Art Basel: Fashion Reigns and There is Art in the Mix, As Well

Miami has not so slowly displaced Palm Beach – with its Worth Avenue shops (think: Hermes, Chanel, Cartier, Brioni, Gucci, and those similarly situated) and many luxury shoppers – as Florida’s shopping mecca. As the New York Times’ Ruth La Furla noted in 2013 of the budding Design District, “It seemed full of promise, heralding the rebirth of this once-blighted area, soon to be animated, if investors have their say, by an influx of diners, art and design lovers, and style-struck shoppers flocking to new luxury outposts like Hermès and Céline.”

Miami’s Design District has emerged as the newest hotbed of high fashion. The art-centric atmosphere of the Design District, which is located in Miami’s Buena Vista neighborhood, a 15-minute car ride from South Beach, has proven attractive to brands seeking a more eclectic, less mall-formatted alternative to the formerly most-coveted Bal Harbour Shops, which are also in Miami and until somewhat recently boasted nearly all of fashion’s most important brands. Many have decamped to the Design District, a promise land for brands hoping to attract younger shoppers.

As such, this area has attracted everyone from Alexander Wang (the hip young New York-based designer’s store in slated to open soon) and Maison Margiela (the Belgian-born, Paris-based brand known for its deconstructed wares and popularity in rap songs) to the most esteemed luxury brands like Hermes and Louis Vuitton. The latter moved into its current space in 2013, with the goal of reaching youthful, more trend-driven clientele, according to Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet, the president of Louis Vuitton North America.

Also in the mix: Celine, the LVMH-owned brand which happily boasts only a few brick-and-mortar stores in the world; goth design god, Rick Owens; Saint Laurent; and Givenchy, and some 100+ art galleries, of course.

With fashion’s relatively new(ish) emphasis on Miami in mind, it is hardly a surprise that Art Basel, the tri-annual international art fair, continues to prove an attractive proposition. The 40-year old, four (official) day-long event, which first landed in Miami in 2002, aims to connect the world's premier galleries and their patrons, and serve as a meeting point for the international artworld. While it is most centrally an art event, the wield of the fashion industry in this space is becoming ever more apparent.

Fashion’s footprint in connection with the event – which descends upon Miami once a year – has expanded quite notably in recent years. Established brands like YSL, which teams up with W magazine for an opening party, and Italian design house Missoni, which is launching an art-infused series of its own, are not merely bystanders. LVMH-owned Loewe – fresh off the debut of its exhibition installed in the conservatory of the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid –  is hosting an event with creative director Jonathan Anderson and collectors Don and Mera Rubell. Marc Jacobs will once again team up with Vanity Fair for a cocktail party at the Webster. Margiela played host for an event, and Christian Dior feted its Lady Art bags.

Narciso Rodriguez’s work will be the subject of an exhibition, which will include a curated selection of the celebrated Cuban-American designer's ready-to-wear garments and accessories juxtaposed with some of the works in the permanent collection of the Frost Art Museum. And "A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes,” which is slated to open at the Art Seen Cultural Center, will feature the works of designers, such as Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garçons, Vetements, Iris Van Herpen, and Vivienne Westwood, among others.

As noted by the Observer: “Art Basel is also a time for up-and-comers to prove they’ve earned a seat at the proverbial table. Last year, shoe designer Paul Andrew threw a dinner at Ian Schrager’s The Edition, where, ironically, his presence among art influencers established him as a true player in the New York fashion scene. And speaking of fashion, designers and front-row regulars all RSVP to developer Aby Rosen’s annual dinner at The Dutch, where Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger and Stacey Bendet hobnob with the likes of Derek Blasberg, China Chow and Dasha Zhukova.”

Given the fashion industry’s well founded connection with art – and luxury conglomerate’s increasing focus on it (think: Fondation Louis Vuitton, Fondazione Prada, etc.) – events like Art Basel often prove a stage for logical collaborations. And as indicated by the rapidly increasing roster of brands taking part in the Art Basel festivities – in some way or another – these events represent highly coveted marketing opportunities for brands, which is critical, especially now with traditional advertising being largely viewed as outdated and ineffective.

With consumers looking more for authentic brand messaging and compelling experiences, Art Basel seems an extremely apt opportunity for brands, no?