Miami’s South Beach shines for fashionistas

Trendy Miami South Beach streetAction-packed area is a hangout for celebrities
Sunny weather permits tanning while shopping

MIAMI – The scent of hibiscus, a balmy breeze and swaying palms welcomed me to “SoBe”— the affectionate nickname for trendy South Beach.

This action-packed tip of Miami Beach (running south to north from 1st to 23rd streets) is a celebrity hangout – the playground of sizzling stars from Jennifer Lopez to Madonna.

It’s a hip happening – one that is always on the cutting edge.

“You must have many top-profile guests?” I quizzed staff at The Bentley Beach — South Beach’s newest boutique hotel, Canadian-owned and my luxury home for the next several days.

The buzz was that an Oscar-winning A-lister was in house, and I was curious. But the professional “yes, we do” reply was accompanied by a polite smile, no additional “info.”

A failed star snooper, I shifted into shopping gear (the actual purpose of my visit).

Mindful that Miami’s near-perfect weather permits tanning while shopping, I dressed accordingly — tank top, short skirt and flipflops. Thus, armed with a highlighted map and doused with sunscreen, I reported for retail duty.

Miami has a fashionista-forward reputation and my mission was to explore it.

Ocean Ave. was the starting point — the Atlantic on one side, revamped Art Deco buildings on the other. First stop was Wild Thing (just blocks from Casa Cauarina, Versace’s sea-front villa) where a t-shirt emblazoned with a sequin Mickey Mouse was $159 (all figures U.S.).

“Last time Paris (as in Hilton) and Nicole (Richie, that is) were in town (and were friends), they were seen shopping along 8th St. between Ocean and Collins,” declared a local trendsetter.

Guess where I headed?

One of the biggest draws in Caterina Lucchi was the latest in footwear — Jack Rogers sandals ($79) in unique metallics. The store’s merchandise was exclusive.

“If another store on the beach carries one of our lines, we cancel it,” proclaimed its manager.

Liliblue’s jewellry selection included Sandrine of Satellite (from France) — colourful glass and metal flower blossoms in the season’s hottest colour combinations (turquoise/green and orange/red). Sale items (30-50 per cent off) were, as always, at the rear of the store.

Espanola WaySilkscreen on glass art by 1178 Design caught my eye at Helium. A nightlight depicting a South Beach lifeguard stand ($32) was my souvenir choice. And a whimsical Michael Simon handbag featuring leather animal cutouts ($150) made my wish list.

Along Collins Ave., I found stores like Von Dutch and Sisley but made a stop at Intermix, Miami’s hottest store. It’s where bold colours and sequins reign. And in a Miami-state-of-mind, it’s where I bypassed a high-style Missoni frock ($1,355) for Cynthia Steffe’s white eyelet sundress ($275).

Within walking distance was Espanola Way – one block of Mediterranean-style charm. Brimming with sidewalk cafes and imaginative shopping, it’s been compared to Barcelona’s Las Ramblas.

Stores included SoBe Unique, a showcase of footwear from strappy sandals to sequin slippers. Dolce Mare featured bright and brief swimwear. Beach Makeup carried a signature line of cosmetics. My choice: “Miami” matt lipstick, a muted coral shade ($12). And I found an irresistible pink flamingo feather duster ($18) at Market Store.

Shopping at Lincoln Road — known for alfresco dining and bikini-clad in-line skaters along its ocean-to-bay promenade — was casual and fun.

Signage at the Pink Palm Company’s entrance said it all: “Please remove your rollerblades or rollerblade at your own risk.”

Tired (but tanned) from the sport of shopping, I headed “home” for idle bliss at the hotel’s private beach. After showing my room key, selecting an umbrella-covered chaise and adjusting my sunglasses, I spotted the elusive A-lister.

Jamie Foxx (Academy Awards Best Actor winner for Ray) relaxed on a nearby recliner — a hotel guest while filming Miami Vice with Colin Farrell, I discovered.