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Latest Miami fashion accessory: a branded condo

Luxe condos are teaming up with upscale brands in a bid to stand out in a crowded field and woo new consumers

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Fendi collaborated with the interior designer Fanny Haim on the beachfront Fendi Chateau Residences in Surfside, Florida.

Miami

POP stars and perfume. Athletes and sneakers. Big-budget movies and toys. When it comes to cross-promotional licensing deals, there are few pairings that marketers have not tried to raise the profile of their products.

Add to that list a new and perhaps unusual partnership: fashion brands and luxury condos.

Across Miami, high-end condos are teaming up with upscale brands in a bid to stand out in a crowded field and reach new consumers. The trend preceded the Covid-19 crisis and is expected to last beyond it.

It may be risky to yoke a long-term real estate development to a name that could someday fall out of favour. Indeed, condos in New York and elsewhere have even removed the Trump name from their facades.

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But the strategy, which involves designer labels like Armani, Diesel, Fendi and Missoni as well as luxury carmakers like Aston Martin and Porsche, makes sense in a place with a fondness for status symbols, industry observers say.

"The people here tend to be very fashion conscious and show off what they own more so than in other places," said Michael Tsiros, chairman of the marketing department at the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami.

"But the building has to have some value added," he said. "It has to be different from one across the street that looks the same without the same branding."

The overseas buyers who flock to Miami, even in the middle of a pandemic, are a target audience, brokers say.

"The approach has staying power in Miami because the city is so international," said Dora Puig, principal broker of Luxe Living Realty, who is not involved with the condos but has represented clients who have bought units in them.

"Buyers know these brands, which is part of the impetus for developers," she said. "They can help a lot."

The half-dozen projects, which are found around Miami-Dade County, from downtown Miami to Sunny Isles Beach, play up their stylish lineage in marketing materials, but the degree of involvement by the labels at each property varies.

One address where the apparel partner has taken a hands-on role is Diesel Wynwood, a planned 143-unit offering in Miami's Wynwood neighbourhood from Bel Invest Group, an Italian developer, and Diesel, an Italian company known for its jeans.

Diesel also has a home furnishings line, Diesel Living, which helped design the moodily coloured facade, the industrial-themed common areas and the interiors of the condos, said Maximilian Beltrame, Bel Invest's chief executive.

Buyers will not get the kind of empty, white-walled unit that is typical in most apartment sales.

Instead, units will be delivered at least partly decorated, and possibly with a full range of furniture, including Diesel coffee tables, lamps and sofas.

Andrea Rosso, Diesel's licensing director, also pointed to the condo's healthful qualities. The airy eight-storey complex, which is cleaved by a courtyard, is seeking to be certified by meeting certain thresholds for air and water quality.

Prices range from US$370,000 to US$5.5 million, which works out to about US$1,100 per square foot (psf), and ground is expected to be broken this fall.

"This is not one of those buildings when you just put a brand on top to make the apartments more expensive," Mr Beltrame said. "Ours is a very spirited building with a very authentic brand experience."

Similarly, luxury fashion house Fendi collaborated with interior designer Fanny Haim on the Fendi Chateau Residences, a 12-storey beachfront condo in Surfside designed by architecture firm Arquitectonica.

The condo sales market was holding its own before the novel coronavirus case total started mounting in March. Florida did not announce a lockdown until April 2.

In mainland Miami, luxury condo sales in the first quarter rose to 173 from 160 a year earlier, according to brokerage firm Douglas Elliman. The average sale price jumped to US$492 psf from US$468.

But the trend was reversed in oceanfront cities like Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach, with 69 sales in the first quarter, down from 70 a year earlier, according to Douglas Elliman. The average sale price was US$1,175 psf, down from US$1,299.

Condo developers, who often have little to do with a project once its apartments are sold, may not care so much if the name of a fashion brand on a facade becomes dated down the road.

But some licences are structured so that condo boards can strip off a designer's name if the brand ever winds up in the discount bin, said Gil Dezer.

He is the president of Dezer Development, which is behind the Residences by Armani/Casa Miami, a 308-unit beachfront high-rise in Sunny Isles Beach. The condo recently opened and is about 90 per cent sold, for prices that average US$1,200 psf.

Yet Armani also has the option to sever ties if it comes to believe the building, a sail-shaped structure designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, is not being maintained properly. "They can't go and paint the building pink if they want to," Mr Dezer said.

Armani, like other fashion houses, would seem to have much to gain from joining luxury housing developments.

Besides collecting a licensing fee for the US$750 million project, Armani was reimbursed for design work, including US$850,000 for gold-toned, custom-built sofas that ring the lobby, Mr Dezer said. Plus, each buyer has been handed a US$25,000 gift certificate to use at Armani boutiques.

The premium for developers may be less quantifiable, but "there is definitely a value in putting brands on buildings", added Mr Dezer, whose portfolio includes the nearby Porsche Design Tower, a 132-unit spire.

Like some other high-end carmakers, Porsche has branched into apparel and accessories in recent years, including shirts, pants and watches.

Similarly, the lifestyle collection from British sports-car maker Aston Martin is packed with sweaters, jackets and leather bags, so it may come as no surprise that the company is following Porsche down the same track with a new 391-unit, 66-storey condo.

Aston Martin Residences was developed through a partnership with G&G Business Developments, a firm tied to Argentina's Coto family, the owners of a supermarket chain.

The condo, whose one-bedroom units start at US$750,000, is expected to open in 2022. The building is 55 per cent sold since in 2017, a spokesman said, for prices averaging US$1,200 psf.

The condo, which has a protruding, semicircular edge, may recall the curvy lines of a coupe, but relevant interior detailing can seem minimal.

Small versions of the Aston Martin logo appears on the handles of sliding doors in common areas, and lobby desks are made of carbon fibre, a car body material.

Along the same lines, it remains to be seen how wholeheartedly Missoni Baia, a 249-unit tower under construction in the Edgewater neighbourhood, will embrace the fashion brand Missoni, an Italian label known for kaleidoscopic fabrics.

Renderings of the stark-white 57-storey structure reveal ground-floor columns imprinted with tie-dye-style patterns. The units, save for geometric upholstery, seem fairly conventional, at least in concept.

In the end, though, many buyers may not care if their living room has the provenance of a runway, some developers say. "Fashion is almost a non-issue," Mr Dezer said. "What counts is a nice building." NYTIMES

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