The oft referred to “muse”—be it in the context of a fashion designer like Hubert de Givenchy and his 40-year relationship with legendary actress Audrey Hepburn or Truman Capote’s obsessive interest in such high-society socialites as Babe Paley, who he gave the title “swans”—was once a rarified and intimate association. But over the last decade, within the fashion industry, the word muse has slowly been replaced by the word influencer. And thanks to social networking apps like Instagram and the obsessive sharing of street style photos of impossibly chic trendsetters on their way to various fashion events, the once intimate exchange has become a global conversation.
Today, the sphere of influence for these picture-perfect swans has increased exponentially and become something of a numbers game. If you create beautiful, engaging content and score some media coverage, designers and enthusiasts from around the globe will sit up and take notice. Today’s top social media influencers not only serve as the inspiration for fashion designers and may be courted to become ambassadors for their brands, but they also motivate consumers to continue shopping.
That’s something that Ocala-native Bettina Looney is banking on as the founder of a new London-based concierge fashion business that grew out of her experience as a personal shopper. The raven-haired beauty with an exceptional sense of style has captured the attention of top fashion publications like Vogue, as well as followers from around the world. In a relatively short amount of time, this bright young woman (she’s a mere 28 years old) has collected close to 40,000 Instagram followers and scored relationships with such iconic brands as Chanel and Fendi. We caught up with her for a chat in between her recent jaunts to Milan and Paris.
Were you always interested in fashion?
It’s so funny that I ended up in fashion because when I was little, my mother would have to drag me to the mall. The idea of shopping was my worst nightmare. I was the biggest tomboy!
How did a girl from Ocala become a top fashion influencer in London?
Sometimes, I still ask myself this question! Throughout my life, I‘ve always put myself out there, and when I graduated from the University of Florida, I thought that this was the only time in my life that I could randomly move somewhere spontaneously, with no obligations or set plans. So that’s exactly what I did. I chose London, and who knew that this move would pave the way to me finding my true passion.
How would you describe your personal style?
Adventurous and eccentric!
Tell us about your new company and how it’s different from being a personal shopper?
We still very much specialize in personal shopping. The concept behind the business is a fashion concierge service, where we offer everything fashion related to address our client’s needs, whether that be personal shopping, styling, wardrobe refreshes, reselling pieces they no longer want or seasonal wardrobe edits.
Is it true that you often travel to work with your clients wherever they live in the world?
That’s one of my favorite parts about this job, being able to meet incredible women from different cultures around the world. Some of my favorite places that I have visited are in the Middle East, Oman, Doha and Dubai.
What has been your “personal best” fashion moment?
Two years ago, one of my favorite clients took me to my very first fashion show. I was completely stressed trying to figure out what to wear. Finally, I pinned up a skirt so it was a bit more fun, wore a chunky H&M sweater and a pair of gold Gucci mules. When we walked up to the show, I was asked by a photographer if he could take a picture of what I was wearing. When I turned around, there were more and more photographers lined up to do the same. That image and outfit ended up being my first Vogue feature, and that’s when it all really began!
The most magical event you’ve attended?
My first ever Chanel fashion show! It was such a surreal moment to be there amongst some of the most incredible people in fashion while also experiencing a collection that was designed by Karl Lagerfeld, one of the greatest designers in the world.
What are some things you like to do when you come home to Ocala?
When I am in Ocala, I honestly love just being home and hanging with my family. But some of my go-to places are Stella’s for a yummy lunch, the Shannon Roth Collection to stock up on home accessories, The Corkscrew Winery for some natural wine and, if there’s enough time, I like to go horseback riding.