Simonett's Miami Swim Week debut with Paraiso was one of the quieter, calmer presentations for showgoers during the weekend. (We were in Miami Beach, after all.) Located in the lobby of the newly opened Lennox Hotel, the brand presented a mix of signature pieces in white — from its currently available Spring 2019 and soon-to-be-released Pre-Fall 2019 collections. While the overall vibe was refreshingly serene with artsy floral arrangements a crisp white background, prepping for this tranquil display, on the other hand, was a different story.
"All of the programming moved indoors because it's way too hot out and nobody would want to be outside," recalls Simonett Pereira, founder and creative director of her (now) namesake brand. (More on that later.) "So we basically changed our whole setup. I had to run and get a curtain last minute from my showroom, and mind you, we loaded in at 10 p.m. I stayed up all night trying to figure out what to do. It was a big struggle."
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Luckily, Pereira is no stranger to changing things up for the sake of her business. After five years of running what was formerly known as Style Mafia, she introduced the inaugural Spring 2019 collection of Simonett in January, marking a new era for the brand.
"We've grown up, and I feel our customers have grown with us. I don't just want to make clothes anymore. I want to enhance people's lives, and that's what we're doing now," says Pereira. "Changing the name also was a way for me to introduce myself into what I've been working on for the past five years. I need to make this more personal and put a face behind all of these things. It was an opportunity for me to open it up, as well."
Born in Venezuela and having grown up in the suburbs in Miami, Pereira used clothes as a way to help communicate and express herself. By the end of high school, she started a blog called The Goodwill Project; every day for a whole year, she and friends would go to their local Goodwill, pick their favorite pieces and style a look. (Eventually, Goodwill took notice and sponsored them.) A few years later, they were approached by Poshmark, around the time when the online marketplace had recently launched, to help host a Posh Party in Miami. After opening an account on the resale app to offer her finds from Goodwill, she quickly garnered a following and realized how much she loved styling and selling clothes.
Pereira attended Miami Institute University of Art and Design but dropped out after two years, since she already had such a large platform (and some income) through her resale business. "It gave me a little push to feel competent enough to release something that was my own before I ever started designing," says Pereira. But it wasn't until her mom, who has a background in designing accessories, approached her with the plan to start a brand together. As a silent partner, she helped fund the business and connected Pereira with factories in China. "I have her to thank and we've been partners ever since," she says.
Style Mafia first launched as a retail concept with low minimums and a showroom in Wynwood, which is still open today. The business took off in Miami, as well as across retailers like Asos, Shopbop, Free People, Urban Outfitters and Galeries Lafayette, and Pereira dropped new, stylish collections every month at affordable places. "That was always one of the most amazing parts of Style Mafia, but also one of the biggest challenges," she says. "It was way too draining on me and I realized the collections were suffering. I wasn't making things that I even wanted to wear."
Now with Simonett, Pereira releases collections according to the seasonal calendar. The slower pace has allowed her to focus more on quality fabric choices, stronger style choices and exclusivity. Simonett's Solar Dress from Spring 2019 has been a hit since the rebrand, and for pre-fall, Pereira revamped it into a top, maintaining the style's signature high neck, smocked waist and large, puffy sleeves.
"I definitely feel when you grow up as a brand, you steer away from the gimmicky stuff for attention and you focus more on pieces that you can feel comfortable in," says Pereira. "Now we definitely have a more cohesive vision while still offering a ton of variety. Also while building a brand in general, we've realized that community and having a human touch is so important."
Though the brand is still stocked at select retailers, Pereira aims to have a majority of her retail business as direct-to-consumer. In June, she opened the brand's first pop-up shop in the Miami Design District, filled with Simonett's latest offerings and a curation of other brands, like jewelry from Éliou and handbags from Disco Rojo. Pereira has also used the new location to host events alongside local businesses, such as a floral workshop with Calma and an upcoming ceramics class with Kuu. A mini-capsule of home items are set to launch soon, too.
Of course, Pereira says she would love to show at New York Fashion Week one day, especially after having a presentation already under her belt. But don't expect her moving out of Miami anytime soon. In fact, she's focused on Simonett and the community around her more than ever.
"Miami is emerging but that makes it so much more raw and it gives young, creative entrepreneurs the opportunity to really just carve out their niche here. We're literally building what the city is becoming and being a part of that is extremely exciting," says Pereira. "People always ask me, 'Why aren't you in New York?' And I refuse. I love living here. It's refreshing and it's beautiful and it's recharging to be in a place like this."
See some of Simonett's Pre-Fall 2019 collection in the gallery below.
Disclosure: Paraiso paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.