The Miami Design District, from its humble beginnings not long ago, has really come a long way. Still in the making, it keeps on defining and redefining itself.
No longer an area dedicated exclusively to furnishings and interior design, the District is attracting the world's top names in fashion, and art galleries and public art displays are flourishing.
Some of Miami's most popular locavore restaurants round up this very unique corner of the city which keeps evolving and bringing us new twists.
Once upon a time... this was a decaying area of town, a mish mash of old warehouses and storefronts, mostly furniture and interior
design outfits, a rogue gallery or architectural firm here and there... for the most part, it wasn't in anyone's radar.
Then one day, a different kind of art and design creeps in the neighborhood, the kind with the iconic shiny red lacquer...
... Christian Louboutin sets up shop in the heart of the Design District and starts the slow trickle of ultra-luxury fashion houses... Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermès, Céline, Prada, Rolex... some even in temporary digs while their new flagship stores are being built.
Now that the floodgates have opened, many more high-octane fashion and jewelry brands are in the wings to launch in the very
near future: Fendi, Valentino, Harry Winston, Givenchy, Giorgio Armani, Van Cleef & Arpels, Miu Miu...
The Design District is a neighborhood, not a shopping center, a very unique neighborhood.
Where else do you see a graffiti covered Louis Vuitton store?
The transformation of the store front was commissioned to RETNA, the renowned street art painter. You can see more of his work at the Wynwood Art District.
Likewise, art and sculptures, and works by acclaimed artists are everywhere throughout the Design District, at the galleries, the atriums, on the street...
As the entire art scene in Miami evolves with new museum and exhibition venues as well as fresh thriving areas like the Wynwood Art District, galleries and artist studios at the Design District come and go, so what is true one month might not be there the next. The Ricart Gallery pictured above for example has relocated to Wynwood.
The number and variety of restaurants is also growing, very chic establishments offering locavore fare in a relaxed and laid-back ambiance in contrast to bustling South Beach.
The atmosphere at the Design District as well is in constant flux. During the week it could be very quiet, almost deserted. You will probably wonder what the big fuss is about and "where the action is".
The action is of course for those who understand art and design and for those who, unlike the rest of us, did remember to bring their Black Amex cards and will be picking up a few fabulous baubles here and there.
So here are some tips for visiting the Design District:
And for one of the easiest and most enriching ways to enjoy your visit to the district, consider having an expert curator guide you through.
The Miami Art Tour takes you around the thriving art districts of the Design District, Midtown and Wynwood. The guides are here on a daily basis and know the scene best, who is coming and going, which galleries are open to visitors, rotating exhibits, etc.
It takes extraordinary vision to pull something like this off. Thanks to Craig Robbins, the heart and soul (and checkbook) behind the Miami Design District, which has it all in spades and who also has given us the world renowned South Beach Art Deco District. What will be next?
Here's Craig Robbins on the transformation of the city's derelict Design District into the thriving luxury shopping destination it is today:
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