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Do Fashion Models Affect Real Estate in Miami?

Real Estate in Miami is the ultimate sign of prestige for jetsetters from around the globe.  International money is pouring into luxury condos, pre-construction developments and waterfront mansions at unprecedented historic rates.  When one acre of waterfront real estate in Miami sells for $125 million dollars, you know that the market is surging. Florida is getting a whopping 34% of the $92.2 billion total international investment dollars that are pumping into the United States – with the lions-share of those funds going into the Miami region.

Fashion models are the ultimate personification of the good life.  They appear in our finest magazines, billboards and televisions commercials alongside the most prestigious brands in the world.  They stimulate our  collective imaginations with beauty and creativity – allowing us to project ourselves into their world of glizt and glamour.  More than anywhere else in the world, Miami is the city associated with this dream world of parties and incredibly attractive people. Mercedes Benz Swim Week 2014 is currently here.  The city is alive with beauty and excitement.  With this, a question comes to mind…has the surreal world of fashion modeling impacted real estate in Miami?  Through owning both a modeling agency and real estate business in Miami, I have some interesting answers to that question and more…

History of Fashion Modeling and Real Estate in Miami

In order to connect the dots, lets take a look at the history of fashion modeling and real estate in Miami.  The city of Miami Beach has been synonymous with fashion models and real estate for the last 25 years. In fact, it was the fashion modeling industry that served as a tremendous catalyst to the allure of what is today South Beach. Back in the early 80’s, Miami had a bad reputation as being quite dangerous.  The infamous Time Magazine cover — Paradise Lost, was the last straw. The Colombian cartels had moved into the city and brought Miami into a tremendous downward slope of violence.

Time Magazine Cover

The future prospects for the city were bleak. South Beach was known for its drug dealers, crime and senior citizens living in very small apartments. Once the Time Magazine issue hit circulation, the general public of not only Florida, but the entire United States was outraged.  The US government took notice and ordered a massive deployment of police and quasi-military action in order to ‘take back’ the city and make it safer.  By the late 80’s, the Colombian cartel was under control and South Beach was relatively safe again.

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Miami caught its first break with the widespread success of the Miami Vice television show.  Suddenly, Miami became dubbed as the American Riviera – sexy, fun and exciting. The fashion industry absolutely adores each of those attributes for their locations. Soon, the fashion migration into Miami started. German photographic teams came to Miami for the perfect weather and countless incredible locations for photo shoots.  Owners of real estate in Miami took notice of the influx of beauty into the city. They were extremely hospitable to the crews and models coming into the city – offering them free rooms in exchange for credits in magazines.

Big Changes Underway

Word began to spread that Miami was the new target destination for fashion. People started returning to South Beach, as visitors and as investors. Decaying, old hotels were restored and made to look better than ever. Real estate in Miami was undergoing a slow metamorphosis, with South Beach leading the way.

The Iconic Work of Bruce and Calvin

The next step  was to find an identity for the hot new beachfront neighborhood of what is now called South Beach. Calvin Klein stepped in and made his mark.  Photographer Bruce Weber came to South Beach to shoot a series of Klein’s wildly successful and controversial underwear ads. (in this previous blog post in discussed meeting Bruce at his Golden Beach Mansion). The images from the campaign were incredibly popular. The fashion industry absolutely adores new trends, and consequently, the fashion industry decision-makers became intrigued (no, make that obsesssed) with Miami. The colorful art deco style buildings popped quite well through the pristine natural light of Miami Beach.  The beaches and aquamarine water of the ocean were magnificent.  And the endless summer weather was conducive for being half-naked year round.

Sobe is Born

Combined with the new IT city label, Miami was a grand slam destination for the world’s most prestigious photo shoots.  The designers came along with sexy models and amazing photographers. And then a lot of tourists came just to watch them.  Chic restaurants started appearing in hotel lobbies and on sidewalk cafes.  The press caught on and South Beach started rolling off of everyone’s tongue. Or rather, SoBe, in keeping with those other trendy enclaves like New York’s SoHo and San Francisco’s SoMa. Madonna came and so did Sylvester Stallone.

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The biggest event of them all for the fashion-induced surge of excitement for real estate in Miami came when the legendary designer Gianni Versace purchased Casa Casuarina – a massive estate that was developed for royalty. In 1991, the designer stopped to visit Miami Beach on his way to Cuba. South Beach was still in the midst of its revival at the time, but Gianni already loved it. He bought a square block that consisted of two buildings, including the Amsterdam Palace apartments, and spent two years and millions of dollars turning the residence into “Casa Casuarina.”  The Versace Empire was dominating male and female fashion at the time, and his enthusiastic promotion of Miami drew even greater interest to real estate in Miami.  I personally worked for Gianni and Donatella Versace for several years at the peak of their empire. They loved Miami and their celebrity following soon followed their lead and began purchasing real estate in Miami at a blistering pace.

Model Mania Hits

Miami was now firmly viewed as the city of beautiful people.  Modeling agencies, recording studios and film production facilities sprung up everywhere around the city. At one time, Miami had over 22 modeling agencies and 4,500 models that made Miami Beach their residence. That was a tremendous ratio of models per resident.  Throughout the mid 90’s, the success of the fashion business drove Miami’s popularity through the roof. However, greed began to enter the equation and dampen the good times.  Shoot location fees began to skyrocket and the permitting process became much more difficult.  Fashion teams decided to head off to Capetown in South Africa for better deals. (I left for there as well).  Miami then went through a period of stagnation until around 2003, once a recovery was felt from the impact of the 911 terrorism catastrophe.  Marketing budgets for fashion shoots came back from the dead at that time. Photoshoot budgets were back and growing by the quarter. Miami hotels were eager for business. And consequently, fashion models were back in Miami again in much greater volume. The city came alive again – rebounding strongly.

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Real estate was surging through 2008; the tremendous pre-construction condo boom was driven by the sexy allure of Miami.  Every brochure, video or billboard around the city pitching a new condo development had one or several gorgeous fashion models representing their project. The sexy ‘dream life’ was being directly injected into real estate in Miami.  Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle was the core selling proposition in every sales center.  Why not live your dream now?  Why wait? Choose Miami.  We’ve got it ALL.

Explosive Rebound

As the Great Recession hit, real estate in Miami was stuck in another down cycle. Home and condo values were crushed, and likewise, modeling agencies saw their revenues plummet.  It took a few years of large-scale emergency stimulus policies to get the real estate market and overall economy back to a healthy state.  However, the savy real estate investors that bought assets around 2009 and 2010 have been handsomely rewarded.  Some South Beach condo towers, like Icon, have seen their values double during that time period.  As of today, we are sitting in the midst of a tremendous boom of Miami real estate acquisitions.  Our city may literally double in size within the next 5 years – 60 new condo towers are being developed in downtown Miami alone.

The Connection

The Miami restaurant and nightclub scene has also been thriving along with the big real estate boom.  Miami is viewed by many as the best in city in the world for one’s social life. People talk about Ibiza in the same breath, but that’s only for a brief summer season.  Miami has a year-round lifestyle that is just incredible. The big clubs and trendy restaurants are well-aware of the benefits of having fashion models in their establishments.  Fashion models = beautiful people and beautiful people = happy patrons and successful business.

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Throughout this week, the 2014 Mercedez-Benz Swimweek is taking place in Miami.  They are celebrating their 10th anniversary of the shows. The buzz around town is that it has been the most successful season of shows ever. It’s difficult not to roam anywhere on South Beach and not bump into someone associated with these fashion shows. For all intents and purposes, it’s a wonderful time for the city.  And a wonderful year for fashion and real estate.

Fashion Supports Real Estate

So what does this all mean? While the connection between fashion models and real estate in Miami isn’t a completely direct relationship  (ala a Malcom Gladwell proven narrative), the two industries do have a rather symbiotic relationship. .  The business of fashion modeling has played a significant role in the past and present of the development of Miami as the incredible city that it is.  Real estate in Miami has never been better. And the supporting systems of entertainment, glamour and sexiness are all working in full strength at the moment to support the tremendous boom of real estate in Miami.


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About the Author

Kaya Wittenburg

Blog Author and CEO

Kaya Wittenburg is the Founder and CEO of Sky Five Properties. Since the age of 10, real estate has been deeply ingrained into his thoughts. With world-class negotiation and deal-making skills, he brings a highly impactful presence into every transaction that he touches.

He is here to help you use real estate as a vehicle to develop your own personal empire and feel deeply satisfied along the way. If you have an interest in buying, selling or renting property in South Florida, contact Kaya today.

Feel free to call me at: (305) 357-0635
or contact via email: