Danish model-turned-entrepreneur Anine Bing is wrapped in her namesake navy sweater, black jacket, leather pants, and pointy booties. She looks effortlessly chic and ready to roll regardless that it is 8.30am on a Sunday morning in Paris. Ahead of her flight home to Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and their two children, Bing met up for breakfast with Vogue Arabia to discuss her incredible career trajectory and her latest collaboration drop with the late fashion photographer Terry O’Neill, whose iconic images of The Rolling Stones, Elton John, former wife, actress Faye Dunaway, and Brigitte Bardot stem from a career that spanned five decades.
CATERINA MINTHE: A glance at your Instagram and it looks like you’ve been blitzing through Europe. I understand you just opened your 15th store in Hamburg and you are also promoting your collaboration with photographer Terry O’Neill. The drop occurred November 19th and he sadly passed three days beforehand. What were your first impressions of the late photographer?
ANINE BING I just love his work. It’s so effortless rock and roll, so timeless. It’s iconic. Nobody else shoots pictures like that anymore. It’s just so special, I think. I was always a big fan. He had read an article where I had spoken about how much I loved him and his team reached out to me, saying they also loved what I was doing and that we should get together and brainstorm. This was a little more than a year ago. We flew to London and had a meeting and had an instant connection. His pictures have long been on my mood boards and in my design studio. I have a couple original prints in my house, including this image of Brigitte Bardot and also the one of Faye Dunaway by the pool.
How do you remember him?
He was warm, a little funny, a little sarcastic. One of those people who walks into a room and you just know they are special. We had been working on it the whole year and then three days before the launch, he passed. It’s very sad, he really wanted to be there.
Terry O’Neill had been on the fashion scene for decades. Did he have any commentary about the state or evolution of fashion today?
My business plan is so different from all the others and he had said that he really liked that. That made me proud. He thought it was a new way of thinking and that was special feedback to receive.
Certainly, you are a leader of the pack. Today, influencers launch brands or capsules but this is something you first did seven years ago. You have 15 brick and mortar stores…Did you have any model to look at when you started?
I purely went with gut. And that’s how I’ve been running my whole business. I always had a good gut feeling, that’s how I started and that’s what I listen to when I’m in doubt.
Tell us about your beginnings as a model.
I was 15, I started in Scandinavia, and I started traveling young; I was 16 when I was in Milan. I wasn’t scouted but I’ve always been determined; if I want something, I go for it. I walked into an agency with a couple of pictures and said, “I want to model.”
Did you have the premonition that modeling wouldn’t be the last stop for you? That it was just a stepping stone to something bigger?
I knew it was a stepping stone but I wasn’t sure to exactly what. I wanted to travel the world, experience different things, make some money, it was a combination of different things. Through modeling and travel I met so many incredible people and the day I started my label I had so many connections with stylists, makeup artists, and photographers. When I was ready, I pulled from my contacts. It was good to get some life experience, some street smarts.
I understand that you’ve launched everything with your husband, Nico Bing, who is also the brand’s CEO.
It’s been incredible but also very hard. When we started we didn’t have a team, it was just the two of us in a garage, packing orders, and doing customer service. We had already been together a couple of years and we also had just had our first baby. We were new parents, with a new business, it was very intense. Today he’s the CEO but also overseeing retail, discovering the location, and also their interior design. He’s also a very hands-on father. We never travel at the same time—we don’t have family in LA and don’t leave the children with a nanny overnight. It’s balanced.
You’re originally from Denmark, why did you choose to live LA?
I moved there 12 years ago and fell in love with the city. When I came to LA, I felt like anything was possible. I was even in a band before—the singer and songwriter of a band “Kill Your Darlings.” In LA, you can do that—go from modeling to being in a band and start a fashion brand and nobody will judge you. I love Scandinavia but it was perfect to start the business in LA.
What does sustainability mean to your brand?
We produce well-quality pieces. If you invest in your wardrobe, the clothes will last year after year. We also have zero waste. We don’t overproduce, we have the see now, buy now model and we always did; that’s how we started and maybe what made us grow so fast. We have limited stock of everything. If we ever have any extra stock, we give it to the charity Dress for Success Worldwide West that helps women get back on their feet. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years.
What’s next for the Anine Bing brand?
I want to keep growing and open more stores. Maybe 50 more stores in five years. There are 80 people at the office and with retail we are 130. The stores carry clothes, accessories, and some beauty and home products—a candle and a perfume. We’re working on a new scent now. I love the whole beauty world, but one little step at a time. If you are going to get into anything you have to bring your point of view.
Shop the limited edition Anine Bing X Terry O’Neill collaboration on Aninebing.com. Proceeds from the sale will go towards the Bobby Moore Fund for cancer research