Back in her school days, Chinese fashion designer Li Lin wanted to study art, but her father pushed her toward chemistry. She actually worked in the chemical industry for two years after her college graduation, but then she decided to delve into the fashion world, according to Business of Fashion, To officially get her own fashion label off the ground in 1994, BOF has written, she enlisted 12 graduates from China’s Institute of Design.
That clothing label, JNBY (which stands for “Just Naturally Be Yourself”), has since become a market force. It is now one of China’s most recognized fashion brands, and as of 2019, it had more than 1,500 stores worldwide (with 700 in China) that are spread out over several continents. Its footprint in the United States includes outposts in Seattle (that opened in 2015) and San Francisco (2017). Lin’s company is divided into a number of brands, which include JNBY, Croquis, Less, and jnby by JNBY, Pomme de Terre, JNBYHome, Samo, and Reverb, and the enterprise is publicly traded. Revenue for fiscal year 2018 was estimated at a formidable $416 million.
Despite such success, she quite modest when discussing her own fashion bona fides. In an interview with Italian Vogue in 2012, she said that she does not see herself as much of a “fashion expert,” but that she looks to art—her “big passion”—as a source of inspiration. She is also a stickler for quality (a good trait for an art collector), telling Vogue, “I honestly prefer to make less profit and buy better fabrics.”