When Anine Bing joined Instagram, she had no idea how big of a business it could be.
In less than a decade, the fashion influencer-turned-designer has amassed more than 600,000 Instagram followers and launched an eponymous clothing line. On Thursday, she will open her 10th store, in London, and in 2019 her company is expected to double its revenue.
Born in Denmark, Bing launched her blog while living in Sweden. She moved to Los Angeles shortly after Instagram launched, joined the social media platform and began to build a following by sharing her outfits. Once she had racked up about 4,000 followers, she knew she could turn her following into a business.
“Whatever I was wearing, people came to me for inspiration and wanted to know where I got it,” said Bing. “I saw early on that there was some kind of business in it. I had no idea how big that would be, but I saw early on that it had an impact.”
In 2012, she launched her now popular digital-first clothing line with about 10 to 15 products to start. The offerings spanned leather jackets, jeans, dresses and T-shirts, aka the “basic essentials that all women need in their wardrobe,” as Bing called them. After an initial positive response, she quickly added shoes to the mix with the launch of the Charlie boot.
“Those boots were what put us on the map in the fashion industry,” she said. “Everybody started wearing them.”
The shoe category is now Anine Bing’s largest — the Charlie boot continues to be a best-selling product — with laces close behind. The growth in laces is fueled, in part, by the brand’s revamping of its lingerie line last year. But even before that, the category received an unexpected celebrity push.
In 2016, Kendall Jenner wore a black Anine Bing lace bra top to Coachella, promptly causing the piece to trend online and subsequently sell out “instantly” on the Anine Bing web site, according to Bing.
Asked whether she had seeded the top to Jenner’s styling team, Bing said she hadn’t. In fact, according to Annika Meller, cofounder and chief operating officer, the brand doesn’t pay anyone.
“That’s the way we actually work with our muse program,” said Meller. “We never pay anyone, we look at it as an organic channel. The women liking our brand is something we want them to be completely authentic about.”
The Kendall Jenner effect may have contributed to the growth of Anine Bing’s lace category, but Bing is the ultimate driver of sales and foot traffic.
“Whatever we put Anine in, we see an instant sale coming through online, and that’s true for our stores as well,” said Meller. “We see foot traffic increase when Anine’s been wearing something — not to mention if she actually were to go to the store herself, we see customers coming in. She has a big impact.”
One example, said Meller, is when the company opened its store in New York City’s SoHo district earlier this year. Bing posted on Instagram that she would host a meet and greet at the new space, and customers began showing up just a few hours later.
“It continues to be the case for all our different public relations stunts and events that we’ve done not only in Europe but also here in the U.S.,” said Meller. “When we launched our Stevie boots, we sold out within three hours.”
The company now approaches launches on a weekly basis, dropping about five stockkeeping units every week, which Bing said keeps the customer — and her team — engaged.
Though it is digital-first, Anine Bing the company has seen a lot of growth through brick-and-mortar retail. It uses data collected from both its web site and brick-and-mortar locations to inform where it should open its next physical store. According to Meller, New York and Los Angeles are the most frequented locations.
“We’re opening stores where we see that there’s some demand and that’s how a digital presence can really inform our brick-and-mortar presence,” said Meller. “We’ve also seen that when we open the retail store, our online traffic increases and our footprint. They work in tandem.”
The newest location will open in London’s Mayfair district at 3 Grosvenor Street on Thursday.
“When I launched the brand, I didn’t think I would have stores all over the world, but it really makes sense today to have it,” said Bing. “The customers want to experience it in person, but all the channels feed each other. They’re equally important.”
“It’s the best way for us to understand what kind of product the customers want,” said Meller. “It gives us this unique relationship with them where we can have a very open and transparent dialogue with them. [The physical stores] are very important from that point of view, but also for the customers to touch and feel the brand.”
A series of launch events is planned for the first week of December. At one such event, VIP customers are invited to preview the store and meet Bing.
Next year the brand is expected to open even more locations both in the U.S. and internationally. Bing and Meller have been expanding their team, and are focused on building out the company’s data and technical infrastructure.
According to Meller, Anine Bing will double its revenue in 2019.
“We’re going to be doubling next year, so we have a big year ahead of us,” said Meller, who declined to reveal specific sales data.
Asked whether that growth would be from the addition of new categories, she said that none are planned at the moment.
“We’re not adding any new categories next year,” said Meller. “It’s an organic growth of the company and the product getting better and increasing our footprint digitally and also in our stores.”
Both Bing and Meller attribute the success of the brand to the fact that its designs resonate with a wide audience.
“Early on, I made it less complicated,” said Bing. “When I launched the brand, I wanted to be more approachable for women, not like most of the brands on the runway, which are only for certain kinds of women. I’m designing for the woman who works, who might have kids, who could live a modern life. In combination with whatever it is they like about me wearing the product, we’re also good at creating product for a modern woman.”
“Anine is extremely powerful in the way she faces the brand and has that unique relationship with our customer,” said Meller. “That’s something we’re very proud of.
“It’s not over-complicated fashion,” she continued. “It’s something you can wear every day in every type of setting. Whether you have an important board meeting or you’re picking up your kids from school or going out for a dinner with your girlfriends, you always feel comfortable in the clothes and that sends something out that it’s truly unique.”