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By Eleni Gage | February 22, 2012 | Style & Beauty
|The Oxygene boutique at Bal Harbour Shops|
|Oxygene carries exclusive pieces, such as this Leelo dress ($5,505) from Azzaro|
|Katie Holmes and daughter Suri recently stopped in to browse Oxygene’s exclusive children’s selections|
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but it turns out they can be pretty good buddies with a high-end women and children’s boutique, as well. It was the rare stones that propelled Oxygene owners Felix and Shayne Cohen to supersize their much-loved Bal Harbour Shops boutique. “We’ve grown a lot in jewelry,” explains Shayne. “We’re selling real diamonds, and the space that we had was not adequate for it, because of the lighting. It was just a fashion store.”
Calling it “just a fashion store” may be selling the old Oxygene a bit short. The spot has been a Miami landmark for nearly three decades, since Felix moved from Paris “and wanted to bring some Parisian fashion to Miami—which, when we’re talking about 29 years ago, there wasn’t much [of],” says Shayne.
By creating a high-end, multi-label boutique, Felix started a trend (one that Intermix and Scoop NYC, among others, picked up on in subsequent years). He also opened Mini Oxygene, an exclusive shop for babies and children. But something was missing: the bling.
“I love jewelry, and when I came into Oxygene, we weren’t really selling any; we were mostly selling ready-to-wear,” says Shayne, who married Felix seven years ago. They met and fell in love within the gilded confines of Bal Harbour Shops, where Shayne, a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, was then the ready-to-wear manager at the Louis Vuitton store. After they married, she became influential in running Oxygene—a job that never takes a vacation: Just four years ago, the pair went on a pleasure trip to Capri, “where they have the best jewelry stores in the world,” she says. “So I started working on Felix, trying to convince him that we needed to carry jewelry, since we’re lucky enough to be in a place where people come on vacation, which is a romantic time to buy."
Apparently, vacations are also a propitious time to make business plans, because, says Shayne, “I worked my magic and got Felix to drive me from Capri to Florence to meet with designers. I came back with a huge order of jewelry. And now it’s become easily 40 percent of our business.”
Needing more room to show off their baubles, the Cohens took over the Luca Luca and Ralph Lauren spaces, and combined Oxygene and Mini Oxygene into what could be considered Mega-Oxygene, a massive temple to fashion, where customers walk in through the children’s section (the better to pick up some $450 Dior baby booties on their way to the register) before hitting the jewelry display cases, which have pride of place in the center of the store.
While jewelry has become a major piece of Oxygene’s business, it’s the clothing— a collection of high-end pieces curated via the Cohens’ sharp eyes—that keeps customers coming back. “The most difficult and the most successful part of the store is editing,” says Shayne. While Oxygene exclusively carries a number of lines that aren’t sold anywhere else in Miami (Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler, and almost all of the children’s clothes from Dior, Fendi, and Cavalli for Kids), many of the brands are, “so we choose the pieces that keep our own personality,” explains Shayne. “We go for the sexier, happier parts of the collection, and we’re very daring. If a dress comes in red and black, you’ll see the black in most other stores and we’ll buy the red, because we do handle a very fashion-forward clientele.”
Those edgy clients add to the sexy, happy, daring vibe of the store. “From celebrities to crazy people, there’s always something happening,” says Felix. That may mean Katie Holmes bringing Suri to browse the children’s clothes, Lil Wayne shopping for his sons, or Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, or any one of the Kardashians trying on eveningwear. A bit of international royalty doesn’t hurt, either. “The Arabic princesses are very low-key. They don’t look too fashionable, but they’ll spend $200,000 in a visit,” says Shayne. “They fall in love with three pairs of shoes, each for $2,000, then a handbag for $4,000, an evening dress for $12,000, a piece of jewelry for $25,000. It starts adding up.”
And then there are the customers who are Oxygene royalty: Miami princesses the store hooked while they were young. “A lot of beautiful girls in their late 20s or 30s come in and say, ‘Oh my God, I remember when I used to come with my mom and shop in Mini Oxygene,’” says Shayne. “So we’ve been creating temptation since the beginning.”
It’s a brilliant strategy for surviving changing economic times: Each new generation brings a fresh group of customers, which—along with the jewelry—may be another reason for Oxygene’s expansion: As its clients grow up, so grows the store. Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-0202
photograph by presscott mcdonald (opener, oxygene front, interior). hair and makeup by leandra david france (opener)