Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Don't be surprised when mid-tattoo session at Ocho Placas, a neighbor drops by to hand out Cuban coffee for everyone in the room; that's just the type of vibe that emanates from this neighborhood shop in Little Havana. Fifteen years in and plenty of celebrity clients later (including Lil Wayne and Birdman), Ocho Placas is still affordable and faithful to its relaxed, artistic beginnings. Vibrantly crafted pieces line the walls as artists and customers bounce friendly banter back and forth — a nice distraction from the pain throbbing from the piercing tat gun. Though the shop is best known for its classic American work, thanks to an expansion — including a new second floor — in 2013, the eight resident artists and renowned out-of-town guests ink their indelible marks in all forms and styles. Owners John Vale and Javier Betancourt, who carry the torch from late founder Jose Carreras, are true artists. (Vale sings in local punk band Furious Dudes, while Betancourt recently launched the multimedia project This Is Meant to Hurt You, to "re-imagine subjects that have been traditionally maligned by polite society," such as tattoos and fetishism.) As one customer summed it up: Ocho Placas is "a quality tattoo place that puts the bullshit aside and outputs some great shit."
Readers' choice: Ocho Placas
Do you need a T-shirt with an image of Tom Ford wearing Mickey Mouse ears? Probably not, but it's incredibly soft and a total conversation starter. At Expat, a small boutique tucked inside South Beach's recently revamped Nautilus Hotel in the heart of Collins Avenue's art deco district, that gloriously ridiculous top is available for $75 and is designed by Spanish-Italian fashion brand South Parade. The matching gray sweatshirt costs $140, in case you're really into Ford's Disney look. Spend a few more minutes poking around Expat and you'll stumble upon countless other absurd but delightful treasures in this pintsize shop, including $700 limited-edition titanium and acetate Dita sunglasses made in Japan; clothing and accessories for men, women, and kids; as well as candles, coffee table books, perfumes, and scores of other items you buy only when you're feeling extra-indulgent. But you're in South Beach, dammit. Pull on that Tom Ford shirt, fork over the 75 bucks, and enjoy the ride.
Miami is to high-end shopping what Punxsutawney is to groundhogs. Between Bal Harbour Shops and the Design District, the Magic City houses more luxury brands on display than the average Richard Branson TV appearance. So it's a real feat that En Avance stocks high-end clothing and accessories that are pretty much impossible to find anywhere else in Miami. The store concentrates on discovering up-and-coming talent like Ellery, Urban Zen, Paskal, Vilshenko, and Marques Almeida, along with more recognizable labels such as Tibi, Kiki de Montparnasse, Fornasetti, and MSGM. The least expensive item in the store is a pair of Hanky Panky underwear for a reasonable $20, but many of the dresses will hit your wallet in the $1,400 range. You can purchase a stylin' hat for $56 or a pair of Tkee flip-flops for $50, but it's probably best to check your credit card limit before wandering too far into En Avance. That doesn't mean everyone shouldn't check it out, though: Much of the clothing here resembles works of art, and there's no reason not to browse like you would a museum. This is fashion as art, and some clothes are meant to be viewed as much as worn.
Every day, Lincoln Road grows more and more like your average American mall, with international brands such as Zara, Forever 21, Lululemon, and H&M moving in to replace quirky longtime establishments. However, a local beacon of South Beach style remains amid this chain-driven commercialism. Since 1989, Base has been the go-to place for Miami men looking to stay fashion-forward. Founded by Steven Giles, the store isn't just a spot to buy clothing; it's a lifestyle emporium offering vinyl, magazines, and collectibles. But at the core is still threads that buck the yuppie trend permeating the rest of Lincoln Road. Base stocks up on brands such as Stampd, Knomadik, Nanamica, and Heathen — collections that add an avant-garde twist to street wear. No, they aren't cheap, but they aren't out of reach either. Average prices are $100 to $200, but the pieces make a statement, and a good wardrobe is an investment. (A fashionable man also knows how to mix and match expensive pieces with perhaps cheaper finds.) Base has consistently remained Miami's bellwether of men's fashion, and for good reason — it challenges men to look beyond clothing as a necessity and instead as a way of self-expression.
"I make just about everything I can think of," says Aja Butler-Burns, the mastermind behind ABA Jewels. It may sound like bragging, but she's just being honest. An Art Institute grad who found Miami's bauble selections dismal, Butler-Burns opened ABA Jewels to fill a need to create something for herself. Drawing on inspiration from every corner of the Earth and various iconic periods in history — from ancient Egypt to 1940s Americana to '90s S&M — ABA Jewels is a secret to most locals, but the fashion set has long coveted her minimalist, galactic designs. Selling mostly on Etsy and at pop-up shops around the Magic City, ABA Jewels frequently collaborates with Miami artists, such as when Butler-Burns designed bondage-style chokers and thigh jewelry for ALMA Dance Theater's production of Cask. And at ultra-affordable prices — like $32 for a racy '90s choker necklace in gold and $22 for a brass-and-amethyst bindi — ABA Jewels' designs are totally worth coveting.
You know how magazines are always telling you to make the most of your small apartment by maximizing the vertical space? That's sort of how Beatnix operates. Located inside a narrow storefront on the corner of Washington and 12th Street, this Miami Beach costume shop is packed floor-to-ceiling with a myriad of wacky accessories, from top hats to tutus. Most packaged costumes run $50 to $60, while smaller accessories are sold à la carte. Feel like letting it all hang out with some nipple tassels ($16) and gold booty shorts ($30)? Beatnix has 'em. Prefer to cover your face with a rubber gas mask? That's here too, for just 15 bucks. The staff is friendly without hovering, and Thursday through Sunday, the store is open until midnight, meaning you can grab something last-minute for that festival or costume party and still look like the baddest one there.