By Andrea Asuaje
Lorie Lester says she didn’t want to be just another one of the thousands of fashion designers in New York. She wanted to design for the women of her hometown.
‘‘I love Miami,’’ says the 2005 graduate of Miami International University. ‘‘I love the whole fashion community here.’’
Lester’s pieces could easily be considered South Florida staples: colorful, silky, floral dresses, patterned minis and Grecian-style maxidresses. But she’s only been in the Miami fashion scene for about three years, she says, and her business is just beginning to blossom.
For young and emerging fashion designers like Lester, Shop Miami is a perfect jumping-off point to make an impression on buyers by showing and selling innovative, hip and fresh designs at prices fashionistas suffering from the state of the economy can afford.
‘‘People are really looking for a bargain, and this is the place to do it,’’ says Andrea Aberegg, regional director of Gen Art, which hosts the event. Gen Art helps young artists from fashion, film and music ' including Zac Posen, Adrien Brody and MGMT ' break into the mainstream. The organization also hosts Shop events in cities such as Los Angeles and New York.
‘‘I think that it’s certainly important to support local designers and local artists, especially in an economic climate like this,’’ she says.
At the fourth annual Shop Miami, buyers can spend some green on off-the-rack threads from 47 (mostly) homegrown designers while jamming to the beats of DJ Ray Milian and mingling with South Florida stylistas, including the designers themselves, Aberegg says. Attendees will also be treated to free drinks and may stop by the Lace Nail Lab area for some ‘‘lavish beauty services’’ for both men and women.
‘‘Outside of shopping, it’s also a little bit of a social event,’’ she says.
Although the annual fashion show has been cut from this year’s event due to cost and what Aberegg called a ‘‘refocusing’’ of the event on the designers, she says she expects the same number, if not more, of people to attend the night of shopping at the Design District’s Moore Building.
For returning designers like Lester, Nazly Villamizar and Karell Levy of KRELwear, Shop Miami is a place to reunite with colleagues from across South Florida. But for first-timers, Shop Miami is a place to get exposure from not only potential shoppers but from the fashion community itself.
Maya, a former graphic designer from Israel who is presenting at her first Shop Miami on Thursday, designs handmade jewelry made of leather, precious stones and gold and silver, along with clothing and bags. She says being offered the opportunity to show her work at Shop Miami is exciting, and she is looking forward to meeting potential clients and other designers.
Shop Miami is special and one-of-a-kind, which she adds may be a common thread running through the work Miami designers produce.
‘‘It’s not what you see in Macy’s,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s unique.’’
Gen Art’s Shop Miami 2009 VIP opening from 6-7 p.m.; general admission at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Moore Building, 4040 NE Second Ave., Miami; Tickets: VIP tickets are $40 at the door; general admission tickets are $20 at the
door. Cash only. Must be 21 to attend. For more information, check out genart.org/shop/shop-miami-09.