By Laura Janelle Downey
In her earliest days as a designer, teenage Rachel Weisberg was altering sweaters into tote bags, teaching herself to sew using a hand-me-down machine, and crafting her own floral-print prom dress. The Miamian then took to Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, and just two years after graduating, in 2012, she launched her eponymous clothing, accessories and home goods line.
Her pieces are handmade from sustainable elements (think organic cotton, vintage textiles, low impact dyes, spices and produce like turmeric and blackberries) and crafted in the U.S. “My collection is made for a woman … who is low maintenance and beautiful,” Weisberg says of her designs that were created for all body types. “A woman who is self-confident and knows who she is can be found in my creations.”
Since returning to Miami in 2012, the 26-year-old spends most of her days in her home studio. Although she’s often inclined to visit the Big Apple for her favorite stores, she says Miami offers the best in boutique experiences, from discovering unique pieces to locating shop owners who keep her coming back again and again. Weisberg gives us the scoop on these beloved specialty shops that line the streets of her sunny hometown.
Loews Magazine: How does the Miami environment and culture influence your collections?
Rachel Weisberg: One of my pieces is a very textured organic sleeveless crop top, and the use of its waffle knit heavy material was inspired by the ocean right when the sun and the moon hits it. There are different blues, greens and grays that almost look the same but are really different when they are next to each other. This collection of 10 to 15 pieces that includes organic hand-dyed sheer wrap skirts and long jumpers with halter tops is definitely more about the colors.
LM: Is there a particular shop you visit for design inspiration?
RW: Books & Books in Coral Gables has an entire room dedicated to art and design. … I always end up leaving with a book or something. The last one I purchased was filled with sketches of all these old flowers and plants.
LM: You focus a lot on sustainability. Is there a neighborhood in Miami that mirrors your lifestyle?
RW: I live and work in Coconut Grove, and I like that it’s a walkable city. There’s an organic farmers market, [Glaser Organic Farms], that I go to on Saturdays, and there are tons of restaurants and shops. I really like going to the indoor/outdoor Peacock Garden Cafe. They have an herb garden growing out of a bathtub, and the food is really good. I’m a pescatarian so I always order the mahi sandwich and a glass of sangria to go with it.
LM: Can you recommend a store for one-stop shopping?
RW: Design Bar is where you can get any last-minute gifts from $12 to $150. It’s one of my go-to shops if you’re running to a baby shower or a party. I love to buy Aquiesse candles from here. I like earthy smells that are natural, and they have this scent in sandalwood that’s my favorite.
LM: Which Miami boutiques are currently on your radar?
RW: I just bought a pair of black pants with zipper detail from Goldie in Coconut Grove. They are handmade and designed by Sheryl Rubio for Melao. It’s a great fall pant for Miami. Another place is Emporium in Coral Gables. … They have this navy poncho coming in from a Miami designer named Atina Cristina—it’s 100-percent acrylic, and it’s super cozy. And I also frequent Ramona La Rue [by Arianne] in the up-and-coming Wynwood Arts District. Her textiles are amazing.
LM: What are the benefits of shopping in Miami as opposed to a larger city?
RW: There’s such a movement of small designers and handmade things here. Miami’s boutiques offer an intimate environment and larger cities really don’t. I like when things feel handmade and there’s uniqueness to them. When there’s a print or shape … that I’ve never seen before, I have to have it. It’s all about buying things that you want to keep in your closet forever. Plus, if your experience with the store owner is special, you’ll keep going back.