Agyness Deyn doesn’t look like a media entrepreneur. She’s tall and very slender (she is a model, after-all) with signature short bleached blond hair. She’s 26 years old, but in the right light she looks considerably younger—like a 21-year-old NYU student, but with better clothes. All in all, she’s an unlikely aspiring media mogul.
Last July, Deyn and Fiona Byrne, a close friend from Dublin, quietly started a new site—half blog, half online magazine—called NAAG—the name comes from the combination of the two founders’ names—the “NA” in Fiona and ‘AG’ in Agyness. The concept, they say, was to create a publication that reflected their interests and downtown lifestyles. “The idea is that these are places and things that we like, things that we like to do, things that we like to wear, things that we listen to—all of that stuff,” Byrne says, over coffee with Deyn at the Bowery Hotel on an unusually warm Saturday in mid-November.
As such, the site features short stories about fashion, music, and culture, featuring everything from reviews of chic hotels and hip restaurants and beauty products to interviews with cultural figures. As NAAG’s Creative Director, Deyn oversees “the broader picture” of the site, and scouts for interesting models to work with and brainstorms ideas. “We discover content when we’re out hanging out,” she says. It’s unclear how much time Deyn spends day to day on the project, though she points out that it is very much a serious venture for her. “This is not just a hobby,” she says.
The idea for NAAG came from an unlikely source: the All Points West Music Festival, where Byrne and Deyn met two summers ago. “It was pouring rain. We were in a tent, the music stopped because the weather was that bad,” Deyn recalls. “We were just passing the time while having a beer, chatting about everything. … And we were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a site you could just go to and get bits of everything all in one go.’ Byrne interjects: “For people like us.”
Agyness Deyn is a professional model, the kind who made news in 2008 when she didn’t show up to Paris Fashion week. She’s done campaigns for Burberry, Armani, and Jean-Paul Gaultier, among others, and had her U.S. debut of sorts in 2007 when she appeared on the cover of Vogue as part of what the magazine described as the new class of young supermodels. In Europe, she serves as consistent fodder for British tabloids and gossip sites for a party-girl lifestyle and her famous rock-star boyfriends. But, Deyn says that her new venture represents a bit of maturation. “You grow up,” says Deyn. “I have the urge to express myself more and I suppose you look for ways to do that.”
Gallery: Agyness Deyn
Byrne says the site does not have any outside investors—that they operate on a shoestring budget which the two, according to Byrne, put up themselves—though now NAAG is partnering with a variety of brands, among other things, hosting special events that are starting to bring in revenue. The site does have sponsored content, though Byrne says it’s always labeled as such and that there is a strict division between business and editorial. “I don’t think it’s going to be too long before we turn a profit,” Byrne says. As of now, the site operates out of Byrne’s apartment on the Lower East Side. Though NAAG went live this summer, the two kept the site relatively quiet until this month when they’ve been on a multicontinent media blitz. Two weeks ago, Deyn and Byrne hosted the official New York launch on the Lower East Side (guests at that party included Marion Cotillard and Zachary Quinto), and late last week, the two were in London for the site’s U.K. launch party. Deyn and Byrne say they hope to expand NAAG to include reviews of happenings in other countries. They’re planning a site in Japanese, and possibly a site for Australia.
Asked whether after the modeling and the partying and the acting, Deyn had now set her sites on a different sort of career—whether she now has aspirations to be the next Rupert Murdoch, she replies: “I would never say never. We’re growing and growing and growing... But to even think about being like [Murdoch]…” Deyn paused and thought for a brief moment. “Yeah, sure, why not?”
D.M. Levine has covered kosher meat packers, hipster rap moguls and a variety in between. His writing has appeared in Conde Nast Portfolio, The New York Observer, The American Lawyer, Fortune.com and the websites of PAPER and BlackBook, among other publications. Levine lives in New York City.