There are a few nearly inarguable aspects about the "new Miami" -- the young, smart version of the city spreading through its central core:
First, the renewed cultural charge is largely driven by visual artists, and not just by Basel carpetbaggers (this is a place teeming with homegrown talent). Second, members of this new artistic community love experimentation -- you'll find few creatives limiting themselves to strictly one medium. Third, they love to collaborate. And fourth, a current of hometown (or adopted hometown) pride runs strong.
All of this is why the local capsule fashion line Algae is the culmination of this vibe.
Conceived by artist Johnny Laderer in 2011, the line's whole purpose is to promote the work of fellow local artists, and in an accessible, affordable medium. "I wanted to start something where other artists worked in a platform that they normally wouldn't get to," Laderer says. "This is all about bolstering Miami artists."
Rather than just print an artwork on a stock T-shirt, though, the process is much more involved. Participating artists become, essentially, proper designers; dictating the cut, fabric, and fit of garments from, yes, T-shirts to shorts and beyond.
The Algae m.o. is also about keeping money flowing through the local economy, he says. Algae's first capsule collection, released late last year, was all manufactured in Miami-Dade County, at some of the last remaining garment production houses in and around Hialeah. "Manufacturing in Miami enables me to make smaller runs that are more hands-on. I have better control," says Laderer. "It's also nice to see the community. It all ties together. It's Miami artists supporting these small production houses that are the only ones left, each generally run by one family."
The creations so far also reflect a distinct Miami flair. Doug Hoekzema, a street artist better known as HOX, came up with beach cover-up shorts whose splotches of color reference both spray paint and tropical neon lights. Meanwhile, artist Justin Long's nautical obsessions continue on a wave-print T-shirt, while musicians and visual artists Metro Zu contributed a Tumblr-ific neon slime beach towel design.
If none of this seems to conform to a specific fashion "season," per se, well, that's on purpose -- and Laderer plans to take his time with the new collection that's still in the works. "Miami really doesn't have to have very many seasons, so this doesn't need to be a brand that's focused on producing clothes to fit that," he says. "It's more about producing what the artist wants, and if it happens to be part of the season, then fine."
Algae is available locally at the boutique Frangipani Design Shop in Wynwood, online at the Algae web site, and at various pop-up shopping events around town. You can also find Algae around the social web.