September 14, 2009 / 5:39 PM / 10 years ago

Free massages, merchandise -- for female models only

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A lounge in New York City is offering free massages, free food and free merchandise — for female fashion models only.

Dozens of models turn up daily at The Model Lounge, located in the basement of Delicatessen, a trendy restaurant and bar in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.

“All models love getting free stuff,” said Chanel Iman, a popular model who visits the lounge regularly. “But I just came here to charge my phone before my next casting.”

To gain access a model has to get a membership card, which doubles as a voucher for freebies or heavy discounts from sponsors — of which there are many.

During New York’s semi-annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the lounge, which opened in June, provides free transportation for the models.

They also use the lounge to read magazines, check e-mails, change their clothes, have a snack or get pampered.

Vans, a California-based shoe company is currently the lounge’s biggest sponsor, gives away shoes, jackets and bags in hopes the models will be photographed wearing them.

Founder Bernard Smith, who also runs a marketing agency, said the lounge is a good idea for its corporate sponsors.

“Rather than pay one model, you gain invaluable access to hundreds of top models,” he said.

Model Sessilee Lopez said the lounge is a good place to relax.

“We deserve it, really we do, after we’ve been hitting the pavement all day. This is a sacred haven, and there’s no one hitting on you,” she said. “The freebies are icing on the cake.”

The big drawback, Lopez said, is that men aren’t allowed.

“Maybe that’s the next step, then my boyfriend can come,” she said. “Right now he has to sit at the bar and just wait for me.”

Editing by Michelle Nichols and Patricia Reaney

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