If you do a double-take when you see Brad Kroenig, there's a reason: he's a famous male model. You may have seen him in ads for Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch, or walking the runways for Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi and Chanel. Vogue named him one of the top 10 male models of all time. At one point, Kroenig was so well-known that the New York Times Magazine profiled him in an article titled, "The Jet Set Life of Karl Lagerfeld's Favorite Male Model—for Now." International fashion gigs and sun-drenched summers in St. Tropez were a regular part of life.
Now Kroenig, 43, and his wife, Nicole, 39—a real estate agent and the daughter of tennis legend and IMG Academy founder Nick Bollettieri—have settled down with their two sons in Lakewood Ranch, near the spot where they first met 15 years ago.
"It's come full circle" is a phrase the couple uses again and again.
The Kroenigs met in 2007 in Sarasota, on a blind date over a golf game that evolved into dinner at Pacific Rim, followed by bar hopping in Southside Village. The next day Brad flew to Paris for a job, but the pair's fate was sealed.
"When he wasn't traveling, we were together," Nicole recalls.
At the beginning of their relationship, the couple tried to split their time between Sarasota and New York, but with Brad's fast-growing career, they decided to relocate to New York full-time. Nicole expanded her real estate career to include New Jersey while also maintaining her license in Florida.
Nicole is a born-and-raised local, but Brad grew up Missouri, and came to Florida because of a soccer scholarship at Florida International University. He began modeling when he was 20 years old after a friend encouraged him to give it a try, thanks to his sun-kissed blond locks and smoldering brown eyes.
"At first I was like, 'I'm not going to do that,' but she kept pushing," he says. "So, I went to two modeling agencies in Miami Beach and they both nicely declined."
He decided to try one more agency, which wound up accepting him. He modeled in Miami for six months, then went on to Los Angeles and eventually New York City, where he signed with Ford Models. He's been with the agency for more than 20 years.
Kroenig's career took off in 2001, after he landed a Ralph Lauren campaign. As his star continued to rise, an industry friend introduced him to Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel. He began appearing in the brand's print ads and runway shows, and he and Lagerfeld developed a close friendship. Eventually, he became known as the designer's muse.
The Kroenigs speak lovingly of Lagerfeld, who oversaw Chanel from 1983 until his death in 2019. He was even their children's godfather.
"Karl was a huge part of my success," Brad says. "He was down to earth and always so nice. He loved cracking jokes and was the best at one-liners."
"He was so funny," Nicole agrees.
"We traveled the world together. I went to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Beijing, Europe—everywhere," Brad says. "Every August, we would spend two or three weeks with him in St. Tropez."
"It wasn't work-related, just pure family time," Nicole says.
These days, the Kroenigs are less focused on runways than they are building their real estate brand, working with Coldwell Banker's St. Armands Circle office.
"It's a natural fit. You could blindfold me on Longboat Key, I know the area so well," Nicole says. "We like to help everyone. We like every transaction. I think we enjoy the experience as much as our clients do."
Being back in Sarasota-Manatee means more time for family life, too. The couple's sons, Hudson Nicholas and Jameson Karl, are 14 and 10. Their life is filled with sports, beach trips and Floridian adventures. The family loves to dine out; their favorite restaurant is Longboat Key's Euphemia Haye.
Of course, with their father's unique connection to the fashion industry, the boys have also found success in modeling, too. In fact, Hudson had his first shoot with Lagerfeld in Berlin.
"We thought it was a one-time thing, and then he booked the Chanel show when he was two," Brad says.
Looking at the trajectory of his life, it makes sense that Brad draws parallels between his famous father-in-law and the iconic designer who gave him his biggest professional break. "[Lagerfeld] and Nick remind me a lot of each other in their behavior, mentality and focus,” Brad says.
“They were always looking forward," Nicole says, finishing her husband's thought. "I think that’s a good way to live.”