Made in Miami: 4 Fashion Designers to Watch

Meet four local designers committed to building their brands in Miami.

Miami may have once equated solely to nightlife, but that tide is quickly turning. Throughout the last few years, Miami has become a breeding ground for creative talent that stretches beyond its galleries and stages. 

Finally, the city is getting the design scene it’s always deserved.

“I definitely feel like it’s coming. We’re not New York or L.A.—and we don’t have to be, either,” said Charlotte Althin Hicks, who owns resort wear brand, Sea Lily.

Hicks is one of many budding designers helping to raise the tide, that’s lifting all boats, so to speak. Alex Lopez, who started TV-Head Co. with his brother, Freddy, agrees.

“We might be growing at a faster rate somewhere else, but it’s that pride of also making a name for the city itself,” said Lopez.

Today, a visit to hubs like the Wynwood Block and Sunset Harbour, offers a glimpse into the new, design-dominated Miami that’s being stitched together by talented local crafters, artisans and clothiers.

Ximena Kavalekas showroom

Ximena Kavalekas

“Iridescence” captures more than one aspect of Ximena Kavalekas’ eponymous line of handcrafted python accessories.

On one hand, the term refers to one of the many dazzling finishes that bring a signature Miami flamboyance to the timeless collection of bags made in Italy; on the other hand, “iridescent” adequately describes the designer herself, who has a contagious joie de vivre. Born in Ecuador, Kavalekas became a Miamian in 2000.

“Miami is in my soul. I feel very Miami,” said the designer. It’s no surprise, then, that the same bags designed to embody the designer’s spirit just as readily speak to Miami’s wild, sun-drenched sophistication.

TV-Head Co. accessories

TV-Head Co.

“[My brother and I] didn’t know how to tie bow ties,” said Alex Lopez of TV-Head Co.’s creative beginnings.

Instead of spending hours watching bow tie tutorials on YouTube, the stylish Guatemalan-born brothers opted for a less conventional approach—making their own from random scraps. TV-Head Co. was born soon thereafter, and today, the brand offers wooden bow ties, vinyl-record sunglasses, tie pins and watches made from recycled materials that are sourced locally. In fact, these scrappy brothers formed a vast network of furniture builders, cabinet makers and shipwrights who sell their wooden scraps to the crafty duo. Artist collaborations add even more flavor with bright, limited-edition designs. Check out the wooden flamingo-covered bow ties for proof. 

Krel Tropical Knitwear by Karelle Levy

Krel Tropical Knitwear

Knits tend to summon memories of crisp fall nights and crackling fireplaces. Not so for Karelle Levy, whose Krel Tropical Knitwear defies apparel stereotypes with body-hugging, skin-baring silhouettes that exude the tropics from their every fiber.

“Yarn is in the blood,” said Levy, whose mother was a weaver and needlepoint artist.

When Levy moved back to Miami after attending the Rhode Island School of Design, she adapted her aesthetic to fit with the less-is-more fashion trends in a city known for year-round heat.

“It’s OK to be revealing here. It’s hot, so half the time you don’t want to wear any clothes,” said the designer, whose vast and colorful collection started with a glow-in-the-dark line of rave outfits inspired by Miami’s famous nightlife scene. 

Sea Lily maxi dress

Sea Lily

Sea Lily owner Charlotte Althin Hicks was born and raised in Sweden, where the sea is as common a sight as in Miami, albeit darker and colder than Miami’s red-hot and bright-blue beaches. When Hicks moved to Miami more than 20 years ago, she fell in love with the city’s endless summers and the beachy style that comes with it. Market research led her to find an obvious gap in Miami’s design scene—high-quality, mid-priced resort wear that easily transitions from waterfronts to dining tables to cocktail hours.

“I run into people wearing our clothes at different occasions and in different ways than we thought of, and it’s awesome!”