Since ARC NY launched as a boutique talent and PR company last November a wave of buzz, anticipation and hype has washed around the names of Lorenzo Martone and Ryan Brown, the entrepreneurs behind this new company. What is very exciting and very welcome about the proposition that is ARC NY, is the way it promises to rethink and revamp the idea of marketing and imaging models. Because it is a boutique, it is intimate enough to thoroughly service the needs of those girls looking to open up their careers to new opportunities and because the team is deeply deeply connected (ARC NY’s offices are across the street from the Marc Jacobs showroom) it is positioned to cross-wire the talent it represents in the highest realm of fashion/celebrity culture. ARC NY also moves into a PR area with tremendous growth potential , a potential high gloss talent like Alessandra Ambrosio, Jessica White, Julie Henderson and Fernanda Motta have already responded to as the agency’s first signings. OTM caught up with Mr Brown and Mr Martone at the ARC offices to get a comprehensive perspective on their background, their future plans and their strategy for making models matter again.
Perhaps the logical thing to do is start with your backgrounds.
Ryan Brown: So as you know I started at Women with Paul Rowland who I think is one of the greatest ever creative talents in the modeling industry. I took a lot from him there. Then John Casablancas approached Cathy Gould and myself to go over to revamp Elite when John came back into the business. Spent a very interesting and long time there… worked with all the girls… From Lara Stone to Coco to Alessandra… that’s the great thing about the Elite brand. They’ve always started all the greats like Christy… Linda..
Lorenzo Martone : They still have the aura of the supermodels I think.
RB: I think it’s really interesting that Elite NY is working with Elite Paris again.. But working with Paul and then John and with Neal and managers like Richard Habberley and managers like Chris Gay really helped me to fine tune my skills. I learned how to work with these different girls. My background is that… with a modeling agency and as a modeling agency publicist, working with a global brand like Elite for all those years.
And you Lorenzo?
LM: My background is in advertising actually. My contact with models was always on the other side, with clients. With clients, with brands we would go through castings and choose faces for campaigns. I’ve been working in small boutique agencies since the time I lived in Paris for almost four or five years now . I moved to New York two and a half year ago. I’m currently, also besides ARC I’m with Chandelier Creative. So I’m a man with two hats. I kept that position. I thought it was important for us, for our business to also have a foot in the advertising industry. My daily background is as a strategist. In advertising I usually work in strategy for brands… so it is a little bit of backing up the creative with some solid strategic insights. With Ryan more or less he’s been doing that but that with the girls.
Meaning treating the girls as brands?
LM: We don’t treat girls only as brands but we also try to plan in advance where their careers are going. There is a lot of planning involved. Because I am an outsider, basically in this modeling industry I come with an input that is a little less emotional than Ryan. He has a very personal relationship with all the girls. My first question to all of our first clients is “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” That is usually how I treated a brand… you’re right in that sense and a girl should know or at least dream about where they want to be in five years. So that is very helpful to me. I would like to help to create a direction for them.
RB: That’s kinda of why we make a good team.I’ve got the background of the day to day and what it takes to make a girl work and Lorenzo comes in with the strategic planning of “OK You need to do X-Y-Z to get to this point.”
And what would you then say was the intent behind ARC New York?
LM: I met Ryan since the time I arrived in New York over two years ago and we’ve been following the market a little and we saw all the celebrity models and projects and initiatives. And we also saw a lot of them not working so well when they tried something else besides their modeling careers. We thought there was a little niche there. I think girls and models are bombarded with ideas and because of this lack of strategy a lot of those projects don’t go anywhere…unfortunately for them. So we thought if we created a talent/PR agency that specializes in building publicity, the right way around them and whatever they decide to do… being hand in hand and helping to introduce them to the right people in the industry then that could be something effective. We thought being a part of this team that they usually consider their only support… which is their model agent…we thought we could be a good addition to this team. Usually the agents are very involved with the campaigns and editorials and bookings that will build the career
RB: After being in house with Elite for all those years you see how busy the agents are . They don’t have the time to devote to the public relations side of things. And they really shouldn’t. You can’t do 12 bookings and then also worry about a feature for the NY Times.That takes a lot of time and energy. You can ask any agent.. Because the PR doesn’t produce as much money, PR gets pushed a little bit to the side. So then we come in and we work with the models to make these other ideas that the girls have a reality.
Working with the modeling agencies seems to require an interesting balancing act? What is going to be the unique addition that ARC NYC offers?
LM: It goes back to things being strategic. I don’t think that a girl or a model , just because she is famous should be everywhere, at every event, wearing any designer. I like girls who have a certain personal style that stands for something. We want to help build that aura… that equity around what she is standing for. I think that’s part of what we’re offering… a strategic eye. Our icon looks like an eye. I think more or less our inspiration was to be a third eye for them
Do you plan to only have models as clients? Are you interested in musicians or repping magazines for instance?
LM: I think those types of people that you just mentioned need less help because they are already very much part of a whole machine. I think we like the idea of keeping a small boutique agency that has a very niche, specific task. So the message is unique and we all go in the same direction. I think we do like the idea of working only with models. As Ryan was saying that’s his background and his experience. We are not against maybe working with a male model in the future. We don’t have any plans for that yet. But we’ll probably stay in the model category. That will keep us unique.You never know but I don’t think we’re going to have brands or have celebrities. I think we like the idea of keeping ARC as a specialty boutique talent PR company.
RB: I find that when you’re smaller you never lose that personal attention which is one of our benchmarks. I talk to these girls sometimes more than I talk to my family. So I never want to lose that approach to it. I think that’s what makes us different from these larger PR companies because you are not speaking to 12 different people to get to the publicist.You speak to 1 person then you get to me or to Lorenzo. I think that’s where the focus has been lost in those larger PR firms.
Are you interested in signing new girls or are you going to focus on working with established talent?
RB: I think working with someone that is already established will be the focus. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. I think that it is a model agent’s job to create a girl and then we come in and expand on that. We work with the girls on projects designed to turn them into something more wider known.
Do you see expanding the idea of ARC other cities? Do you anticipate, for instance an ARC LA?
RB: That’s an interesting question. Lorenzo and I… as global people… we’re constantly traveling… whether its Paris, Milan,LA, Chicago.. I was just there with Alessandra. As far as building other offices in the near future…no. As far as working in other markets…yes.
Besides in a modern world you can work from anywhere with your laptop.
LM: Exactly. Another reason for the name is in being a foreigner I always had a big dream of living in New York. I think NY has an inspirational side that the rest of the world appreciates and admires and I wanted to have that in our branding. We’re rooted here. After 2 and half years I consider myself a full New Yorker and I think Ryan feels the same way.
RB: I’ve been here 10 years now so I have my New Yorker green card (laughs)
LM: I agree with Ryan that we’re very global in the sense that we travel, we know people everywhere, I think the girls who have established an image in the United States can go out there and fight for work and visibility in markets that are interested in fashion.
So ARC is for those girls who want to be singers and land book and TV deals.
LM: The main question… is do the girls dream big? Julie for instance has plans to use that grapefruit in skin care. Or Jessica has plans to really take her singing more seriously and launch something in the future. Modeling unfortunately doesn’t last forever but it can be the first stage to larger options.
Clients seem not to love it when models become too much of a big name and draw too much attention to themselves.
LM: That clearly had its moment with the supermodels… Naomi… Cindy… Linda…. I think the trend kind of faded a little bit and girls became more about a plain look because then the attention was back on the clothes and the designers. We’re still big fans of the super-model concept… I have to be honest. In fashion everything is recycled and it always comes back to something it knows .So maybe we’re going to dream big here on our side and hope to help build super-models again.
I’m waiting for the sequel to George Michael’s Freedom. Can you imagine the 2010 casting for that?
LM: That would be so funny to come up with the new versions of all those girls. But that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Dream big.
Well thank you so much guys for taking time. I truly appreciate it. Let’s cut the tape and make up the Freedom 210 casting list now…Gisele…and…
LM: RB: (laughs) Thank you for coming by Wayne