Faena boutique doubles down on uniqueness

Miami is a diverse place, a melting pot of cultures and immigrants from the world over. But one boutique store inside the Faena Miami Beach hotel is making it even more diverse, one item at a time.

Big Bang, a boutique on the hotel’s third floor shopping area, features an impressive selection of artisan and small-creator lifestyle items from across the world. As a whole, the store aims to reflect local cultures while also showing off a contemporary and creative point of view. The store describes itself as being “all about the origin of the creative impulse, celebrating our ability as humans to transmit culture through our hands.”

Big Bang at Faena Miami Beach

“I hand-pick the items,” said Big Bang’s founder and curator, Paula Selby Avellaneda. “Most of them, if not all, are one-of-a-kind. These are items that normally you wouldn’t find in other retail stores. Big Bang is really a new take on a souvenir store.”

Big Bang, which sells various men’s wear, women’s wear and accessories, shares a space with a spa reception area. Many store regulars are hotel guests who shop while waiting for a spa treatment or when leaving a session.

“We have built very strong relationships with them,” Avellaneda said. “We have a lot of returning customers.”

Big Bang opened in February 2020 — a less-than-ideal time given the COVID-19 pandemic closures that postponed her business from really taking off the following month. However, she was able to regain her footing by November 2020 when she could reopen.

Despite the protracted start due to the pandemic, each month Avellaneda said the store is breaking records. “We learn the analytics of what people are liking,” Avellaneda said. “People find it a unique shopping experience. We double down on that uniqueness. Each time, we try to find even more hard-to-find items. Customers want to be surprised. They don’t want to shop for what everybody else has.”

Avellaneda’s goal is to have items from every country. She’s already off to a good start, with collections from Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador and much of Europe.

She discovers her items through extensive travel and research. In a phone interview from Argentina, Avellaneda noted that she is always searching, contacting designers, asking for recommendations and learning about others’ design process.

“I work to see if they’ll be a match for us,” Avellaneda said. “I sometimes find designers in markets. Many times, we are their only other point of sale, aside from wherever their own space is.”

One example of her handiwork and resourcefulness are the baskets and handbags she sells made of capim dourado, a fiber with a golden shine that’s exclusively from Brazil.

“People find it a unique shopping experience. We double down on that uniqueness. Each time, we try to find even more hard-to-find items. Customers want to be surprised. They don’t want to shop for what everybody else has.”

“It’s very chic and durable, and it’s hard to find,” Avellaneda explained. “You really have to go and see it to appreciate it. This process puts everything in another context for all the hard work that goes into it.”

Avellaneda is a veteran of the retail and fashion industry. Her firm, Iridescent, specializes in creative brand strategy. Essentially, she and her team create a kind of “universe bible” by which a project has to live by.

“We dream of ideas. We make them very solid and we bring them down to Earth,” she said. “We figure out how to deploy it and what our milestones are.”

Iridescent will envision the overall guest experience, concept, logo — everything.

Avellaneda has worked on stores for Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana; Hotel Joaquin in Laguna Beach, California; and Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs, California.

Currently, she’s working on another project but can’t reveal much detail just yet.

“It’s a complete curation of a new way to experience a stay in a city,” Avellaneda said. “We are developing a new guest experience from the ground up.”

Her professional background has its roots in an eclectic upbringing with influences of world travel. Avellaneda’s mother, who she describes as gypsy-like, used to manufacture clothing in Bali.

So, a young Paula grew up spending time in Bali alongside her mother, as well as in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Avellaneda studied fashion design in Antwerp, Belgium, earning her bachelor’s in the subject and a master’s in visual arts. She described her educational experience as experimental and forward-thinking, not about traditional fashion.

She also moved to Paris to study management before relocating to London and starting a company that made outfits for musicians. Her work got shown in Paris.

Avellaneda also works in the bridal and couture industry, running business in both the U.S., where she is based in the Miami area, and Argentina.