Fernanda Motta, a veteran of four Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions and the host of Brazil's Next Top Model, is sitting on a sofa in the office of ARC NYC Talent PR with husband Roger Rodrigues, showing off a denim collection she currently has in development.
There are distressed boyfriend jeans, embellished girly jeans, Daisy Dukes so itty-bitty that their striped pocket flaps are hanging below the hemlines.
As ARC's founders, Ryan Brown and Lorenzo Martosne, survey the samples, they offer suggestions on what to name the line, a collaboration with Brazilian denim maker John John.
"One case study I always use is the Olsen sisters," says Martone, who is also Brazilian and speaks in a Portuguese-accented baritone. "They don't launch anything under their own name. When you use your own name and a project doesn't work, people don't want to be attached to you."
Brown and Martone are heavily invested in how the public perceives not only Motta, but also the half a dozen other models who have signed with ARC. Unlike traditional modelling agencies, which are responsible for booking their girls for runway shows, editorial features and ad campaigns, ARC aims to fill and foster the extracurricular side of a model's life, both during her career and in anticipation of its inevitable fade to black.
The advice that ARC provides covers everything from beauty and clothing endorsements to leaps into entertainment. Think of it as personal brand building for the long-legged, unspeakably gorgeous set.
"There are so many things that are out of the scope of what a modelling agency does," Martone says. "The girls are women, but they're pretty young and could use some guidance and help, especially when doing the research and making sure who is serious and who is not."
In addition to Motta, the six-month-old firm's client roster includes fellow model Julie Henderson, whose grandfather developed the hybrid grapefruit that bears their name and who is hoping to launch a skin-care line of her own devising. Also seeking ARC's expertise at the moment are Victoria's Secret favourite Alessandra Ambrosio and model and aspiring singer Jessica White.
For all of his efforts as a facilitator, however, Martone is the one who many are watching closely. Thanks to his relationship with designer Marc Jacobs, he is regularly pursued and photographed by the paparazzi. This past winter, the couple was snapped on the beaches of St. Bart's, looking very much in love.
But Martone comes by his PR skills honestly. His résumé includes an MBA in luxury-brand management and years of working in advertising and fashion in Paris. After moving to New York three years ago, he joined up with Chandelier Creative, a boutique design and branding firm.
Although he still maintains his position there, he formed ARC with Brown, the former global director of marketing and PR at modelling agency Elite, because they realized there was no service that leveraged models' talent beyond catwalks and magazine covers.
"For a girl to be a big model, she needs a team pushing her in one direction," Martone says in his cozy office across the street from Jacobs' atelier in SoHo. But "one company or one agency or one person is not going to get anywhere."
Of course, models-as-celebrity-brands is nothing new: Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss and Tyra Banks have all parlayed successful modelling stints into equally lucrative second careers in other fields, from yoga to TV. As Brown points out, though, it takes a certain type of model to break out: "They have to dream big and they have to have good, concrete ideas." It also helps that they were huge names before their respective retirements.
Where ARC sees its niche is in the promotion and guidance of the many attractive talents who aren't household names - yet. To get them to that point, its buzz-building services (for which their clients pay a "small," undisclosed retainer) can range from liaising with media about a client to arranging for a girl to make an appearance at the week's most noteworthy party.
"We're very specific about it," Martone insists. "We don't want girls to go to the opening of an envelope."
Along with such invites comes equally specific advice on what to wear and say (and maybe even tweet about the appearance).
A few weeks ago, ARC arranged for Heide Lindgren, a fresh-faced Floridian and the newest model to sign with the firm, to attend the premiere of The Runaways, the rocker-chick flick starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.
"I'll tell you, red carpet is a lot harder than you think," she says while stopping by the office to drop off a dress.
"The questions they throw at you - it's like, whoa, what?" (Apparently, an interviewer had lobbed Lindgren a fast one about the controversial Marina Abramovic show at the Museum of Modern Art, which she hadn't seen. Luckily, Martone had.)
Lindgren, 22, says signing with ARC could not have come at a better time for her.
"There's only so much you can do as a model," she says. "It's hard to do anything else full-time because of the travelling and casting. These guys provide an opportunity to do something else, but that corresponds with work and complements it instead of fighting it."
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