The House of Freeborn Recap Blog

The House of Freeborn - Recap

Wynwood, Miami -  Art Basel 2023

Written by James Freeborn on 1/12/24

           My dream of bringing Freeborn Designs to Miami for Art Basel has been brewing since early 2018. The lure of making a name for the brand at the world’s most cutting edge art show in one of the world’s most exciting cities was far too much for me to ignore.

          The stars aligned in October 2023 when my schedule and resources allowed me to make the 3000 mile trek from San Francisco to Miami.  This journey took about 12 days to complete with road trip stops at unique locations like Sedona, Arizona, The Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival, and the Annular Eclipse in Roswell, New Mexico along the way. I travel in a large van and trailer that I built out in 2017.  We scheduled a tour stop at Hulaween Music Festival in Northwest Florida which was an incredibly fun and successful event.


          My original plan was to show up in Miami around November 1st, and start exploring the city trying to scout vacant storefronts to negotiate a 2 month popup shop. I knew going into this plan that it was kind of a crazy idea to land somewhere with absolutely no contacts, but I've always had really good luck with this kind of stuff in the past and believed I could do it. While browsing Airbnb for a room to live in during my stay in Miami, I stumbled across an old 18 person hostel connected to a restaurant and nightclub in Wynwood that really caught my eye. After discussions with the owner, we conceived the idea of transforming the five-bedroom house into "The House of Freeborn". I immediately loved this idea and figured it was the most unique option that I had available to me, and I doubted that I would ever have the opportunity to do something like this ever again. 

          I knew that this was going to be quite a big project to undertake because of the construction that was required, but I had about 3 weeks to complete everything before the start of Art Basel which was my main focus of this project. I decided to convert the outdoor patio into a space that resembles my festival booth with my standard designs, and then convert the downstairs bunk rooms into showrooms that were themed based on my limited edition series, and my outerwear/ party collection. I used the upstairs rooms for my personal bedroom and guest beds. Dealing with unpredictable weather, ranging from scorching 90-degree days to 6 inches of rain in an afternoon, added an extra layer of complexity to the setup.  Since the house was connected to a nightclub, I had to adjust my business hours to match, so we were open from 7pm to 3am every night which was also a bit of a challenging adjustment. 

          Upon arrival in Miami I quickly connected with a diverse array of like-minded individuals gearing up for Art Basel – artists, musicians, restaurateurs, promoters, welders, photographers, and influencers. Being part of this eclectic community reaffirmed the significance of my journey. Our neighbors contributed to the artistic environment with a giant warehouse space transformed into a massive Jungle Castle, serving as a central hub for fellow creatives. Ladybug Art Cars, crafted by them, became a unique means of getting around the city throughout our stay in Miami.

          With only a two-month stint in Miami, every moment had to be maximized. Immersing myself in the city's art and culture became a priority. Wynwood, our neighborhood, renowned as the street art capital of the world, boasted beautiful murals surrounded by distinctive restaurants, nightclubs, and retail stores. Exploring the city's clubs and venues culminated in a memorable evening featuring the Mr. 305, Mr. Worldwide – Pitbull  with an opening set from latin legend Ricky Martin. It doesn't get any more Miami.

          I had been planning my approach to Art Basel for quite some time. I knew that in order to pull this off successfully I would need an extensive marketing plan, and a good team of friends to help around the house. We got pretty creative on the marketing side of things and I learned a ton of new tactics. This was my first time creating a press release to send to news outlets throughout the city. I focused heavily on social media marketing by creating targeted reels and advertisements. We also created flyers and posters which were plastered around the city, and I even hired a mobile billboard to drive around specific neighborhoods like Brickell, Wynwood and the Design District.

          I invited 10 of some of the most interesting people in my life to come live at The House of Freeborn during this week. We all went to art shows together dressed in Freeborn and had a really fun time promoting the brand and networking with everyone at the events we went to. This proved crucial to our success throughout the week. We featured live painters on the front patio and did everything we could to bring as much of a “house party” vibe as possible. Some of the stand out events we saw throughout the week besides Art Basel itself were Art Miami, Faena, Design Miami, Red Dot, Spectrum, Gateway, and Context. We were at events attended by celebrities such as Tom Delong (Blink 182), Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Madonna, Kanye West, and Fat Joe. 

          After that week was finally over and we had time to rest, I spent the remainder of my time in Miami focusing on content creation and networking. I completely fell in love with Miami during this trip, so I also spent time researching options for opening a permanent location in the future. This proved to be a bit unattainable at this time due to the growth of Miami and the insane property values and rent prices but we feel confident well be able to make something work down the road. We continued to keep the House of Freeborn open 5 days a week until New Years, although the location of the house made this rather difficult due to the off the beaten path location and weather. 

          We started packing down the house on January 1st, and had to return the hostel back to its original condition. This was a pretty intensive process to complete in 3 days, but we knocked it out with time to enjoy one last day on the beach. I ended up booking a spot at Gem and Jam Music Festival in Tucson, Arizona February 2nd-4th, so I'll be driving West in the very near future. We will also be preparing for the Texas Eclipse festival in April. Overall The House of Freeborn was an incredible experience, and I am super proud of my team and everything that we were able to accomplish over these 2 months. I am excited to get back to San Francisco and spend some time in the Castro.


WATCH- The Construction of The House of Freeborn

WATCH- The House of Freeborn Promo Video

Thanks so much for reading along!

~ James Freeborn