• I stayed at the Trump International Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, for two nights in March.
  • The Trump brand’s image of luxury has attracted many wealthy Russians to the area.
  • The resort was full of flashy status symbols, which made me rethink how we view luxury.

Driving south on Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, it’s impossible to miss the tall, imposing condos that flank the road to the left. Three of these buildings sit side by side, a set of triplets matching in both design and an all white exterior. These are the Trump towers, a brand that has reeled in many wealthy Russians to the area.

The small city situated between Fort Lauderdale and Miami originated as a quaint strip of motels in the 1950s and 1960s. Over time, it became a destination for both tourists as well as immigrants fleeing Communism in the former Soviet Union. But a luxury development boom that began in the late 1990s and took off in the 2000s revitalized the city’s economy, which began to see an influx of wealth.

Trump doesn’t actually own the buildings but licensed the use of his name there, The Washington Post reported. The brand has held a huge appeal among Russian investors looking to move their money in the post-Soviet economy. Real-estate agents told the Post in 2016 that Trump’s image of luxury carries weight among the European, South American, and Asian elite, but especially among Russian oligarchs.

“When Russians get here, the first thing they ask is, ‘Where is the Trump building?'” Ilya Masarsky, real-estate developer who has worked with Russian investors in the US, told The Post.

Jose Lima, a salesperson for the company that developed the region’s Trump Towers, said at the time that Russian speakers bought about one-third of the 500 units he sold.

While I didn’t have access to the residential Trump Towers, I was able to stay two nights in the Trump International Resort that’s just up the road. It’s a place where conspicuous consumption is alive and well in the form of designer logos and flashy cars. As a millennial, who has come to see luxury as a more minimal, curated style, it made me think a lot about status symbols and how there are different ways to signal one’s class standing.