Where Have All the Models Gone?

Once an alluring symbol of South Beach, the fashion industry has all but disappeared

Yet Reider admits to Kulchur that he too is feeling the economic crunch. Ford has only 26 girls on-stay at the moment, down from 50 in 1999. "The models can only be here if the clients come here," Reider says. "People blame September 11, and sure, some clients are afraid to travel. But there was a recession long before that. What made Miami Beach attractive for this industry no longer exists. It used to be easy for the German [catalogue outfits] to get a hotel for $35 a night. They could afford to stay for a whole month, eat out at a restaurant every night, and they could walk right out onto the beach and shoot for free." Now, though, he continues wryly, "people are beginning to question paying ten dollars for a vodka tonic."

And despite a rollback immediately following September 11, hotel rates appear to be returning to their familiar stratospheric levels. "You've got old Art Deco hotels charging hundreds of dollars a night just because they can, even if the service isn't up to par," Reider notes. "It's like the dot-com companies during the Internet boom. There's no substantiation behind it all."

So if the local service industry refuses to drop prices and city hall remains unwilling to intercede, what is to be done? Should we get ready to air-kiss goodbye the Beach's long-legged giantesses? Is it all over for the modeling biz here?

Montenegro's Mijana Zigic puts on her game face inside Level as the ranks of South Beach's modeling industry thin out
Montenegro's Mijana Zigic puts on her game face inside Level as the ranks of South Beach's modeling industry thin out

"Oh, please!" dismisses Ford's Barbara Neumann, head of the agency's men's division. "I don't think it's over at all. People don't have the same budget they used to, and maybe models are going to have to pay for their own hotel rooms and airfare now, instead of the client. But you can fly down from New York for $140. What model is going to turn down a five-day booking at $2000 a day for a $140 ticket?" Neumann adds with a laugh: "That's less than a bottle of champagne at a nightclub!"

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