While there seem to be countless bloggers vying for legitimate authority in the fashion industry, The Business of Fashion has been steadily gaining a genuine podium — albeit virtual — in the approximate year since its inception. In place of wish-I-were-there coverage, its editor, Imran Amed, convinces the likes of Natalie Massenet, Alex Bolen, and Robert Duffy to expound on everything from the economy to Twitpics, along the way offering informed advice and explanations of annoying-but-necessary legal terms (what the hell is the difference between debt and equity, anyway?) for anyone thinking of entering the business of fashion. We caught Imran during the fall 2010 rounds to discuss his audience, Harvard, and what exactly a young person who wants to be in fashion should do.
Who are your favorite designers?
Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen, ICHO, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Phoebe Philo, Jil Sander, Junya Watanabe.
What's one item you're saving up to buy?
What should every man have in his closet?
A bespoke suit.
What do you never leave the house without?
I always carry a sketchbook for capturing ideas, taking notes, and drawing charts.
You attended Harvard Business School — how was that experience?
The HBS experience was intense and rewarding. They don’t call it the West Point of capitalism for nothing. Sometimes it was horrible, but most of the time it was great. But after the dot-com crash killed everybody’s hopes of getting “dream” jobs, I went back into management consulting — my pre-HBS career at McKinsey — and it was a grueling few years. While I was learning a lot, I couldn’t get excited about the content of my work. I liked solving business problems, but the financial services, construction, and pharmaceutical industries were just not my bag. So I set my sights on fashion.
How did you get your start in fashion?
Around that time, someone at the BFC introduced me to some emerging designers in London. I then noticed a gap in the industry for people with management talent and with an authentic appreciation for creativity and design. My goal was to figure out a way to address that gap.
So I still act as a strategic consultant, but now exclusively to fashion/luxury brands. I also act as a talent scout for those interested in young designers, and advise investors interested in the fashion business. Lately I’ve done a lot of work and speaking engagements on how fashion is being revolutionized by digital media.
Also on the editorial side, I’m co-founder of LuxurySociety.com, a private network for luxury professionals. And, for sheer personal satisfaction, I teach a business course at Central Saint Martins and mentor young fashion entrepreneurs and emerging designers.
Which relatively unknown designers do you think will/should be big?
Michael Van der Ham and Holly Fulton both show great long-term potential. Mary Katrantzou’s prints have become an instantly identifiable signature, and Mark Fast’s knitwear is technically accomplished. In menswear, under-the-radar designer Aitor Throup looks set to be huge after this season, and Carolyn Massey is a rising star.
What effect do you think BoF has had on the fashion industry?
BoF is regularly referenced in business discussions, classrooms, and editorial meetings around the world, as everyone tries to make sense of all the change that’s engulfing the industry. We like to spark dialogue/discussion and contribute original thinking and analysis to the online fashion conversation, covering important industry topics that perhaps aren’t covered the same way anywhere else. Rather than think of ourselves as a news site, our approach is to take some time to reflect on what the news means, drawing inspiration from our conversations and observations at the front line of the fashion business, and then reflecting that back through opinionated commentary and analysis.
If you were a young designer (or a fashion-minded entrepreneur) graduating this spring, what's the first thing you would do this summer?
Get some hands-on experience with a big brand first. Leaving all the glamour and air-kissing aside, at the end of the day, fashion is about operations and getting things done. The best way to be successful, therefore, is to learn from the people who do it best. That doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever — it’s just always good to try your hand at things first.