Miami: Street Art

Theft of an original artwork created by the UK’s anti-establishment political comment artist Banksy, ahead of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, has aroused international interest. The piece depicts a small boy manufacturing a British Union Jack bunting, and is thought to be a commentary on the use of sweat-shop labour.  Its creation on an outside wall of a branch of the UK’s Poundland store chain seems deliberate to make the point (albeit without accusation).

In a continuation of the story, no sooner had the Banksy piece been taken in the well planned theft, the quickly repaired wall on Whymark Avenue had a new piece quickly daubed by another anonymous artist to take its place.

As to the fate of the missing Banksy, it subsequently turned up in Miami, reportedly being offered at one of the city’s auction houses with a guide price of several hundred thousand dollars. For reasons that remain uncertain, the sale was pulled (concerns about ownership, the theft and who had rights to the original no doubt).

Its apparent arrival in Miami, though, was in some ways intriguing. Not because Miami would not be a worthy home for the piece, but because the region already has a thriving street art scene. Such is its abundance that, rather than a small two-metre-square work drawing such attention, the scale and quality of street art here is immense. Welcome, yes, but required? Probably not. Destined to take up local residence, but most likely a simple transit stop before moving on again.

Miami street art happens in the former fashion warehouse district of Wynwood – a vast area that for many years was in decline. The area is being rapidly transformed into new apartments, shops and offices as the new ‘Midtown’ area grows and converges with the former commercial zone. Its location, bordering the newly defined Miami Design District suggests how creativity has found a new location in the city.

Walls, in fact whole buildings, are richly decorated with both planned and spontaneous artworks. Vast in scale, brightly coloured and highly impactful, many make striking and arresting visual statements. Touring a few city blocks reveals a rich seam of imagination and inspiration in a huge variety of creative styles, making comment and creating talking points on the street.

Unlike the mindless graffiti which blights many European cities with anti-social spray painted tags and their threatening and negative undertones, here the work is uplifting, thought provoking and makes a positive addition to improve an otherwise bland and characterless area of the city.

Right now, the work is inspired by the street, and the loves and lives of the locals who make up the area. I have not find any ‘branded commissions’ as yet, but you can be sure this is only a matter of time. As outlets from international names such as Prada and Dior Homme have started to take up residence locally, they no doubt want to make an easy peace with the neighbours. In moving in, they will inevitably move others out and so change the profile and value of the area over time. Brands also like to associate with cool and edgy, so an address here will no doubt impress.

I suggest visiting soon, before all the old buildings are torn down for new malls and offices. As for the missing Banksy, who knows where it will end up? Given its immense weight, being crafted on a section of cut cement wall, wherever it turns up you can be sure its book value will be similarly matched by excess baggage charges.

Click here to see more pictures of Miami’s street art.

Miami: Retail’s Looking UP!

America is the home of the single floor, large footprint retail store. In a country with so much space, unlike in Europe and Asia, brands here do not have to think about developing several floors in one building to showcase their entire product range.

But if America is the home of this type of store, it is also the undisputed home of the outlet store, where brands offload previous seasons’ collections for a fraction of a cost. Such is their popularity that the outlet store sector in America is now a massive and booming business, with entire malls and shopping towns dedicated to selling discounted ranges.

Many of the biggest retail brands such as Timberland, Gap, Calvin Klein and Banana Republic actually manufacture products directly for their outlet store divisions. Here’s a tip – look for the three diamonds underneath Banana Republic woven garment labels to check if items are a reduced price mainline product or have been specially made for the outlet.

However, there is a tricky challenge for brands to manage in these low price, high traffic and typically low staff resource environments. Namely, how do you deliver an authoritative ‘on brand’ VM message and maintain high retail standards? Especially when the product range consists of mainly fragmented end of lines, has limited availability and needs to work in a vast space on a single floor level. The answer for many brands, it seems, is to develop an advanced level use of the high level display space.

Here, specialist use of this ‘above the shopping line’ area has been done with a combination of compelling brand graphics, photographic imagery and product displays. These work to aid navigation and support clearer layout planning. Above all, they provide VM presentation and display credibility that is out of reach to the consumer, helping the store to look better for longer and allow retail staff to focus on replenishment and tidying activities.

It’s a great example of how these retailers maximise their visual presence, without using ineffective and expensive presentation and display activity where shoppers could simply pull it apart.

Overall, it shows that great VM isn’t just about creating great product displays, but about the operational and commercial thinking that goes into it. In this case, demonstrating highly effective visual thinking too.

Click here to see more pictures of high level VM in outlet stores in Miami.

Miami: Life in Colour

For those who have never visited Miami before, it’s a young, energetic and colourful place that is full of life. Its unique location at the tip of continental North America, nestled between the Caribbean and Mexico, gives it the unofficial status as the regional ‘hub’ of Latin America.

This fortune of geography plays out in many ways, with none more evident than the vibrant mix of people and cultures that have settled in Miami, bringing a diverse range of varied lifestyle influences in every aspect, from food to music, fashion and much, much more.

In fact, the city is not one place but several places, which helps to make it the thriving metropolis that it is. Most famous of all is South Beach, with its Art Deco quarter with retro boutiques hotels. Downtown is more corporate, with skyscrapers full of offices that have breathtaking views of Miami Harbor. Massive cruise ships and incredible private yachts line the vast inlet-infused shoreline. In fact, each of Miami’s neighbourhoods has a unique appeal and distinctive character, and the best way to sample them is quite simple to get out there and soak them up.

Yet, for everything that makes Miami different, some things are universal and bind it together. Tropical winds, palm trees, smothering summertime heat and a bright clear sunlight that bleaches and blisters. It’s the sun that helps to add emphasis to one of the most noticeable features of the area – the unashamed use of bold, true hue colour that is emblazoned on everything.

Unlike the cold, grey extremes of the Northern hemisphere, Miami is bathed in brilliant sunlight for most of the year, with tropical temperatures to match. This creates the perfect setting for bold colour to come to life in an array of zesty shades that are impossible to escape. Colour is used extensively on buildings, in homes and restaurants, and most noticeably on people – on casual clothing of all descriptions.

Right now, Miami’s shops are full of bold colour. And even though it’s back on trend for Spring 2013 everywhere, in this place it always is. Colour is what creates the youthful backdrop to the region, and is part of what makes it the experience it is.

Click here to see more pictures of colour in Miami.