NAAG’s Heads: Agyness Deyn and Fiona Byrne

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Published November 24, 2010

 

AGYNESS DEYN (LEFT) AND FIONA BYRNE. PHOTO COURTESY OF BILLY FARRELL/BFANYC.COM

The way Agyness Deyn tells it, NAAG.com—her freshly-launched fashion and lifestyle site—is the cheerful byproduct of bad British weather. “I was standing at a concert in the rain with my best friend, and we wanted to look at a magazine suddenly,” she says, referring to the moment she and NAAG’s co-founder and editor Fiona Byrne struck their epiphany. “Then we started to think: we should start one!”

As Anglophiles would imagine it, this is the way creative moments happen in Great Britain: urgently, in the rain, with the vapors of damp leather, beer, and cigarettes hanging moodily in the air. But, naturally, any endeavor involving Deyn, Britain’s model-in-chief, will be cemented within that mythical UK vernacular. “Thierry Mugler’s WOMANITY features a rather polarizing fragrance,” a recent NAAG.com headline reads, underlining the company’s archly Anglo ontology.  But tucked between rapturous posts on “London’s finest coffee” and Primal Scream’s UK-only Screamadelica tour are vignettes of NYC culture, highlighting Deyn’s unique ex-pat experience here. Fittingly, she and Byrne fêted the launch of NAAG.com at Mary Queen of Scots, the new downtown British gastrogub, with help from UK-based clothing brand AllSaints.

With NAAG, Deyn and Byrne intend to act as friendly cosmopolitan formers for a primarily female audience they regard as peers, not consumers. Think how Time Out guides would read if girls who grew up reading Sassy, Sky, and Jane helmed them, and you have an idea of the synthesis of ideals they have in mind. A fashionable lens to freeze-frame moments in pop life, NAAG is an egalitarian cultural fan club, eager to depict orgasmic concert moments, dining experiences, and a breakthrough lip-gloss with equal, cheeky aplomb. NAAG’s strongest early asset is distinct and cohesive voice—a nice thing that tends to happen when you bring your friends (including NME‘s Tim Chester and Nylon‘s former editor, Stephanie Trong) on board as contributors.

COLLEEN NIKA: What is NAAG’s editorial agenda?

FIONA BYRNE: We kind of see it as recommending things that we discover in life to other people, like when a friend says they’ve just had the best pizza of their lives and we go to that restaurant or when we find this truly amazing hair conditioner or even our favorite old horror movies and stuff.

AGYNESS DEYN: We’re updating about five times a day right now, covering music, fashion, art, movies, what it’s like growing up in the city. It’s New York-based at the moment, but we started it in the UK. We’re going to keep adding cities: Tokyo, Paris, and more. I want people to be able to log on when they visit a cool city and, through us,  find out about a place they’d never know otherwise. We want to be a cultural big sister.

BYRNE: I think it’s more like recommendations from a friend than of a big sister, because we’re not targeting teens, we’re talking to our peers. I love when I find something and someone else loves it too. I’ve never been one to be like, “Don’t copy me.” It should be share and share alike! NIKA: What coverage might readers be surprised to find on NAAG?

BYRNE: When we were launching softly in June, everyone was surprised to find we talked about Gap jeans being the best thing ever, but we also had a story that day on an Hermès watch for $3K, so we’re not all about high-end. Aggy is completely open to all brands and designers and mixes everything up. Also sometimes we feel like talking about things like a laundry detergent that smells amazing. That might seem a bit odd! [LAUGHS]

NIKA: NAAG’s tone is quite chatty and relatable, as opposed to coming off as authoritarian.

DEYN: For me, it goes back to the way it feels to be personally recommended something. I remember growing up that my brother would say, “Listen to the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays!” That’s the way I discovered a lot of things, and I like the idea of playing that role to others. I want to share what I love with others—without forcing it upon them.

NIKA:  How do you know if something is ‘NAAG-worthy” or not? Is it based on your own judgment, or do you reach some consensus amongst your contributors as well?

BYRNE: Mostly, our writers just know well enough themselves if something is suitable. I very rarely have to say no; that’s not us. I have only done that a couple of times, I don’t remember what they were.

NIKA: What pop culture influences have impacted the look and feel of NAAG?

DEYN: Sky, i-D, Dazed, Sassy… I used to have stacks of all those magazines lined up in my bedroom. I miss them!

BYRNE: I think Sky magazine was more influential than anything.  But yeah, I would say Judy Blume would have to be my #1 influence. Any interview I’ve read with her, she says people always ask her how she was so good at getting inside the mind of kids and teens. I think she just remembered very well how she felt at certain points in her life. She has that casual, intimate style that feels so natural and so easy to relate to. It feels like it was written by a real person, and that’s how I hope NAAG is too. That there’s a person who thinks just like you about stuff, and can open your mind to new things.

NIKA: How did you line up your contributors?

DEYN: Fiona set the tone. She is a great writer—really funny, but intelligent. Everything is based on that idea, basically. We want you to feel like you know the writers. We chose people within our peer group and people who share the same vision.

BYRNE: When Stephanie Trong was editor at Nylon we talked briefly about me working with her, but at the time I was really happy writing for NME and decided to stick with that. She used to be at Jane, so of course her tone is perfect. And Tamar, our beauty writer, I found via Twitter. Her Tweets were just so funny, I knew she would be great. The other writers are all friends who cover various beats. By the way, anyone who thinks they’d be into writing for us should email me: [email protected]!

NIKA: Who would be a dream contributor?

DEYN: My friend BP Fallon—I’d love to get him to share his musical knowledge with us!

NIKA: Could NAAG exist in print form? If so, will it?

DEYN: I like working online for now, because everything changes so quickly and we want to react to that. More than anything, we want to be accessible. But maybe down the road…

BYRNE: It definitely could work because I think it would look really beautiful in print form. I don’t know if it ever will. We’ll see. Maybe some NAAG guidebooks or something would be cool. When you work online, it’s nice to see tangible things featuring your logo. The other day I got a NAAG rubber stamp made, and it looked so cute I stamped our logo all over my apartment. I got a bit carried away!