NEW YORK — Petra Nemcova is not just another pretty face — and that’s precisely why Rampage has hired her to star in its spring ad campaign.
While Nemcova has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, she is widely known for her harrowing tale of surviving last year’s tsunami. She and her boyfriend, fashion photographer Simon Atlee, were on holiday in Thailand when the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, killing more than 280,000 people. Atlee died, but Nemcova, with a broken pelvis, clung to the top of a palm tree for eight hours.
Watching Nemcova, 26, pose for a photographer in the Rampage showroom Friday, the tragedy seemed far away. Dressed in a Rampage camisole, jacket and jeans, she greeted two strangers with a triple kiss, as is customary in her native Czech Republic. She was eager to chat.
Aside from fronting a brand that makes “amazing clothes for young women who are about her age” — 16 to 26 — what won her over was Rampage’s parent company, Iconix Brand Fashion Group’s $25,000 donation to her Happy Hearts Foundation through the new Rampage Relief Fund.
“Today it’s Asia and [hurricane victims] in the States that need help,” she said. “Tomorrow it could be me in New York City. You never know.”
Asked if brands should stand for something beyond their bottom lines, Nemcova said, “Whether it’s a company or each human being, it should not always be about me, myself and I,” she said. “There is this disconnection we have for one another that causes a lot of problems. We need more of a sense of unity.”
Next month Gilles Bensimon will photograph Nemcova in the Florida Keys for Rampage’s $1 million print, outdoor and Internet campaign for spring. She will also be featured in public service announcements for the Rampage Relief Fund.
“We started looking at a lot of personalities and celebrities,” said Neil Cole, chairman and chief executive officer of Iconix. “Petra kind of rose to the top. She is this amazing woman with this incredible story.”
Asked what has been most challenging about this past year, Nemcova said it “has been one of many changes and deep personal growth. From trying to accept things to going through the experience of losing my boyfriend to going back to normal life, every day was a challenge in the beginning. I learned how to appreciate every moment and every second.
“But I love challenges and love to achieve things and to push myself,” she said. “For me, life is about learning and growing. For me, to stop learning is to stop living.”
Nemcova will be getting more exposure next month, when Warner Books publishes her autobiography “Love Always, Petra.” She described it as a story about unconditional love, including the many strangers who sacrificed for one another in the tsunami.
“You can’t really say one thing is black or white,” Nemcova said. “There is always both or whole different shades. Any disaster is horrible. This one affected 286,000 people but it’s also brought so much love from around the world. For me, it’s given me time to spend with my family, and all these opportunities that give me a wider reach. I take this as something that has been given to me for a reason and I don’t want to throw that away. This gift, I am trying to make the best of it.”