Somewhere about the time – not quite a decade ago - when bloggers began to be better known influencers, Anine Bing gave birth to her fashion house. A lithe and bubbly Dane, Bing launched her label inside a garage in 2012 in Hollywood with just 10 looks – counting on a certain notoriety thanks to her social media following.
Today, Anine Bing retails in over 300 sales points and boasts 15 stores, a case study in how an influencer reinvented herself as a global brand. And how a quiet young mum built a fledgling fashion empire – on good taste, hard work and a certain intuition about what today’s women really want to wear. Which is why we caught up with Los Angeles-based Bing for lunch in the Marais, near her Paris store, as she unveiled her latest launch – a range of sweatshirts and tops bearing the iconic image of Brigitte Bardot smoking, shot by the recently departed and much lamented Terry O’Neill.
“I grew up in a simple life, not with lots of money. But I loved fashion and had to get creative. Beginning with making vintage pieces into my own ideas as a way of dressing. I moved to LA as it’s a super creative place where your dreams can never be too big,” explains Bing, one of five kids to a schoolteacher mum, and homeopathic pharmacist dad.
She first began her blog, Anine’s World, when travelling and modelling, wanting to report back to friends – before it gradually became a bigger thing.
“People got interested in my style and the way I was always good with mixing vintage pieces with new brands. Now, I have gone beyond just being an influencer. We worked so hard for seven years to make a global fashion brand!” she exclaims, still sounding pleasantly surprised by the rapid growth.
“We began by working in secret in our garage. Then one day, I told my followers to come and check it out. The first piece we sold was a linen T-shirt and a pair of jeans,” says the influencer-designer, who pronounces her name 'Anina.' She took her surname, Bing, from her grandmother.
Her opening selection was simple - denim, T-shirts and leather jackets. Husband Nico Bing, who also adopted granny’s name, handling production; Anine in charge of marketing and design. Her brand’s range now extends from sleek silk pajamas for chic soirées to lacy underwear for after the after-party. Her DNA is very much how to enjoy an achievable Southern California lifestyle with a slight edgy twist.
At launch date, she had 50,000 Facebook friends and on Instagram, which had just started, barely 4,000 followers.
“Today I have over 760,000 on Instagram. And now I don’t use Facebook, even if my brand does,” notes Bing, who once played in a band called Kill Your Darlings. “I know, it does sounds dark,” she giggles.
On Instagram, her brand account (@aninebingofficial with 198k followers) posts campaign images; with once in a while a picture Bing, but mainly, models and product images. On her own, far larger, account (@aninebing 769k), which is far more personal – her journeys, from a Berlin trip to her Soho House bedroom during Miami Basel; stops in her design studios; personal feelings; family vacations in Mexico; and the odd happy shot of her two kids.
In 2014, Bing opened her ffirst store in LA, a see now buy now approach on 3rd Street in West Hollywood near La Cienega. “A good location, a tiny space but it went amazingly well,” recalls Bing who followed up with New York and then Paris; and now retails everywhere from Net-A-Porter to Nordstrom; all told, over 300 sales points worldwide.
Like her career path, her marketing is novel. Ad campaigns are shot exclusively for social media. Bing takes no ads in printed publications – but spends her budget with Google, with lots of retargeting. “That’s where my budget goes, even if I still love magazines. They are actually really expensive. We have met Vogue and talked about it for branding. But… “ she shrugs.
This year, turnover will reach “somewhere near $50 million,” reveals Bing, who now has 80 employees in her LA headquarters. Ever ambitious, her goal is doubling turnover in 2020, by opening more stores; developing better and better products; and investing in creative people.
In September 2018, a trio of three investors: Index Ventures, Felix Capital and Greycroft Partners injected $15 million into Anine Bing, immediately fueling even more rapid growth.
“They put in a lot of money, but I still have the control, yes,” Bing insists.
“My DNA is a mix of my Scandinavian rock 'n' roll heritage with my home in LA. The pieces are super effortless and easy to wear from day to night; chic but never too much. I’ve gone from an influencer to a brand. And the brand is becoming bigger than me. Honestly, it’s a proud moment when people know the brand before they know me.”
Bing also has a scent in the pipeline for spring; has already done a perfume oil; and will open five new stores next year. In five years’ time she is aiming for 50 stores, and matching revenues on e-commerce. Plus, her retro-glam, Brigitte-Bardot-shot-by-Terry-O’Neill line of T-shirts which launched last month is a sell-out.
“It’s so sad about Terry. He passed three days before our launch. He was unwell when I met him, but he didn’t say. So, I didn’t know, and I thought he looked great,” she muses sadly.
Entirely unschooled in fashion, she admires fellow auto-didacts.
“I admire Coco Chanel, I know it sounds cheesy to say that, but I do. And, also the younger ones like Isabel Marant. Or Cecilia Bönstrom of Zadig & Voltaire, who is Swedish. But I try to do my own thing. I get inspired by flea markets, music and travelling. I now have a super talented design team. But in the beginning, I had it in my head and had to explain everything to my factory in Turkey. I just love empowering women so they feel good about themselves.”