Anine Bing: From Influencer to Global Brand
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There are two ways to think about Anine Bing: as the influencer-turned-brand-owner or the brand itself.
Regardless of which you choose, you’re bound to be impressed by the trajectory of Bing’s influence over fashion and social media.
Like millions (literally) before me, I first learned about the Anine (pronounced A-nina) Bing brand on Instagram. From the editorial feed to classic styling, Anine Bing Official strikes that perfect balance between curated feed and the use of trending tools to keep followers engaged and interested.
With more than half a million followers on her brand’s official Instagram and a million-plus on her personal account, Instagram has been at the foundation of Bing’s rise from influencer to international fashion name.
As one of the early adopters of Instagram, Bing got started on the social media platform years before the rest of us were taking pictures of our cheeseburgers and using the Clarendon filter.
Not everyone goes from creator to international brand, so what makes Anine Bing special? Equal parts creative genius, understanding how to leverage a following, and knowing what her target market wants.
One of the best ways to see how far someone’s come is to take a look back and see what they’ve accomplished.
From influencer to brand
Bing has always been ahead of trends.
Born in Denmark and raised in Sweden, traveling around the world as a teenager in the modeling industry helped Bing develop her personal style – one that seems to resonate in part with nearly everyone.
Highlighting her self-described style as ‘classic and effortless with an edge,’ Bing created her first blog, Anine’s World, as a source of fashion inspiration for friends and followers.
Though she certainly isn’t the first to combine vintage and modern pieces, something about the way Bing styled outfits appealed to many. There’s another element to Bing’s design style: mixing a Scandinavian minimalist/clean style with a rock-and-roll twist influenced by the carefree nature of the west coast.
From the start, this is what set her apart from other fashion influencers growing followings on social media in those early days of the 2010s. Naturally, Bing moved to Los Angeles in order to tap into the creative energy and laid-back yet fashionable style the region embraces.
She focused on timeless looks and styling them with that cool-LA-girl vibe, figuring out how to tap the niche market and grow her following in a short amount of time. But the influencer to brand owner transformation didn’t happen overnight, despite Bing’s growing popularity.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Bing decided to take the next leap in her journey. Creating her first fashion collection in the garage of her Los Angeles home, Bing, along with her husband Nicolai Nielsen, started with 15 pieces – basics like t-shirts, leather jackets, and denim jeans.
This first collection was promoted directly to Bing’s followers on social media, which numbered in the 50,000 range (for context, she now has about 1 million followers).
“I just wanted to do it my own way, without any opinions from other people around me,” Bing told Forbes. “I basically said, ‘Hi, everyone, I launched this brand, check it out!’”
Those basics – a foundation even for today’s shopper – attracted her first sales as the couple did everything behind the scenes. With Bing doing all the marketing and design to her husband working on the production side of things, the brand has grown with each new launch.
The creator <> brand pipeline
For many fashion designers, it takes years of creating collections to get to the point of starting a brand. This is where Anine Bing differs and thrives.
From understanding what the modern woman wants in a wardrobe to building a massive following simply by sharing personal style philosophies, Bing has been able to fuse both fashion and social media in a way few others have. Add to it the timeless and versatile pieces and Bing reaches a vast market no matter when a particular follower sees her for the first time.
Elizabeth von der Goltz, Net-a-Porter’s global buying director explains the appeal like this to Vogue Magazine: “This modern shopper is less defined now – she wants fashion that can be worn day or night. Each of [Bing’s] collections has a strong fashion identity whilst being completely wearable for every woman.”
Building a collection of essentials and adding in seasonal trends has worked well for Bing and fans of the brand. Senior news editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Rosa Sanchez, appreciates having the option for everyday basics, but with a polished feel.
“The collections transcend seasons and are ideal if you’re looking to simplify your wardrobe while still considering quality, style, and comfort.”
Bing’s early adoption of the see-now-buy-now concept has also helped catapult her into an accessible brand. Through posting collections on her personal and branded Instagram accounts, she became visible to hundreds of thousands of followers with each upload.
Another advantage of this concept is that brands can apply a three-pronged approach to selling: targeting customers, increasing demand, and generating hype around a product or label. The idea of having a limited supply – especially brands with exclusive drops or small inventories – is that customers are more apt to buy quickly before risking the chance that a product will sell out.
Followers who saw something they liked had the ability to purchase it before they had a chance to change their minds or shop around – this feature gave the brand a competitive advantage and put inventory front and center of consumers.
This authentic connection between Bing and her audience (plus knowing how best to reach them) has been integral to the success of the brand.
What’s more, Bing’s (both personal and the official brand) strategy across social media, ecommerce, and marketing has also helped make her a fashion staple for those looking for everyday items and pieces with a more fashion-forward edge.
Even as Bing’s brand grows, she’s stayed true to using Instagram. Between using upgraded features and integrating the various tools provided by the platform, there’s a sense of consistency that seems to work.
Having both a personal page and a brand page works, too. On Bing’s personal page, you’ll find plenty of fashion inspiration alongside lifestyle posts – images of Bing and her family on holiday, personal uploads, and behind-the-scenes content that works so well between creators and followers.
After years of success building the brand online, Bing opened its first Los Angeles store in 2014. The small space, featured in prime real estate of West Hollywood, garnered plenty of foot traffic. With the growth of the demand came the need for a team.
Between 2016 and 2018, the growth of the team included adding a chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and a vice-president of ecommerce and growth. There was also the addition of more retail stores, this time in New York and Paris.
When you think about how the Anine Bing brand grew, it’s quite fascinating and some might consider it risky. Ad campaigns were done with social media in mind, printed ads were not part of the early strategy. According to Bing, most of the marketing spend was done through Google, retargeting was necessary to connect to even more followers.
By 2019, the brand was hitting revenue goals of $50 million with 80 employees. Like most others, Bing had ambitious goals for 2020 – expansions, increased inventory, and investments in creative endeavors.
But, alas, nothing ever really goes as planned, does it?
Anine Bing goes international
The growth of the Anine Bing brand can be traced to a variety of pivotal moments.
From a style that women loved to being able to translate success with the newly launched Instagram platform – plus plenty of hard work both on the part of her and her husband in the early days – Bing recognizes that putting her head down and making things happen is what helped with her success.
Designing the collection, packing orders, and managing customer service were all done by the two-member team until things grew big enough to take on more team members. Aside from authenticity, what makes Bing a unique figure is the willingness to do any part of the job.
“You need to know every aspect of your business in order to then hire people, and guide them on how to run the business,” she tells Forbes. “ I have a better understanding of every team in our headquarters today because I’ve been on each of those teams myself. I think it’s important to be ready to work really hard and have your eyes open, ready to learn everything.”
Launching a small collection at first was also part of the strategy. Keeping inventory small and focused helped Bing and her team grow proportionally.
Since 2019, the Anine Bing brand has expanded to more brick and mortar stores in cities like Sydney, San Francisco, London, and Hamburg, and is on pace for a 40 percent increase in sales growth over 2021.
One big question is, can the brand’s minimalist style and essential pieces translate to markets abroad?
The next international destination on the map for Bing is China, where she will test the demand as a branded store in Alibaba’s Tmall Marketplace platform, which counts a billion active users annually.
Using a digital-first storefront operation in China, the Anine Bing brand will have some competition but with the everyday classic pieces it plans to sell, signs are pointing to it looking favorable. The platform is popular with other luxury brands, namely Prada and Gucci, which will help Bing draw in additional shoppers.
The move to China is part of an overall strategy to get the brand in more international cities in the coming months. The brand hopes to double physical store locations and increase its presence in existing markets like New York and Los Angeles.
The move for Anine Bing and her brand to the Chinese market will be one to watch – especially as other brands hope to hit international markets through platforms like Red Book, Tmall, and Weibo.
For Bing though, this could be a challenge as the Chinese market isn’t as familiar with her or her brand, but the strategy that’s helped her thrive has potential.
Simplicity in fashion is making a big splash in China, and with the emphasis on quality with convenience, it’s an important moment for Anine Bing, both on a personal level as well as the brand.