Fab Silberstein eagerly shows off her retro-inspired swimwear line, pulling out a soft one-piece with a lacy over-skirt, then several vibrantly patterned bikinis — all samples from her second La Belle Rebelle collection, which she will present to buyers at next week’s SwimShow in Miami Beach.
With a degree in fashion merchandising and financial help from her family, Silberstein launched her line here last year, manufacturing in her native Uruguay.
Like dozens of other South Florida designers, Silberstein is translating her dreams into fashion, and has chosen Miami to showcase her wares.
“In Miami, I feel there is this underlying culture of very talented, emerging designers that are just starting to break out,” said Silberstein, 25, who opened a shop on Washington Avenue in Miami Beach in June. “I’m seeing it grow.”
As Swim Week kicks off in the coming days — with a flurry of trade and fashion shows, parties and other events surrounding swimwear, the fashion world is again aiming the spotlight on South Florida. Here, the Miami aesthetic reigns, with more bright colors, prints and flowing, cutting-edge styles.
Whether designing swimwear, footwear, children’s or menswear, women’s apparel, evening and bridal gowns or lingerie, fashion designers are flourishing in Miami, where barriers to entry are lower, and competition less fierce than in other U.S. design hubs like New York or Los Angeles.
“Years ago, you almost had to live in one of the major fashion capitals to really become known as a designer or make your mark in the industry,” said Charlene Parsons, department chair for fashion at Miami International University of Art & Design, who has watched the industry develop over 40 years. “Now, you can almost live anywhere, because of the Internet and because of how things have changed.”
Indeed, from new entrants to more established brands like Perry Ellis International, Rene Ruiz, Eberjey or Julian Chang, South Florida has proven to be an exciting, desirable base for creating a collection and building a brand name.
The fashion industry is spurred by the Swimwear Association of Florida’s SwimShow — the largest swimwear trade show in the world that brings buyers here from across the globe each July — plus swanky Art Basel Miami Beach and fashion-related events that are spread throughout the year. New designer boutiques opening in Aventura, Bal Harbour Shops and the Design District also help boost the area’s cachet.
“What we’re finding is that more and more we have fashion lifestyle companies looking to establish in Miami, not just for retail but for their business operation,” said Pamela Fuertes, vice president of the international economic development program at the Beacon Council. “Companies are saying we need to be in a place that is exciting and growing, and that is Miami.”
For the past five years, the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s economic development agency, has targeted the fashion industry as an area for growth.
“It really does make sense because it is one of these industries making Miami modern, sophisticated and really attractive,” Fuertes said.
Most recently, the Beacon Council’s One Community One Goal creative design committee has begun an initiative to create a fashion design incubator in Miami, geared to helping foster the industry’s development, Fuertes said. The effort is in its infancy, though, and no date is yet set — nor has funding yet been determined — for the project, she said.