Why did you decide to set up a fashion agency on your own?
My ambitions were not being fulfilled at Bruuns Bazaar. I'm so opinionated that it was as much of a challenge for them to have me as an in-house employee as it became for me to be there. Susanne Rutzou had been pestering me to take on her brand for ages, and at the same time one of my clients - the Tara Jarmon agent - had become too busy to look after it, so asked me if I would take over. Before I knew it I was on a train to Paris with a good feeling. The brands are different but complement each other.
All your labels have their own handwriting and don't slavishly follow trends. Does their success represent a backlash against fast fashion?
I don't think it represents a backlash, but I think it reflects how society is today. We all want something from everywhere. The thing about our labels is that they are about style rather than fashion. They all make pieces that you could have in your wardrobe for years; they signal quality and longevity of design.
Where and how do you look for new brands?
I'm always scouting for new labels everywhere I go, but my growth strategy is not about adding lots of labels. I would like to add maybe two brands over the next couple of years, but I'm not going to force it if that doesn't happen. Any brand I take on would have to fit into my universe - I'd have to adore it, want to wear it and imagine other people wanting to wear it. It would have to be strong in character, but easy to wear and a bit different. American Vintage is the only one of my labels where I have approached rather than been approached. It's classic and basic, but fits the mix because it offers something very luxurious - you just want to touch it. But my main priority is to grow the brands I already have to their full potential.
Why do you think Danish fashion is so popular at the moment?
Danish design in general is very strong, from architecture and furniture to fashion, and the quality is very good. Over the past five or six years there has been a lot of investment, which has given the whole fashion industry a boost. Where previously designers' success was limited to the domestic and Scandinavian markets, they now have the professional infrastructure and attention to help them achieve global success. The styling has also loosened its ties to the boho look and has become more directional. Either way, Danish style adapts very well to the UK market and doesn't clash with the culture here.
What is the difference between British and Danish style?
People dress up much more in the UK, whereas in Denmark they'll wear the same clothes to go out in as they wear to work. I love the way people make so much effort here - it's like going back to the 1940s or 1950s. In Denmark there has to be a really big party before anyone would make that level of effort. In Ireland they make even more of an effort, shopping specifically for events and buying head-to-toe matching outfits.
How much input do you have into the collections?
Quite a lot, but in a very neutral, gentle kind of way. I am in the lucky position of being able to leave it in their hands most of the time. The UK and Ireland is By Malene Birger's number one market, and ranks second or third on the list for the other brands, so they certainly listen to what I have to say. I prefer to just let them do their thing and then edit perhaps 20% out of the collection. It's important to separate what we do - a designer and an agent look at a collection with completely different eyes.
THIS FASHION LIFE
What is your biggest fashion weakness?
Shoes, bags and jewellery.
What was your best fashion moment?
I was having dinner with a girlfriend in Florence once when we were joined by Roberto Cavalli and his wife. We drank vodka all night and he told us stories about the old days of Danish fashion.
And your worst?
It's got to be me in the 1980s. I thought it was the coolest thing to use plastic carrier bags from fashion stores instead of proper bags. My father used to beg me to let him buy me a decent bag.
Who is your industry icon?
My dear friend Marko Matysik, who is also godfather to my youngest daughter. He has been a style icon for years as well as the creator of brilliant, original and luxurious couture.
What would you be doing if not fashion?
Probably a barrister or a pilot.
Where do you shop?
I shop abroad a lot, in small boutiques. In London my favourite store is Liberty. It has such an amazing selection of designers and I really love the personal feeling in the shop. I admire Fenwick too.
What are you reading?
I've just finished The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.
Who is your style icon?
I'd have to say Audrey Hepburn.
Who is your pop idol?
My daughter would want me to say Nelly Furtado, but my favourites are old classics such as Elvis or Abba.
Who is on your mobile's speed dial?
I call my friend Annika in Denmark a lot.