Anine Bing on Terry O’Neill, Collabs & Company Growth

Days before the death of Terry O’Neill last month, Anine Bing launched a collaboration with the celebrated photographer. A sweater, T-shirt and dress featuring the iconic shot of French movie star Brigitte Bardot smoking a cigarette played a starring role in the collection — imagery that has always been on Bing’s mood boards. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his work, and in all our stores around the world, we have a little print of the Brigitte Bardot photograph,” she said of the late photographer. “We had an instant connection when we met. Some people are just special.” The company announced that a percentage of proceeds from the capsule would be donated to The Bobby Moore Fund via Cancer Research U.K., as chosen by O’Neill and his team.

This is just one aspect of Bing’s burgeoning business. Bing has 15 stores located around the world. Most recently, she opened a location in Hamburg, Germany.

Last year, she completed a $15 million Series A funding with equal participation from Index Ventures, Greycroft Partners and Felix Capital, whose portfolios include Farfetch, Glossier, Goop and Bird). Since funding rounds began in 2016, the company doubled its revenues year on year with a similar projection forecast for 2019.

Last week in Paris, FN caught up with the L.A.-based designer to talk about her eponymous label.

Anine Bing x Terry O'Neill
Anine Bing x Terry O’Neill.
CREDIT: Anine Bing

FN: How important have shoes been to the brand’s growth?
AB: “It was the Charlie boot with gold studs that put us on the fashion map. Shoes have always been so important for the brand. I love a good pair of boots: They just make any outfit look badass. It was these boots that got me into all the best stores in the world and a celebrity following, too.”

Where are the shoes produced, and how much of the footwear category makes up the overall line?
AB: “We do six collections every year; 45 pieces in each, including five to seven shoes. We started in L.A. with the nicest little man and a couple of staffers, but he couldn’t keep up with the production, so we moved it to Turkey. We only use one factory there and they produce only for us.”

What is your best-selling shoe?
AB: “The Charlie boot is definitely up there, but we also have the Stevie and Stella boot that sell a lot. It’s evenly split between those and varies from season to season. But the Charlie is still the most consistent.”

What is the sweet spot for your customers when it comes to price?
AB: “Our shoes range from $349 to $699, but when I talked to my staff at the Paris store recently, they told me it doesn’t matter to the customer. If they like the product, they will buy it.”

And you try out all the shoes yourself?
AB: “Yes, I always road-test them to make sure they are comfortable. I walk around in each for a week. I’m a 37, so they make all the samples in my size. I cannot stand shoes that are not comfortable as we all have such busy lives. It’s the same with the clothes, I still try everything myself.”

You were an early adopter of the drop model. Why?
AB: “It was part of the plan from the start. We wanted to do see-now-buy-now and Instagram had just launched. I’d had a blog for many years with a little community where, every time I posted a vintage piece or something cool, they wanted it. I saw that desire for instant gratification so I decided to build the business that way with weekly drops as opposed to the more traditional route. It’s been a good tool for us.”

What are your key markets?
AB: “It’s equally strong in Europe and the U.S., and now Australia is a big market for us, too.”

What is your biggest opportunity going forward in terms of both geography and product?
AB: “Asia is a market we haven’t yet tapped into so I believe there is a huge opportunity for us there. I hope for 2020. It’s just about finding the right spaces and the right timing. We also just hired the most amazing tech designer for denim who will help us grow the category. I am a denim girl and there’s no better feeling as a woman when you put on that perfect pair of jeans so that’s what I really want to create.”

How important is the luxury department store business to your wholesale strategy?
AB: “It’s great to be there for brand building as you are sitting next to other amazing labels. We’re in about 300 stores now, including boutiques and online shops like Net-a-Porter. But for the business it’s also important to have our own flagships.”

What is the next step?
AB:
“To continue growing the brand. I’m really proud to see how far we’ve come in the last seven years. I love opening stores and having a physical footprint. You can also expect some interesting collaborations starting in early 2020 — they could be with brands or people. You don’t want to do too many, but to get to work with another creative mind, that feels super exciting for me.”

Anine Bing Charlie Boots
Anine Bing Charlie Boots.
CREDIT: Anine Bing

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