president and chief executive officer of the economic development arm. "Just like Art Basel has a great deal of benefit from both the business side as well as the tourism side, we think this fashion initiative could have great potential."
Beacon representatives are in Italy this week and are to head to France later this month to promote the county as a hub for European fashion houses.
The hope is to eventually establish a fashion district of designer showrooms and to host major fashion events here, culminating in a high-profile fashion week.
New York's fashion industry provides more than 150,000 jobs. Its Fashion Week shows have an economic impact of about $177 million annually, according to a 2006 statement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
A 2007 study shows the fashion and accessories sector in Los Angeles provides 265,200 jobs and $72.3 billion to the local economy.
Miami would be a key place to showcase resort wear and casual collections, Mr. Nero said — "Miami is seen as a very hot place, and I don't mean that climate-wise" — and to reach from Europe to Latin America.
"The opportunity to continue to sell and create and increase market share now that there's greater consumer buying power coming out of Latin America, that's very attractive to them (European companies)," he said.
Agreed Diego Stecchi, designer Salvatore Ferragamo's director for Latin America and the Caribbean, "as a fashion hub, I see very good potential since Miami is the hub for the Americas. All the brands — fashion and design and cosmetics — that want to operate in both markets, they more and more see Miami as the perfect location."
Still, there is work to be done, he said.
"It takes time, and Miami so far has been very well known and popular for the beaches, for the nightlife, not so much for a business center" from a European perspective.
It's imperative now to generate support from the business community and to create visibility, Mr. Stecchi said, calling the Beacon's Europe trip "a big step."
The group is to meet with corporate executives and fashion industry associations, as well as with the Italian Trade Commission in partnership with Assolombarda, the US Commercial Service, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy.
"It's going to be important because of the meetings that we can have with the association of the most important brands of Italy and France," Mr. Stecchi said. "This is the first step; this is the first talk with those brands."
And if it goes well, he said, others should jump on board.
"If the big players move, probably the others — the small, the medium — will move, too."
Ferragamo set up its Miami outpost in 2000 to reach Latin America.
"Since 2000, the operation in Latin America has been growing a lot," Mr. Stecchi said. "And, also, the business has been growing a lot."
Other designers have brought some operations here, Mr. Nero of the Beacon Council noted, such as Donald Pliner.
But Miami is missing out on the showrooms that make places such as New York hubs.
Having them here, he said, would benefit both business and tourism.
Mr. Stecchi said the same.
"It's not so much that the fashion house, Ferragamo, Bulgari or Louis Vuitton, being located in Miami will increase so much, for example, jobs, but in terms of visibility in the business world, being in Miami and having fashion shows and trade fairs and a fashion district in Miami, that will enhance the visibility, the image of Miami worldwide."
Fashion has been a cornerstone of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau's marketing efforts recently, said Rolando Aedo, senior vice president of marketing and tourism. "We've been positioning Miami as a fashion forward destination for many, many years."
Cultivating an Art Basel-like experience in the fashion arena, he said, would indeed be a tourism gain.
"We feel that fashion attracts that high-value customer that will frankly pay the room rates that this destination is demanding," he said.
The bureau does not track the impact of existing fashion events, but "Miami is being chosen as a launching pad for a lot of global fashion brands because we represent somewhat of a microcosm of the Americas as a whole."