Previously distributed in the United States in the form of corners in department stores, the São Paulo-born jeweler, favored by the likes of Bella Hadid, Blake Lively and Madonna, is opening its very first flagship boutique on American soil. For this milestone, Ara Vartanian has chosen Miami and one of the country’s most chic shopping malls: Bal Harbour Shops.
An intimate, glamorous space
Like the brand’s two São Paulo outlets, Ara Vartanian once again called on architects Aldo Urbinati and Andrea Vosgueritchian of Estudio Tupi to design this boutique.
The approximately 92 m² space was designed in sober tones combining Nogueira and Freijó wood structures with black, gray and white. The designer adds, “Natural stone is one of the most striking elements, along with crystal quartz walls and hand-embroidered wallpaper by De Gournay.”
The result is an intimate, elegant and modern outlet, perfect for displaying the jeweler’s gemstone jewelry.
A strategic address
Confiding in The Zing Report, Vartanian said he opted for Miami largely as a result of a demographic shift seen in the wake of the pandemic. “When [the pandemic] hit the U.S., there was a big migration from the east and west coasts to Miami, so we thought it was the ideal location for our flagship store in the U.S.,” he said.
With its 43,058 square meters at 97,000 Collins Avenue – just north of Miami Beach – Bal Harbour Shops has the advantage of being located in an area that, along with the Design District, forms the Florida city’s main luxury thoroughfares.
Famous for its designer boutiques and luxury brands, this open-air mall, bordered by tropical vegetation, is also considered one of the most lucrative in the world. Prior to the pandemic, the building generated revenues of $2,555 per square meter, better than the leading shopping centers in New York, London, Dubai and Orlando.
Renowned for its gardens, fountains and fashion stores, Bal Harbour Shops is also a mecca for jewelry and haute joaillerie, with boutiques including Tiffany & Co, Bulgari, Chanel, Chopard, Harry Winston and Tourneau.
The boutique is located next to Italian bedding brands Frette and Haremlique Istanbul, on the third floor of the shopping center.
Another jewelry designer, Maria Tash, has established a permanent presence in the mall. The brand, which opened an ephemeral boutique in August 2021, has renewed its lease for a permanent store in its current location, a 306-square-meter boutique on the second floor. This New York-based brand specializes in piercings and earrings, which have notably had the honor of adorning the ears of Rihanna, Beyonce and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Other store openings include Roberto Cavalli, Bally and an expansion of Fendi.
The mall itself is undergoing a 340,387-square-meter extension, scheduled for completion in 2024.
Greater Miami is home to 6 million year-round residents and will attract more than 26.5 million visitors in 2022, according to figures presented by the Greater Miami & Miami Beach Visitors Bureau.
The city attracts mainly Americans (mainly from New York, Atlanta and Chicago), but also a neighboring clientele from Latin America (Colombia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico).
Miami International Airport, which is preparing to welcome an ultra-luxury terminal by 2025, welcomed over 50.6 million travellers in 2022. Miami is one of the top destinations for luxury shopping in the United States.
The gradual opening this year of the Time Century Jewelry Center in downtown Miami, a 9-storey, 20,900 m² building dedicated to watchmaking and jewelry, including retail and office space, should do much to enhance the city’s reputation on the luxury market.
And the city can count on the arrival of newcomers from South America such as Ara Vartanian, little-known to Americans, to maintain Miami’s desirability.
The jeweller to the stars
Born into a family of Lebanese jewelers and inspired by his childhood in Brazil surrounded by precious stones, the Armenian-Brazilian designer founded his eponymous brand in 2000. He is renowned for his two- and three-finger rings, the use of colored – often inverted – gemstones and the creation of unique, innovative shapes.
His creations range from complex, bold geometric designs to simple, feminine silhouettes, for both fine jewelry and haute joaillerie.
São Paulo, the city of his childhood and his first stores, is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for him. He tells Elite Traveler in 2019: “São Paulo is a very dynamic city where cultures mix. Its geographical location lies between the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia, which are major suppliers of precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds and tourmalines.”
In 2017, Vartanian launched a collaboration with friend and supermodel Kate Moss, who has long been a promoter of choice for the jewelry world. Her status as the brand’s ambassador has considerably increased its visibility, particularly in the United States. A year earlier, the designer had opened his first outlet outside Brazil – now closed – in London’s Mayfair district.
The opening was the occasion for a capsule collection co-constructed with the British supermodel, inspired by English legends and mysticism.
Since then, celebrities as diverse as Madonna, Naomi Campbell and Mindy Kaling have worn her creations.
Committed to the environmental transformation of his country’s jewelry industry, the designer highlights – via his Conscious Mining Initiative – mines that invest in their communities and produce stones that can be traced.
Brazil’s soil is rich in precious stones such as rubellite (red to pink), emerald and the famous neon-blue paraiba tourmaline.
To celebrate its arrival at Bal Harbour Shops, Vartanian has created two bracelets available exclusively in the Miami boutique: the Biela bracelet with 18k diamonds and Paraiba tourmaline set in white gold, and the Pulsar bracelet, composed of rubellite and white diamonds, set in white and rose gold.
“Our American customers have shown a keen interest in colored stones,” explains the designer, who cites classic designs that have found particular resonance with American customers, such as hook earrings, the brand’s iconic octopus ring and gemstone necklaces.
These are all pieces that are already popular with celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Lupita Nyong’o and Blake Lively.
While the brand intends to expand in the United States, the designer is keen to assert his international ambitions: “We are an independent brand that has grown organically, respecting the time of our handmade jewelry.” He adds, “Once the brand is consolidated, we’ll start thinking about the future and possible new expansions. Ara Vartanian is a brand with Brazilian roots, but with its eyes on the world.”
2023 thus promises to be a dynamic year for the jewelry brand, which announces “a year rich in projects and challenges […] to be shared with everyone.”
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Featured photo : © Ara Vartanian