Anina was always an outlier, coming from a German family immigrants and was born first generation American. Growing up between Europe and America, Anina felt at home on airplanes and navigating airports by the time she was seven.
An outcast in school and bullied for being different, Anina spoke two languages, spent every summer in foreign cities, or with her father traveling across the country. Anina's international mindset simply could not relate to small town kids from middle America.
"I thought that I was ugly, so I went out of my way to make myself look different, be different, and think differently."
A rebel who confounded her professors with rationale, stood up for others, and infuriated her classmates with her constant questions about how things worked, Anina never let other's opinions stop her from understanding the future.
"One day my father sat me down to have a serious talk. He explained that beauty was a double edged sword. It would open many doors, and it could make people hate. I had no idea what why he was talking to me about it and then I found out later in life the relevance of that deep lecture."
Anina dreamed of becoming a fashion model and had the opportunity one summer while visiting her best friend to have photos taken. This landed her a modeling contract and lead to her ending up in Europe, taking Paris by storm, pounding the streets of London, Spain, Germany, until she ended up in Milan.
Throughout her journey, Anina created technology solutions to help her do business better and faster while on the go with the latest mobile technology from Nokia. She pioneered mobile reporting by posting her modeling adventures on her website "blog", she hacked into her phone to get the data out to tell her story. She built a mobile modeling website to show her photos to photographers by sending an SMS.
Anina became the first Google keyword for "model blogger" after attending a conference called "LES BLOGS" where she spoke with other geek pioneers about the future of the internet. Her innovative ways of using technology in fashion got her recognized worldwide by media which was struggling to explain to people the innovation revolution of citizen journalism through self publishing media.
But all this attention got her kicked out of her Paris modeling agency, SLIDES, when they gave her an ultimatum: be a fashion model, or create technology. "You can't do both," they told her. Anina was forced to leave the agency because she couldn't give up her dream of birthing the image of technological women.
It was in Italy that Anina got her biggest break: she found an agency that didn't mind her blogging her adventures on the internet, and she landed the GAS Jeans worldwide campaign. She waited until she was the one of the last model left in Milan for the summer and got a urgent reshoot from a photographer for a 14 page editorial spread and the cover of the magazine. By September, Anina's face was on every billboard, in every magazine, and plastered on subway stations around the world. She went on to be in the GAS Jeans worldwide campaign four time consecutively which gave her a media megaphone to speak through. Anina's media power on the internet grew too because of her blogging. Followers from around the world started to enjoy her mobile perspective into the backstage of modeling.
It was by harnessing technology that Anina bypassed the archaic fashion system and skyrocketed into the public eye.
"I went home and thought about what I could contribute to this world.
How I could make a mark and leave a legacy? When I die, how can I make a dent in the universe"
Anina realized that her mission was to blaze a trail to showcase women in technology
Having no role models while growing up, Anina had no one to look up to or emulate. Women in technology were almost non-existent, hidden from the media's eye.
Anina understood the role that media, and social media played in young women shaping ideas on who they could be. If technology didn't have fashion, women would continue to not be attracted to it.
Technology companies needed to apply fashion language to tech in order to gain mass adoption.
There were no applications to suit Anina's multi-tasking lifestyle, no female games to play, no fashion anywhere to be found because applications were created by men who had a very different mindset for how technology should fit into every day life. Anina started building technology to suit her own jet-setting, mobile first, online lifestyle which gave her a clear vision of what was missing and what she wanted to build.
This landed her on PBS television & the first woman on NERDTV speaking about the future of the mobile internet, right after the inventor of the mouse hosted by Robert Cringely, the top technology journalist in Silicon Valley.
Anina knew that if she wanted to create new images of women and technology through fashion, that she had better walk her talk.
As part of her MODELPRENEUR plan, she thought that every tech-model should have their own fashion dress up game, smart clothing, and be a super role model. Anina created one of the first fashion games for girls where you could dress her up as a fashion model in real designer clothing.
Together with ADOBE Corporation, Anina created Anina Dress Up and launched it with Nokia worldwide.
Anina Dress Up was one of the first mobile games for girls in 2003, and evolved from a flash lite game to a Symbian game to an iPhone game. Thanks to her friend Felipe Andrade who believed in her vision of showcasing brands through gaming, they developed the dress up App into the Anina Dress Up portal. Players could post photos of Anina dressed up and Anina could comment and interact with them. Anina became the first woman to be given the title of Nokia Champion, a program selecting 50 developers out of 2 Million worldwide to bear the special logo, have special benefits, and receive deep technology training by Nokia Corporation and partners. The program was the brainchild of Lee Epting, one of the top women in technology. Through Nokia and championed internally by , who were global leaders at the time, Anina gained deep understanding of mobile infrastructure and the technologies that would shape the world we live in today. Anina knew that fashion had to be a part of it, but it was only a few designers and brands who would join her.
As Anina wanted to positively influence young women to get into tech, being a real fashion model that they could dress up was integral to the game. Over 25,000 people have downloaded and played Anina Dress Up worldwide, commenting and interacting with Anina daily through the online website.
Thanks to Diane Pernet, one of the first people to believe in her vision, she introduced her idea to several brands. One of the biggest at the time, Eley Kisimoto understood the power of technology as their brand sold well in Japan. At the time Japan was one of the most advanced in mobile gaming and technology. Other designers such as Chelsea McLauren joined the game.
Nothing in this world is possible alone.
While modeling in Australia, Anina's concocted a plan to shoot an Anina Dress Up video where everyone brought all their clothing and it was styled on the spot and shot in a hilarious video thanks to filmmaker James McFay, singer songwriter Jane Walker, Matthew Pollock from IndigitalTV, Ferx, and a posse of friends.
A documentary filmed during New York Fashion Week about Anina Net and mobile reporting aired on PBS Television to 3 Million viewers.
Anina explains, "In 2005, I was told that I had to choose between fashion and technology by my agency Slides. I had come to the point in my life where I realized that I had a platform where I could make a difference by embracing technology.
And the fashion industry hated it.
After getting frustrated with the way the industry was set up to exploit models, I turned to social media, blogging and technology to give me a megaphone to create a space for women to use technology to get ahead. I soon became known for modeling and blogging, and was then handed an ultimatum by my agency. Stop using technology or leave.
I was very upset for a while, it was disheartening. I really only had Diane Pernet to support me through this time, as she helped connect me to many designers such as Eli Kishimoto. Finally building up as much bravery as I could, I left.
After this I met another snag, I wanted to move to China against the will of everyone that surrounded me. While many people still saw China as a space where fashion as we know it could not exist, I saw the potential and flew across the world to build my career in fashion technology.
Predicting how technology would impact the fashion industry and building my skills to become the fashion technologist I am today. I heard things that would seem so absurd in the lens of today, such as "why would anyone ever want a blog?" and "who would ever download a mobile app" after I created a mobile dress up app that grew to 20,000 active users.
Despite this I continued to persevere, and now the fashion industry has changed immensely. It has become less archaic and closer to the powerful industry I predicted it would be, back at the beginning of the millennium.
Going on this journey was not easy, and I have had to learn and pick up many skills all on my own. I am here to encourage you that if I can do it, you definitely can.
Over the course of two decades I have remained one step ahead of the curve due to the bold moves I made. Now I act in movies, model, and run 360Fashion Network, a company that helps brands innovate. Whether in fashion, government or mainstream fortune 500 IT companies, I work with brands such as Intel, IBM and Bestseller/Vero Moda to promote the image of women as smart, beautiful and technological."
Listen to Anina tell how she went on to further fuse fashion and technology through creating the 360Fashion Network, building robotic dresses, selling wireless charging wallets for women, and digitizing herself in as a 3D model interacting in augmented reality and virtual reality in China.
The story of innovation accelerates!
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“Excellent & inspiring story. I can’t wait to know what Anina does next!“