Escape from Snowmageddon

A group of New Yorkers took refuge in South Beach. Why chill in the snow when you can chillax in Miami?

Scott Studenberg, Susan Miller, & Solange Knowles2

I apologize in advance — I was in Miami for the blizzard last weekend. I caught a Friday flight to the Magic City right before Jonas hit and spent a weekend at The Standard Spa. I’m really sorry. I hope I haven’t cashed in on all my karma.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the hotel crammed a wellness retreat into three nights. I have some experience in this field. The weekend had a summer camp theme — “#CampStandard” was the encouraged hashtag — and we had a full day of activities planned: crafts, playing games, and eating s’mores. When I got to my hotel room and saw the itinerary, overwhelmed, I flopped down on the giant marshmallow of a hotel bed and didn’t want to leave.

I know this is like when a model says “Modeling is hard work!” but these organized excursions can be challenging. You must remain enthusiastic, having to play along with all the activities, even if you would rather lounge around in your hotel room totally naked and just use all the towels and toiletries you can get your hands on. But I knew it was my duty to show up with a smile.

A summer camp theme for fashion-y adults could have gone terribly wrong. But the theme works for the hotel, which has a fun, easy atmosphere, wonderful staff, and retro fixtures (loved the ’70s peach colored tilework and toilet!) The Standard understands the often-misemployed koan of hospitality: it is not forcing itself to be chic, and therefore it is chic.

Also, fortunately, the weather that weekend was brisk as New England June day, so the paddle boat race was cancelled, and people were just too cold and hungover to do the parachute games. It also helped that the Standard organizers and guest “counselors” were all friendly, supportive and incredibly attractive — how you want your camp counselors.

On the first night, I sat down for a large dinner that had Miami luminaries in attendance, like the model Inés River and the art collectors Kathryn and Dan Mikesell. I was with my camp “counselors” Nicole Winhoffer – “Madonna‘s personal trainer” – “milliner of the moment” Gigi Burris, and John Targon and Scott Studenberg, creators of the well-draped unisex clothing line, Baja East. All four were youthfully riding an upward swing in their careers and beamed with positive energy. It was nice to be around people who haven’t been emotionally run over by a tank a hundred times yet. They were also extremely knowledgeable about their business, and seemed focused on making their brands succeed. And they took a lot of selfies and posted to Instagram with ease.

Burris explained how later that weekend she would be going to visit The Webster in South Beach, where some of her hats are featured, to meet with salespeople. It’s called a ‘clinic’ apparently in the industry. As a lover of lingo, I was thrilled to learn this term for simply being a nice person and connecting with people, which Burris — intelligent and pleasant as a breeze — must excel at. “I just like meeting the sales representatives. They have the information,” she said. “I found out that Nicki Minaj bought one of my hats last August there and I would never known that if I hadn’t been there face to face.”

Looks go a long way in the fashion and apparel industry, but you can’t be stupid. The Baja East boys have experience in sales, distribution and strategy for major luxury houses — Studenberg at Lanvin and Targon at Céline, and they are preternaturally savvy about the business. Talk went from the real reasons behind Natalie Massenet’s departure at Net a Porter to the pros and cons of micro-seasons to Y-3 as the beginning of a fashion paradigm shift.

I ran into an old friend, Ulrich, who I have known since the ‘90s, and who had just moved to Miami from New York, and all of us got gradually drunk on red wine (or at least I did) and people converged in the Baja boys’ room for Champagne. Some gorgeous studs showed up (the Baja boys somehow conjured them). One was the kind of latin muscle boy you would fantasize about meeting in Miami. Don’t remember his name.

The other was a stylist working on Madonna’s show. He had long hair and a perfectly formed body. He looked like a Harlequin Romance novel cover, but in a good way. “Three hundred people are on staff for Madonna’s concert tour,” he told me. Three hundred! What a managerial undertaking.

The Baja boys and accompanying studs were headed out to Twist, a big two-level, gay bar and club with three dance floors in South Beach. Speaking for both of us, Ulrich said, “Oh, no. We aren’t going. When you become our age you don’t need to look around so much.” Both of us having been emotionally run over by a tank a hundred times in the city, we seek the recuperating joy of a well-stocked hotel room.

I went to bed. The next morning, Winhoffer lead a fun, sweaty, intense exercise class that was giving me ‘80s workout throwback realness. Somehow Mr. Targon and others who went to Twist the night before showed up on time, even though I heard them return at 5 a.m. If I had gone out with them and made it to this class, there would be an Instagram photo of me on the floor in septic shock.

At the end, Winhoffer closed her class with upbeat, encouraging, strengthening words. “You are so much more than your limits. You are not your thoughts!” I was blown away by her wisdom. In her early 30s, she is encouraging mindfulness — a practice that I didn’t understand until three years ago, after being run over by that proverbial tank numerous times.

Later we met up for crafts — Tye Dyeing, led by the Baja boys, and making hat pins, led by Ms. Burris. Fellow “counselor” Thaddeus O’Neil was there as well. Tall as a surfboard and gorgeous as a Hemsworth, he also looks like a Harlequin Romance cover, in a good way. He expertly ombré-d his camp shirt, and told me he was mulling a trip to Japan, where his clothing line is doing very well.

Not that it was effortless in the past, but there are so many challenges to being an independent designer today. Showing at fashion week is not easy for brands like his and Baja East. “It’s so costly, and when you are up against big brands with all their machinery, you just don’t know if its worth it sometimes,” O’Neil mused. It certainly helps that he is kind and wonderful to look at. Everyone here was. I felt like I did when I was mildly popular in high school and went on a Beach Week trip with the totally, fully popular kids – everyone so gorgeous, nice, with great outlooks on life.

Suddenly vodka shots were handed out. At first I declined but they kept coming and coming. I felt like I was on a reality show, or an episode of unREAL. People got really drunk. Like in a late-‘90s Daytona Spring Break kind of way. Someone lost their phone, someone lost their clothes. I went to the hammam to sweat it out.

That evening, somehow, I came through the other side and joined everyone in the lobby to hear Susan Miller speak, followed by an intimate concert by Solange. Afterward, we all converged at the hammam for an after party. Someone named DJ Cassinelli spun wonderful Middle Eastern-flavored dance music. We all drank Champagne and rosé wine, steamed ourselves and then drank and danced some more. There was even a runway battle. I also heard that there was hanky-panky happening in one of the side alcoves — involving heterosexuals! You know it’s a good party when the straights get sexy. At some point I needed to leave and lie down. I was literally cooked. Or rather braised in a wine reduction.

Back in my room, recovering on my marshmallow bed, I tried to price it out a bit. Susan Miller must command a speaking fee of at least $3,000 dollars. And Solange must be even more. And that DJ was at least making the same fee that a hotel room here would cost for a night. How does an event like this recoup its expense? I wondered if this effort was worth it. I mean, I didn’t wonder too hard. Then I realized, this whole weekend was to create as much visual marketing as possible for everyone involved. There were a lot of cameras around. No one seemed to mind. Imagery is power, more and more.

Next door I heard revelers preparing to go out again to Twist, playing bouncey beats and talking enthusiastically about the nightlife scene in Miami. Listening to them, I grew a bit melancholy for my own headless days. I remembered being here when I was 30, thinking that going to Twist would be a good idea, too. I walked out to the pool and looked out over Biscayne Bay and felt the evocative power of the Miami horizon, flat and expansive and perched on the edge. Cars flew across all those bridges and I felt the cosmic melancholy that comes with age. Precious, ambitious Miami, the city that is drowning.

The next day there was a huge party, but it wasn’t free anymore. I had a $10 hotdog and a couple wines. Back to reality.

Photos: Escape from Snowmageddon

“Counselors” Nichole Winhoffer and Scott Studenberg.

Solange performs.

A nameless latin stud and pals prepare for the runway battle.

Thaddeus O’Neil dries his tie dye.

Miami’s New England summer weather.

“Counselor Burris” i.e. Gigi Burris.

Lunching in the garden at The Standard Spa.

Things heat up at the hammam party.

Scott Studenberg, Susan Miller, and Solange Knowles.

Solange. Courtesy photo.

Scott Studenberg and John Targon.