Base on a true story
Steven Giles is the king of cool when it comes to fashion
boutiques in Miami Beach
main photograph by Jeffrey Booze
WE STOPPED BY BASE,
one of our favourite spots in Miami Beach, to chat with Steven Giles,
its co-founder and creative director, a few hours before he was
due to supervise an élite group of DJs
and musicians from Delano Hotel’s lobby. Base is one of the hippest
fashion boutiques—with a twist, as it features its own house DJs.
Steven shed some light on today’s music scene,
Base’s mission, his journey to becoming an arbiter of cool, and
his thoughts on the DNA of cool.
Lucire: What is Base? What was your intention when you
created it? It’s far more than a mere retail store on Lincoln Road.
Steven Giles: Base is an ongoing evolution; it’s always in
a constantly evolving state. The fact that the store changes as
much is partially due to me trying to correct my mistakes. Fortunately,
the outcome is perceived differently. If you put enough energy into
something and insist on something, you reach a tipping point. It
then goes out of your control. I am listening to what people who
inhabit Base like about it. A social element, a cultural attachment
has occurred. It’s like American Idol: some people have it
and some people don’t. I’m guessing that Base has an "it"
factor for a lot of people.
Please run through the history for us.
Base started 16 years ago as a manufacturing company and a tiny
retail space. I designed everything, just womenswear; at the time
it was modular dressing, the streetwear influence. It was domiciled
in the West Indies although I’m not from there. That part of the
world wasn’t for me as I’m a more urban–metropolitan type. On a
purely industrial level it’s hard to progress in regions like this
where it’s the culture [to not hurry]. Someone in the Caribbean
though suggested that we [with Bruce Canella, a New Yorker] move
to Miami and set up shop. Bruce is an incredibly single-minded and
methodical person. I’m more the creative impulse and face of Base
but the boundaries are completely fluid.
What I call the current history of Base started
11 years ago. When we came to Lincoln Road, we were one of the very
early pioneers. Base made it OK for
the Gap to come to Lincoln Road. We were the first store to come
to Lincoln Road that looked like a store. Commercial real estate
agents would always come by with prospective clients, Base showed
what was possible. Lincoln Road is a unique mall. There are at least
60 different landlords here.
What are your thoughts on the Winter Music Conference? How is
Base participating? You’re due at Delano in an hour.
The WMC [Winter Music Conference] has morphed into a big international
event, in the past few years. This year’s festival is the largest
one ever. This and Art Basel are the two seminal events of the year
Who’s at the WMC?
Hypothetically, some of the world’s truly great DJs:
the M3 Summit is the central focus [workshops for pro-tours, events,
parties]. Distributors and record producers come down and networking
for the electronic dance music sense, it’s vast.
How has music changed in the past 20 years?
The way people are able to make music has changed. These days it
gets composed on a laptop. It circumnavigates years and years of
classical training. I love it because it’s progress, like the ATM,
like the internet, and creates a commonality.
Last year, in Base at Delano, we decided to allow
DJs to spin for three days. I proposed
a four-day, 12-hour festival in the Delano lobby with primarily
DJs spinning and four to give live acts
[providing a live vocal]. Delano liked the idea and went with it.
Tell us about Base’s in-house band.
Life Project is Base’s own in-house band. They domicile in Australia
and are performing at Delano.
DJs seem to be treated like rock
stars these days: Tiesto, Amand Van Buren, they’re like royalty
down here in Miami and New York. What do you make of this? Why are
they so important to today’s music scene?
I am not a DJ aficionado. Certainly,
Tiesto is up there as one of the greats, and there are a handful
of them. I am not a nightclubber. Most spinning is not what interests
me. I am interested in the people who are creating music.
As far as the importance of DJs:
every DJ is taking a track and remix
it by adding different beats and a different feel. The music being
played at, say, a club has to be ordered in some way for it to make
sense to the crowd who’s listening. They are the taste makers–discerners
of what’s happening. They are the stars of the electronic music
movement. The DJ culture has arisen
in out of relatively recent times.
It started in Ibiza, it’s one of the Baliric sound.
Today’s DJ is the modern-day equivalent
of an orchestra conductor. The really good ones are able to reflect
back on the crowd what they want to hear. Someone like Tiesto can
get 4,000–10,000 to come to an event. It becomes about mixing beats
and synergizing the beats to the point where it sounds seamless.
You have one of the best product mixes we’ve seen yet at retail.
How do you do it?
What happens is that everything gets juried in. I’m like a curator
of a gallery, and like in an art gallery you expect cohesion. Our
cohesion is modern living. I have a small team of buyers. One researches
music and media [magazines, books, film].
Base is not a specific need-based store, like
Sears. Your reasons are less clearly defined. One of my little secret
ambitions is to redefine the concept of a department store. By and
large, the concept hasn’t changed in the past 100 years. I like
to find the unseen links between things. Base has its finger on
the pulse of modern cultural living: it’s part of a tribe. I say
to my buying team, ‘Don’t think competitively; think creatively.’
We are selling the mix as DJs sell theirs.
I recently read the book, Pattern Recognition,
in which the central character seeks cool. That is the job I would
love to have. She’s label-phobic, I love that!
Over a period of time, my assistant and I have
developed a scanning process: this is from laid-down patterns over
time that are recognized by your brain.
We live in the era of the highly specialized ego,
particularly as technology and biology morph. The internet has flattened
the world, and levelled the playing feel. In this new flat earth,
people can be incredibly specialized. In the entertainment world,
Madonna can exist and get the support she does. They way she continues
to flourish, as Bill Gates does. They can be driven and developed
to create extreme focus or extreme change. Others who fall into
this category: Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise, Beckham, Derek Jeeter.
You’ve been here a long time. What do you think of Miami’s comeback
as a cool travel destination? What’s it like living and working
in Miami year-round?
The sense one has in Miami is that it’s a little bit driven for
"every man for himself", in this phase of [the city’s]
development. The next phase needs a common agreement where everyone
agrees on what direction Miami is going in, in order for it to have
a perceivable point of view and caring and concerned about the community.
What are your pet peeves about the city? What would you change
if you could wave your magic wand?
[Three] things irritate me beyond an acceptable level: number one
is the littering of leaflets on Washington Avenue. You can go up
to Palm Beach and you will never see a leaflet on the ground.
We had a dry, Category One hurricane in September
05 but it did a lot of damage to the foliage on the beach.
We need proper tree surgeons and a replanting programme. You can’t
overlook the fact that everyone’s after the same dollar.
Number thre bugbear: no lights have been working
on Lummus Park on Ocean Drive. I was just at Ipamena Beach. They
have the lifestyle of a beach lifestyle figured out: a beautiful
walkway for joggers, bikers, and it is immaculately clean. I talked
to one of the guys at my gym who I know is in city government and
I am not the only one who’s upset about the littering. •
One of my little secret ambitions is to redeﬁne the concept of a department store. By and large, the concept hasn’t
changed in the past 100 years. I like to ﬁnd the unseen links between things. Base has its ﬁnger on the pulse of modern cultural living: it’s part of a tribe