Ampersand & More

Two mags are newly born, and Miami designers gain a foothold

This summer has seen the quiet launch of two niche magazines in the Magic City's jumble of glossies, trades, and rags.

When Indi Live Mag editor in chief Danielle Romero says her online bi-monthly publication is small, she isn't kidding. Aside from Romero, who does all the writing, only three other people are involved in the production: a freelance photographer, a designer, and an intern.

But the start-up online pub already has a dedicated fan base, and those fans like parties, food, and music. Thus The Bitch felt obligated to meet a couple hundred Indi Live readers at a launch party this past August 12 at the Buena Vista Building in Miami's Design District.

Anna Beauregard and Maria Tartaglia make all the pretty 
shoes for Lola Style
The Bitch
Anna Beauregard and Maria Tartaglia make all the pretty shoes for Lola Style

"It is very directed at individual style," Romero says of the magazine — which launched in July and will release its second issue this coming week — as being "very dedicated to street fashion." And how does she find these street fashions? By taking to the streets, of course.

"I actually go out on the streets myself, and I just meet people," Romero says. "I find people who are interesting or seem original to me; their work is great and they're not being recognized for it yet. I walk around for hours."

Another aspect of the magazine is that it highlights artists and musicians whom Romero believes influence local fashions. "We also really love art," Romero says. "We think it's also a huge influence to people and how they dress on the street."

The first issue includes layouts of Romero's favorite outfits worn by people she met in downtown Miami and in the DD. Romero says the forthcoming issue will examine the influence of California on the urban fashion scene. Check out the mag at indilivemag.com, or befriend the staff through their page at myspace.com/indilivemag.

& magazine (it's pronounced ampersand, like you'd think) is aiming at a slightly larger market: um, the universe. Okay, the Earth.

A June 26 launch party featured an extravaganza of ball-gowned models, circus performers, and electrified martinis. "We're trying to create a global buzz that never sleeps," says editor in chief Jorge Arauz. "Anyone anywhere who sends us an e-mail gets a response in less than fifteen minutes. There's always someone on the team who's going to be awake to answer."

This multicity madness would sound sketchy coming from someone other than Arauz. The tall, tailored Cuban-Iranian is known as a practical fellow. He spent three years as managing editor of Lincoln Road Magazine. When LRM changed its format, Arauz departed.

"I was approached by a group of investors from Dubai and India interested in a global publication," Arauz told The Bitch when she caught up with him this past week. "They wanted headquarters in key cities on the water. There's an aura about the city of Miami that appeals to people across all cultures."

The models are all clothed, there's no profanity, and the most confrontational piece poked fairly light fun at airport security (the issue was printed well in advance of the terrorist scare in Great Britain).

Publisher Vikas Johari is also genteel. The former cricket player from New Delhi is sharp and witty but kind and a bit silly.

"Miami has become known specifically for its art scene," observed Johari. "That in turn allows the area to become a lot more integrated with high-class society."

Following the premiere issue's guide to how to buy a private island, he says the next &, which comes out in October, will be a bit grittier.

"We're interviewing executives from MTV and BET who give their take on the never-ending battle of the sexes in and out of the boardroom."

Arauz and Johari say they are not obsessed with the coveted 25- to 34-year-old demographic. "Our goal is 630,000 people to read each issue," says Arauz. "They can be 18 or 80 years old, as long as they're young inside."

Check out & at www.andpersandmag.com.


So-Called Sole

The Bitch knows that when her canine years expire, she will not see an afterlife environment inhabited by Winn Dixie, Poodlena, Balto, and other good dogs. That is okay with her, though, because she did get to experience a brief taste of materialistic puppy nirvana at this summer's most fantastic party, the Art Loves Fashion show at the Moore Building, sponsored by Gen Art and arranged locally by red-headed wunderkind CeCe Feinberg.

Remembering the July 27 event still causes The Bitch to both weep and drool. Imagine: three stories of clothes, shoes, and jewelry, all created by local designers. (Who knew there were so many thread houses around here?) Purchasable items included amazing, one-of-a-kind couture pieces by Karelle Levy of Krelwear. Then there were the Bailey's shakes and Eggwhites snacks. And the deep, deep discounts.

It was while securing a pair of emerald velvet ballet flats that The Bitch met their maker, Maria Tartaglia, founder of Lola Style, a shoe design studio with offices on Brickell Avenue.

Though Lola's designs are comfortable, sophisticated, and affordable — and Tartaglia and her partner, Anna Beauregard, are darlings of both Lucky (and more important) Star magazines — it can be difficult, discouraging work to keep a small design venture afloat.

"From one aspect, we've been doing pretty well," says Tartaglia, a friendly yet guarded blond who favors Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.

"We've had two complete lines since our launch in 2004, and we're nearly done with the prototypes for our 2007 line." The shoes — the aforementioned ballet flats and a few sandals — are made in Brazil and sold at about 80 smallish boutiques, such as Kitson and Intermix.

"We patented the collapsible shoe; women love the idea; they love the fact that they can fold up the shoes and put them away," Tartaglia notes. "There are celebrities out there wearing them — it's just that the paparazzi hasn't shot them yet."

Tartaglia notes obstacles in manufacturing — the women strive to pay their South American workers fair wages but still have difficulty locating reliable help.

Most discouragingly Lola Style was recently rejected for pickup by Macy's in favor of a lookalike from a bigger brand.

"Nine West just launched an almost exact replica of our ballet shoe," Tartaglia says. "For two young girls going against a company like that ... we want to hire lawyers and sue them, but financially we're not at that situation yet. We plan on trying to discuss some licensing agreement."

(The Bitch checked out the Nine West leopard-print ballet shoe and, indeed, it bears a great resemblance to the Lola product. Nine West did not return calls seeking comment.)

"It's very discouraging to young entrepreneurs," Tartaglia continues. "We're really trying to take a tiny piece of market share in a billion-dollar shoe industry, and then the big guys come and knock you off. Nine West launched that shoe in June and literally just blew us out of the water."

If reading these quotes makes Tartaglia sound grumpy, well, she's not. She's actually funny and positive. At the Gen Art party, she didn't even throw a stern look in the direction of a gaggle of fashion shoppers on a budget who had flutes of champagne tilted dangerously toward the merch. And she spent time visiting with The Bitch and talking Blahnik and Choo when she could've been putting the hard sell on prospective customers.

"We're working on a new line and we're still focused on the smaller boutiques," Tartaglia concludes. "We've dried out our personal resources, but we have a couple of angel investors looking at our company. We're very persistent."

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