Whether it's reinventing knitwear by turning it into swimwear or working with other local artists such as the TM Sisters for last year's performance-art piece "Whirl Crash Go!," Parisian-born, Miami-raised designer Karelle Levy has become the city's quintessential designer using the least Miami-friendly fabric. And it's not only the Magic City giving her props. She has won the 2008 national Style Wars competition hosted by the House of Deihl and was the queen of the ball when she debuted her Day-Glo line, perhaps her most ambitious work to date, at last year's Swim Week. If that wasn't enough, even the common man and woman can own a piece of Levy's work with her KREL 2 Go, which debuted at Scope Art Fair in 2008. Using the client's body, she quickly pins and cuts a garment in a matter of minutes. Shirts, sweaters, shorts, and skirts— she'll make it all in record time, showing you why she won with ease the aforementioned Style Wars title — the competition never stood a chance. Her ready-to-wear fashion is available at her Wynwood boutique and studio, open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as at stores countywide including Lace (1935 West Ave., Miami Beach), Oxygene at the Bal Harbour Shops (9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour), Amira at the Gansevoort South (2377 Collins Ave., Miami Beach), and the boutique inside the Standard Hotel (40 Island Ave., Miami Beach). You can also shop online at smashingdarling.com/store/krelwear.
The problem with hipsters: They love looking cool in their flashy-trashy '80s costumes, but they're way too lazy to go digging through the Salvation Army's stanky racks for themselves. Thankfully, there are go-getters like Miami's own Recessionista (AKA Christine Bourie), who actually enjoys the dirty work. A 23-year-old peroxide-blond pixie with a flawlessly ironic eye for kitschy vintage fashion, Christine finds and sells all kinds of awesome wearables, from oversize turtle-shell sunglasses to pink denim dresses. On a typical day, her Etsy site lists 150 time-warp treasures, such as $46 snakeskin ankle boots, $38 Western-style white leather jackets, $27 sequined batwing blouses, and $6 Mr. T faux-gold chains. Now, you can expect the occasional haute label like Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent, and Betsey Johnson. But really, Recessionista is all about gaudy forgotten brands such as Bongo. "The jeans are acid-washed, brightly colored denim," Christine explains. "It reminds me of being a child." And her personal style icons? "Grace Jones, the grungy Courtney Love, and basically anyone from an '80s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie."
Las Tias
One could easily lose whole days rummaging through the dusty bins of secondhand stores and go home with only a torn ostrich-leather purse that smells of Brussels sprouts. Sure, the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun. But imagine a room packed with only the "Eureka!" finds of thrift-store shopping. Las Tias, a reasonably priced upscale resale store in Wynwood, is like the closet of a beloved aunt, albeit one with really great taste. And despite the museum quality of its killer window displays, the store is low-key and unpretentious. Inside the warehouse-style store, you'll find classic, gently used furniture and clothes that have been thoughtfully curated by the three Cuban women who own the place. Seventies Lucite chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and the floor is covered with Pasil bubble chairs, grand dining tables, and vintage knickknacks such as ash trays and whimsical, mod sculptures. In the back, there are '50s women's frocks, pin-up accessories such as fascinators and gloves, and statement-making costume jewelry. Pristine beaded clutches from the '40s go for $80, and in the tableware section, you can get an eight-piece Fiestaware set of dishes for $40. It might be a little more than you wanted to spend, but resale is always an option if times get tough again (and they likely will). These curiosities from decades past have already proven they hold their value over time.
Sometimes we need a reminder that HIV/AIDS is not just a problem that plagues Africa and other far-off locations. In fact, according to the Miami-Dade Health Department's March 2010 statistics, there are 13,491 people in the community living with AIDS and another 11,542 living with HIV. And those are only the reported cases. A recent report from the Florida Department of Health suggests that, including those who aren't aware of their status, as many as one in every 63 men in Miami-Dade has HIV. The good news is that those with the virus can still live full and relatively long lives with proper medical treatment and access to life-saving drugs. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation provides treatment regardless of ability to pay, and the proceeds from the newly opened Out of the Closet thrift store benefit the organization. So the next time you decide to clear out your closet, drop the old clothes by the self-proclaimed "most fabulous thrift store in the world." While you're there, you can also get a free HIV test to make sure you're not among the thousands in the county who are unaware they're infected.
Daddy's Cash, Inc.
When reckless yuppie schemes and manic social ambitions have reaped nothing but divorce, major debt, and serious self-loathing, it's time to go rogue. So, shred your credit cards. Grow a beard. Stop taking showers. Burn your bed. Leave cryptic goodbye voicemail messages for everyone you know. Drop a bogus blood trail. Then stuff all of your remaining valuables into a black leather bag and head straight for Daddy's Cash. Located on the corner of NE Second Avenue and 31st Street, this pawnshop is a squat red-and-blue bunker flying black bomb banners and an American flag. Just buzz at the door, nod toward the security guard, and go see the lady broker sitting behind bulletproof glass. You could shop for golf clubs, Korg keyboards, power tools, LG flat-screens, stereos, and a giant silver Jesus bust. But you've come to trade: a Rolex, cufflinks, matching his-and-her iPods, pearls, your ex-wife's five-carat diamond wedding ring, and several sheets of commemorative gold coins in exchange for that $4,000 Harley sitting ready at the curb, pointed due south.
If all you want are some faux Rolexes and blingy cell phone accessories, you can stop reading now and set out for the Swap Shop. For a flea market where you can lose a whole day just looking around, check out the Redland Market Village in Homestead. Here you'll not only find staple deals such as five deodorants for $4, but also enjoy a day's worth of fun perusing the goods. The indoor market sells the expected — yellow-gold jewelry and bedazzled flip-flips — as well as the unexpected, such as double-breasted white suits for toddlers. Make sure you get around to the pet shop, where you can buy pink-eyed rats, giant blue macaws, and racing pigeons. Most of the vendors and patrons in Bargain Town are Mexican. Even the caged cockatoos sip water out of Corona bottles. Dig into the Mexican candy (chili-coated lollipops, salted tamarind pulp, peanut marzipan, etc.), sample the freshly made sharp queso blanco, and order some seafood paella. Produce stands spill over with nopal (cactus ears), avocados, and yuca. There aren't a lot of prices listed, so be prepared to know enough Spanish to haggle down the damage.
OJ Liquors
Whether you're a lush, a boozehound, a college kid mounting the next barnburner, or just an average Joe picking up the occasional liquid entertainment, where you get your hooch is one of those things that inspires loyalty. A good liquor store should be like a longtime friend, attentive and always there for you. OJ Liquors off Galloway Road on Coral Way is just such a place. Friendly owner Julian Fiuza has been in business for 16 years at his Westchester location for good reason. With this local institution offering a good selection at reasonable prices and frequent specials, it makes OJ's hard to beat. From gin to Scotch, rum (a best seller is the half-gallon of Bacardi Light for $23.99) to tequila, champagne to after-dinner cordials, and an ample assortment of vino, OJ's has everything you need, whether you're getting the party started or appeasing the inner demons that turned you into the raging alcoholic you are. What? We've seen you in action.
Sunset Corners Fine Wine & Spirits
At Sunset Corners Fine Wine & Spirits, it doesn't really matter if your wine IQ is zero. You'll feel comfortable at the down-to-earth establishment, which has operated on Sunset Drive since 1954. The friendly staff, including owners Michael Bittel and Larry Solomon plus wine and cheese buyer Jamie Futscher, will guide you through their impressive selection of wines, priced as low as $5 and as high as $2,000. Free winetastings and fun wine academy classes, such as a recent event pairing Bordeaux and hamburgers, are a bonus for those who thirst for wine — and knowledge. The store also carries 450 varieties of artisanal cheese — 75 to 100 kinds at a time — to pair with that great wine you just discovered. Chin-chin.
Sosa Family Cigars
As Freud once said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." But he might have added, "A cigar shop should not be just a cigar shop." Sosa Family Cigars provides just the right backdrop of sights, sounds, and smells for a real-life mise en scène that encapsulates the essence of Little Havana. And you don't have to brave damp, blistering heat to take it all in. Simply step into the cold but cozy store across the street from Versailles and peruse the wide selection of cigars lining the walls (ranging from a good but cheap $4 stogy to a $27 Padrón Aniversario). Then light up, plop down on the plush leather couch, and watch a competitive game of dominoes or engage in an old-fashioned political debate. Words fly, smoke swirls, and someone is bound to drop by with a coladita from across the way. Life doesn't get more Cuban than this.
It's not often you'll catch this publication praising local municipal works. Miami-Dade's public transportation system, for example, makes Havana's '50s-era buses look like Japanese light rail. And earlier this year, New Times lambasted Miami Beach for spending $5 million on citywide free Wi-Fi that didn't work. But to give credit where it's due, we'll be the first to admit the newly installed network on the downtown-encircling Metromover is fast and reliable. And because the elevated tram is free, it's a pretty handy alternative to shelling out cash for Internet time at FedEx Office, if you don't mind traveling in circles or surfing the web next to a drunk homeless dude.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®