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fashion: feature

Base on a true story 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 Hotelís lobby. Base is one of the hippest fashion boutiquesówith a twist, as it features its own house DJs.
   Steven shed some light on todayís music scene, Baseís 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? Itís far more than a mere retail store on Lincoln Road.
Steven Giles: Base is an ongoing evolution; itís 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. Itís like American Idol: some people have it and some people donít. Iím 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 Iím not from there. That part of the world wasnít for me as Iím a more urbanĖmetropolitan type. On a purely industrial level itís hard to progress in regions like this where itís 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. Iím 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? Youíre due at Delano in an hour.
The WMC [Winter Music Conference] has morphed into a big international event, in the past few years. This yearís festival is the largest one ever. This and Art Basel are the two seminal events of the year in Miami.


Whoís at the WMC?
Hypothetically, some of the worldís 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, itís 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 itís 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 Baseís in-house band.
Life Project is Baseís 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, theyíre like royalty down here in Miami and New York. What do you make of this? Why are they so important to todayís 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 whoís listening. They are the taste makersĖdiscerners of whatís 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, itís one of the Baliric sound. Todayís 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 4,000Ė10,000 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 weíve seen yet at retail. How do you do it?
What happens is that everything gets juried in. Iím 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 hasnít 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: itís part of a tribe. I say to my buying team, ĎDonít think competitively; think creatively.í 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. Sheís 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.


Youíve been here a long time. What do you think of Miamiís comeback as a cool travel destination? Whatís it like living and working in Miami year-round?
The sense one has in Miami is that itís a little bit driven for "every man for himself", in this phase of [the cityís] 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 canít overlook the fact that everyoneís 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 whoís upset about the littering. ē








‘One of my little secret ambitions is to redefine the concept of a department store. By and large, the concept hasnít 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: itís part of a tribe’

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