Caroline Bille Brahe has a background in high end fashion as she started her modelling career in 2010. She’s walked the runways of Paris, Milan, New York, London and Copenhagen for brands like Christian Dior, Elie Saab, Sonia Rykiel and Balenciaga. She’s also grazed magazine covers as well as your tv as she strutted down the Victoria’s Secret runway in both 2011 and 2013.
Besides being one of the most fashionable Danes – Vogue wrote a piece about her spectacular wedding – Caroline is a wife and mother as well. She’s married to Frederik Bille Brahe, the man behind Café Atelier September and Apollo Bar & Kantine in Copenhagen, and together they have daughter, Sonya, and son, Axel.
Caroline has always had an interest in fashion and she’s been fortunate for it to always have been a part of her work life as a model.
When asked to describe her style, Caroline finds it difficult, but she says that her universe is “very colorful, a bit playful and fun”. It’s clear that Caroline enjoys dressing up and that it’s important for her to not take it too seriously.
She finds the inspiration for her lively wardrobe in old vintage collections – especially Saint Laurent. Seeing the different combinations of colors, shapes and materials makes both her brain and heart do summersaults.
When asked about why she enjoys secondhand and vintage shopping so much, Caroline attributes it to a combination of things – she likes good deals, old collections and the idea of a more circular lifestyle.
Caroline has given fashion and sustainability some thought. She believes that secondhand shopping is the only right thing to do when it comes to circular fashion. She would encourage everyone to sell the pieces that they know they don’t wear anymore to prolong their lifetime and says, “sustainability’s also a big part of why I shop secondhand”.
Caroline likes the idea that an item has a story, when you buy it secondhand. A vintage item has provided someone else with joy and is now ready to do the same for you, and Caroline doesn’t just buy secondhand clothing – the same goes for furniture.
Caroline also mentions that buying secondhand items brings out personal style more than conventional shopping. Caroline has never been one to wear the newest trends or the most contemporary pieces, and almost her entire wardrobe consists of vintage pieces.
When she goes vintage shopping she has the opportunity to find something unique and something that not everyone will be wearing – and there’s a reason for that. For one, there’s a limited supply of pieces, so when you find something you like, you better get it.
But secondhand shopping also takes time. Caroline says that secondhand shopping “is almost like a sport” to her and that she really enjoys scrolling through the good sites. Because it takes time you have to be dedicated to finding the good pieces and the items that fit your style. This is also why secondhand shopping is such a personal thing that allows you to really showcase your style. Not everyone will be into the same pieces from the same designers and eras, but there will be something for everyone in the end.
Caroline actually loves secondhand shopping so much that she started her own business. CBN Vintage was an online platform, where you could shop Carolines curation of vintage pieces, and it came about as Caroline was spending so much time looking for and discovering the perfect vintage pieces. She says, “my favorite thing was to sit and look at vintage pieces online. I kept thinking it would be great if I could do this for work, because it gives me so much such”.
CBN Vintage held an in-person pop-up in Atelier September in September 2018 and was the talk of the town. Online features were written for Vogue US and the Danish magazine Costume about Caroline’s new online secondhand boutique.
Caroline did however notice that she thought it was hard to part ways with the pieces that she’d invested so much time and energy into finding. She also only bought pieces for CBN Vintage that she would wear herself to make sure that her curation would be special and stand out from other vintage shops.
“It really hurt my heart to pass it on”, Caroline says when talking about the process of selling these items, she’d personally spent so much time on uncovering. Caroline and her husband Frederik also welcomed their daughter in 2019, which meant that Caroline had to take a step back and get used to the feeling of being someones mother and caretaker. Because of this, Caroline no longer has CBN Vintage.
When speaking of this Caroline says, “I stopped selling vintage items, but I haven’t stopped looking for them. Now I only buy for myself which means that I have twice as much” and laughs.
Caroline has a lot of experience with secondhand shopping – she’s travelled a lot as a model and has explored some of the best boutiques in the world as well as having curated the selection for CBN Vintage. All of this experience has shown Caroline what her favorite item is – Chanel bags. “For me, a Chanel bags is like buying jewelry. It’s something you can keep forever and it can really spruce up your everyday outfit”, she says and adds, “it’s an investment for your wardrobe. I’ll definitely recommend buying these”.
When shopping Chanel bags, she would always go for a classic shape, “I’m not that into all the newer models”, she says, but she refuses to be too traditional. “I wouldn’t look for a black or a beige Chanel bag. If I was browsing your page, I would look through all your Chanel bags and choose the one I like the most. Probably the most colorful or special looking one”.
Take notes – classic shape, different colors and materials. Here you can see some of Caroline’s favorites from The Vintage Bar.
Besides Chanel bags, Caroline doesn’t really look for anything special when shopping. She looks for bags, shoes, clothes and accessories alike. She scours the internet and takes a second look at items that fit her style, “I can just tell if I like it or not”.
When asked about what she has her eye on right now, she laughs and answers very on brand with her previous tips, “I’d really like to buy a red Chanel bag. Bright red”.
Today, Caroline tells me, she’s working on her own brand. Knowing how carefree and adventurous Caroline is with styling, it’ll be interesting to see how her own brand is going to look.