The Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, more commonly referred to as MiMo (Miami Modern), is one of the best places to take in the city's famed architecture. There are a dozen boutique motels built in the '50s and '60s that represent the Magic City's beginnings as a stylish international playground.
Across from the deco-fabulous Vagabond Motel is Peruvian-born, Miami-based fashion designer Julian Chang's headquarters. With so much to see between NE 54th and 77th streets, it's easy to overlook the small storefront. Chang's talent, however, cannot go unnoticed.
At just 30 years old, he has stitched his name into the fabric of Miami's creative elite. His glamorous yet functional collections can be found in stores around the world and have been the highlight of several fashion events.
The 2010 Miami International Fashion Week kicked off with a Julian Chang runway show and also awarded him top honors for his ready-to-wear collection. "Every year we've participated [in MIFW], we've received an award," he says.
Chang has also received praise from Vogue en Español and Women's Wear Daily. He even received a key to the city of Miami Beach. On average, he creates 12 collections a year. "It's fairly quickly," he says. "You break it down; you design four collections at a time."
Chang draws ideas from his busy itinerary. "When I travel, I get inspiration from the city, the culture, and the nightlife. I see what's going around me — it could be colors, textiles, fabrications — it's a global vision."
His work has earned him the respect and trust of several high-profile fashionistas. "We recently dressed the Kardashians," he says. "We've also dressed Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Gloria Estefan."
However, the designer's rise to fashion-world prominence didn't happen overnight. Motivated by his sister's modeling career in Lima, Peru, Chang moved to Miami to pursue a fashion degree in 1996 at age 17. "I've been a designer my whole life, basically," he says, but formally began training at Miami International University of Art & Design.
Applying what he'd mastered in college, Chang opened his company in 2002. For a short while, he designed menswear in addition to his women's line. "We used to dress Lenny Kravitz; that's how we started doing menswear," he says. "That was fun, but it was a little time-consuming."
Soon he was dressing WSVN Channel 7's Lynn Martinez. "She's big on promoting local talent," he says.
If Chang's vision is global, his core is local. The racks of clothes at his MiMo shop are all from the Julian Chang label, but South Florida artists create the accessories that accentuate his designs. "Although the style evolves with time," he says, "at the core, our DNA is still colorful and sexy." Just like the buildings around him.