The four amazing women from the Lowenstein family sit down with Haute Living to share with us how working together has led to their fabled success
We developed the idea of using the lion, as we wanted to differentiate our brand from our competition.
As the saying goes, behind every successful man is a great woman. Well, in the Lowenstein family-the masterminds behind Lionstone Development, the company that owns The Ritz Carlton South Beach and is co-developing the new EPIC Residences and Hotel in downtown Miami- Alfredo Lowenstein and his son Diego may be standing in the spotlight, but standing right behind them are four outstanding women. Diana Lowenstein, the matriarch of the Argentinean clan, and her three daughters Paula, Flavia and Carla have taken the time to tell Haute Living how their collective touch turns everything to gold.
Why come to Miami?
Diana: We have been coming to Miami and investing in property here since the late 1960’s. We came to this city since it is the same time zone [as Argentina], and is very Latin-friendly. We felt very comfortable, and a lot of our family has also chosen to live-although not permanently– in Miami. It was very obvious choice, although this was in the 1960’s, and Miami was different place.
Tell us about your investments?
Diana: Location, location, location is my husband’s business model–Always invest in the corner location overlooking the water! [In the 60’s], we owned the only hotel on Ocean Drive, (called The White House). We also owned what is now the Seville (we sold it a long time ago), and some real estate on Lincoln Road. Off the beach, we bought some homes in Pembroke Pines, and some shopping centers, and later we bought a lot of stuff in the Caribbean, including Aruba, St. Thomas, and more. What started out as a small side business later became the core family business.
Did you or your husband predict this would happen when you got involved, or did it just occur naturally?
Diana: My husband had a vision, and he is a very perceptive person. He is very brave, and took a chance that has paid off. When he invested in Miami, it was not the city it is today, but he made the investments and never gave up. He always believed this city would become a 5-star worldwide destination.
Your family developed the Ritz Carlton, South Beach a few years ago. One of the things that made this project so special is that you put art from your personal collection in the hotel, and created a completely different look from the average Ritz Carlton Hotel. Can you explain this?
Diana: When I decided to place my artwork in the Ritz, everyone thought I was crazy. Now, it has become famous, as this is one of the most unique Ritz Carlton Hotels. This was unlike most of the past Ritz owners, as all Ritzs usually are the same. This was the first Ritz Carlton that was designed completely different, and now the company expects this to happen in future markets.
Carla: Yes, the owner of Marriott [who is behind the Ritz Carlton South Beach] was very happy with the finished product, and we are very proud that he allowed us to place our vision in this hotel.
Do you see this as a growing trend?
Carla: Well, it was funny. I was recently asked in an interview why everyone in Miami is placing their personal art collections in their hotels and developments. It is natural: You own a hotel/condo, and naturally you want it to be the best, so you want to place your art in the hotel.
It is funny to see that you all lived in different places before you came to Miami. Carla, why did you choose to go to school in New York?
Carla: My sister Flavia told me that I should go to school in New York, as it is the key place to absorb the creative world of advertising and media, and so Parsons [School for Design] was the best choice for me.
Why did you move back to Miami?
Carla: I had a great opportunity to be working with my family, and I was able to help promote my family’s brands-first with my mother’s art gallery, and then developing the Lionstone brand. Lowenstein translates to Lionstone in English–We developed the idea of using the lion, as we wanted to differentiate our brand from our competition.
How has your work helped create the brand?
Carla: Everything including the menus, hotel brochures, etc are all very lavish. With this hotel, everything ties to the Miami marketplace and adds to the brand. In terms of marketing, we want to give people what they want and we want them to feel that they are part of Miami history in the making, when they see what we have created.
Paula, tell me more about you?
Paula: Well, it is like my parents divided the children, and made two distinct brains (myself and Diego) like my father, and two very creative ones (Flavia and Carla) that are like mama.
Flavia: Hey, we also have brains!
Paula: Yes, we are all very smart, but we all think differently. I went to business school, and went straight into business instead of getting a masters degree. I already knew I wanted to work for my father. After school, I came to Miami to work for my family-owned Di-Lido Hotel and Seville Beach Hotel in Miami Beach. I spent a year and a half working in the administration and marketing part of the hotel business, which was the best schooling I ever had.
I also helped launch the Wendy’s brand in Argentina, after a joint venture agreement was made between my family and Wendy’s International, which for us went very well. We bought into the brand and expanded to over 30 stores throughout Argentina. Then my father got nervous with the Argentina market and we sold out, fortunately at the right time.
Paula: We all came to Miami (Deigo, Flavia, and myself) within a three month period of each other, right when The Ritz Carlton South Beach was under construction.
Flavia, can you tell me more about you?
Flavia: I have always said I wanted to be creative like my mother and go into interior design. I wanted to pursue the fashion world. So, I went to New York, and got my degree from FIT, and then was able to escape to Milan, which was where I really wanted to be. I got my masters degree in marketing and market development in Milan, so I could not just concentrate on fashion, but could focus on building a product, and on the business behind the fashion industry.
After Milan, what next?
Flavia: I moved back to Buenos Aires, where I designed, owned and operated a successful upscale retail venture housing a shop-in-shop concept positioning labels like Dolce & Gabbana, Tod’s and Sergio Rossi, to name a few. I was responsible for the planning, layout, and interior design for the space as well as other retail stores developed in the city. I am proud to say that I introduced the Italian concept of fashion to the Argentinean market. It was about creating a lifestyle for the Argentinean market, instead of always having to go shopping abroad. It was a lot of fun because I did it with my mother– We would go to all of the fashion shows.!
Flavia: We closed and moved on. Nobody has been able to replicate our success in bringing major shows (such as Donna Karen) and labels into Argentina’s Market since.
Then you decided to move back to Miami?
Flavia: Yes, I decided I wanted to work in the fashion design part of my family’s business. I have participated in the interior design redevelopment of the company’s properties in the Caribbean and South Florida.
Do you believe in the Hotel/Condo Concept?
Flavia: Yes, we do– That is what we are doing with the Ritz Carlton concept. It is great, because if you own a unit, you can give the room to the Hotel, and get income from your investment.
What made you choose different partners in EPIC with Ugo Colombo and Ritz Carlton Residences with Fortune?
Flavia: Each one brings a different set of skills and expertise, which makes us a stronger developer.
Tell us about Epic Residences and Hotel?
Paula: Unlike the Ritz Carlton, we are creating our own brand, along with our own hotel. It is very exciting.
What made you choose Brickell, since most of your projects have been on the beach?
Carla: Because it is on the Miami River– This is the best location in downtown Miami, and has amazing views. Some people would rather live on the beach, but a lot of people want to live the downtown life. With the development going in downtown, this will be a completely different area than what is currently available. We have the Mary Brickell Village, and the Whole Foods that will be built across the street from Epic. This will allow people to be in a cosmopolitan city-type market, instead of being right on the beach. Almost like a mini New York City.
Diana: Miami is becoming a driving nightmare. There are a lot of people that will live and work downtown. To me, it is like creating a mini-Manhattan. The downtown market is changing, and in a couple of years, you will not be able to recognize the Miami skyline.
Tell us about Art Basel? What does it mean to you?
Diana: Well, I was very fortunate: When I had my gallery in Argentina, I was able to participate in the Art Basel in Switzerland. When I found out that Art Basel chose to move to Miami, we knew that something big was going to happen in this city.
What do you mean?
Diana: You need to understand: Europeans are smart. They would not pick Miami as the place to host Art Basel over New York or LA unless they were sure something big was going to happen. They feel Miami is the perfect melting pot, and the current center of the US.
Has Art Basel in Miami been successful?
Diana: Big time! It is funny-many art collectors around the world talk only about coming to Art Basel in Miami. It has become larger than life, and I believe more so than Art Basel in Switzerland. This has become huge for this city, as it has brought awareness for the museums, institutions, and artists who now look at Miami as a hub.
Has Art Basel go to be too much? Too trendy?
Diana: I hate to say it, but yes. It is becoming too much of an event. There are parties ten times a day, but that is Miami. In Basel, it is more about the art, and less the parties and events, but still everything is over the top. But, that is why we love Miami so much, as that is the way we live. Believe it or not, there are going to be seven art fairs in Miami this year, along with Art Basel.