NEW YORK (WABC) — During New York Fashion Week, which ends Wednesday, a quarter of a million people go to see shows staged by more than 70 different brands. It’s been estimated that these two NY Fashion Weeks – one in the fall and the other in the spring – together pump more than $900 million into the city’s economy.

There are always plenty of stories to tell, but this particularly one will focus on a model who’s forging a new career as an entrepreneur.

Models are like professional athletes in the sense that their careers are short. Of course, there are always exceptions, but many models peak in the mid to late-20s. Then, the question is: what to do with the rest of their lives?

One model from Switzerland has found her own answer to that question. Manuela Frey has walked in shows during NY Fashion Week for more than a decade. She’s even made a commercial with George Clooney. But one thing she realizes is that her career has its limits.

“In this industry, it’s unfortunate like that,” she told Eyewitness News Entertainment Reporter Sandy Kenyon on location for a fashion shoot in the Meatpacking District. “You’re here one day and the next you’re nobody so I was always searching for plan B.”

Frey is moving behind the scenes as a model manager – while remaining as stylish as ever.

“This is my passion,” Frey said. “I’ve always had this mother instinct, and I love to share my experience with talented people.” The focus of attention this day is a talented 19-year-old model named Alisha de Munk. “Just be natural and open up your eyes,” Manuela advised her as photographer Zev Starr-Tambor snapped away.

Alisha started modeling as a child of Swiss parents while living in Hoboken, New Jersey before the family moved back to Switzerland. She took a break and then resumed posing as a teenager. She returned to Manhattan for Fashion Week and mentioned to Kenyon that she’s grateful for the guidance Manuela has provided.

“It helps to get some knowledge from people, to learn from people who have been through what you’re going through,” she shared.

Manuela and Alisha connected via social media after they both noticed they look alike. Manuela followed her on TikTok, where the younger model has a big presence. It’s a far different fashion scene now than when Frey started at the age of 15.

She was a finalist in Elite’s “Look” competition and since 2012 has worn the best clothes that the world’s most famous designers have to offer. She has already parlayed this into a career as a TV host and humanitarian – traveling to the African nation of Malawi as an ambassador for the Swiss Red Cross.

The talents she manages are as varied as her career has been. One of her group, Carmen Meir, is 72 years old and part of a fashion trend that favors more mature models.

Manuela has formed the “Just M&R” firm with her business partner Ronnie Nenniger and the company’s new website will be up soon. “We try to create the universe of talented people,” the model turned entrepreneur said, before adding, “and then we can actually all learn from each other.”


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