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Fashion News

The Story of Stanley Whitman’s Bal Harbour Shops

Black and white image of retail visionary and creator of Bal Harbour Shops Stanley Whitman inside Versace Bal Harbour in 1991

Retail visionary Stanley Whitman at the opening of the Versace boutique in 1991

Step into the wonderful world of retail visionary Stanley Whitman—often called the Walt Disney of Retail—and creator of Bal Harbour Shops, the most successful luxury fashion destination in the world, with Rizzoli’s newly launched Theater of Shopping, now available at Books & Books Bal Harbour.

Cover image of Rizzoli's Theater of Shopping: The Story of Stanley Whitman's Bal Harbour Shops

The cover of Theater of Shopping by Alastair Gordon and foreword by Matt Tyrnauer

Whitman spent his childhood on Collins Avenue and 32nd street in his family’s five-bedroom home witnessing the city’s evolution from mangrove-filled marshlands to a world-class resort destination.

Employee working as "Frazier" the iconic Bal Harbour Shops attendant dressed in a white and red Bahamian police uniform providing guidance to a shopper.

An employee working as “Frazier” the iconic Bal Harbour Shops attendant dressed in a Bahamian police uniform

To Whitman, Miami was a canvas of possibilities, where he would eventually create a destination unlike any other attracting shoppers from all over the globe, as they could sit beside koi ponds amid a lush tropical landscape while shopping the most esteemed designer brands.

Archival Bal Harbour Shops brochure from the 1950s featuring a rendering of the mall by James R. Bingham

A Bal Harbour Shops brochure from the 1950s featuring a rendering of the mall by James R. Bingham

He meticulously documented everything as he traveled from Fifth Avenue to dozens of middle-of-the-road establishments to the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, which became an inspiration for the Shops. “You can’t ever compromise with architects…you pay them and they do it your way,” Whitman said.

Black and white image of Stanley Whitman and his brothers Bill and Dudley with other surfers at Daytona Beach circa 1934

Brothers Bill, Stanley and Dudley Whitman (left to right) with other early surfers at Daytona Beach, c. 1934

Whitman dedicated his life to creating a unique and beguiling fashion center that would stand the test of time. He paid close attention to how his customers utilized his creation, adapting to the ever-changing wants and needs and predicting ones to come. He understood the importance of experience, designing a space that was beyond brick and mortar—an establishment that holds a deep-seated emotional connection from its most loyal shoppers to first-timers.

Full-page ad for Bal Harbour Shops in The Miami Herald from December 4, 1966 depicting an image of the woman in a red dress swinging above the Shops

Full-page ad for Bal Harbour Shops in The Miami Herald from December 4, 1966

Whitman’s grandson, Matthew Whitman Lazenby carries forth his grandfather’s legacy and continues to stay one step ahead of the times as the Shops continues to thrive and evolve. “Bal Harbour Shops has always been about creating something memorable,” says Lazenby. “People have emotional connections to Bal Harbour, which is very unique for a shopping center. Stanley Whitman certainly set the tone for generations to come.”

Black and white image of Stanley Whitman with his parents and brother circa 1926

Bal Harbour Shops founder Stanley Whitman with his parents and brother sometime c. 1926


M.W. LECHNER March 05, 2019 at 2:01 pm

one of the world’s greatest shopping destinations, no doubt about it, and a pleasant place to be. With so much of Florida going askew, we’ll put in a kind word for this truly great shopping center. Dedicated as an example of prosperity and beauty, this shopping center has always been one of the brightest lights of SE Florida, and fun too. Yet, some of the merchants are poor traders, and should have their leases terminated. Overall excellent !


Anneliese Velazquez March 07, 2019 at 11:34 am

Very interesting


Jay Shapiri March 11, 2019 at 1:02 pm

We love the car shows and charity events there. Looking forward to the 3rd Annual South Florida Celebrity Fest.


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