Imran Amed: Fashion's original nerd


Imran Amed: Fashions original nerd
A special print edition of the Business of Fashion magazine

How a management consultant, fed up with his desk job, weaves commerce into creativity and becomes fashion's most sought-after digital expert.

By Sujata Assomull

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Published: Sat 31 Oct 2015, 6:52 PM

Last updated: Mon 2 Nov 2015, 3:17 PM

After five years, Business of Fashion's Imran Amed was in Dubai last weekend. This is a clear indicator that Dubai is now on the international fashion map. A stamp of approval from Amed, Business of Fashion's (BoF) founder and Editor-in-Chief and CEO, is an important vote of confidence from the international fashion industry.
On Wednesday when Lanvin confirmed that their creative director Alber Elbaz would be exiting the company after 14 years, among the first to report the news was BoF. It is the fashion industry's guide to the industry. If the doyenne of fashion editors, Suzy Menkes, needs help with her social media account, it is Amed she turns to, as the entrepreneur is fashion's most sought-after digital expert.
It has been eight years since the former McKinsey and Company management consultant started Business of Fashion. Today BoF has over 2.5 million followers on social media from over 200 countries. From a blog, it has turned into the industry's guiding light. The Harvard Business School graduate had always wanted to be in an industry that combined commerce with creativity. And that is how he ended up in the business of fashion. He admits to being a nerd at school, and his slight frame helps emphasise this. But after school hours, he was all about theatre, public speaking and music.
BoF was born on Amed's sofa in his Notting Hill apartment in London. After McKinsey, Amed, who always had more of an entrepreneurial spirit and obviously did not enjoy the confines of a desk job, decided to start a fashion consultancy and lend business expertise to young creative talent. The blog was an extension of this, it was his outlet. It's clear and analytical approach to fashion ensured it gained the attention of some important members of the fashion community. Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de La Renta, was one of the first to invite Amed to his runway shows a year after the latter launched BoF. Says Bolen: "From the get go, Imran wrote well about topics relevant and interesting to my work life. He asked interesting questions, (ones frequently on my mind) and proposed cogent answers. It seems to me this defines good journalism."
The fact that Amed did not come from a journalism or fashion background, seems to have been his biggest advantage. He was able look at the industry without the frills, the fuss and fascination. "Fashion is a glamorous business," he says. "And yes, people still get caught up in the glamour, that is just how it is," he says with no judgment.
His years in fashion, however, have had an impact. So conscious is he of his image, he is hesitant to be photographed on the spot and much prefers that his office supplies the images for his profiles.
Amed is clearly not caught up in the glamour but he understands it is an important part of the industry. You will see him at fashion parties, but he nearly always leaves before midnight. He is a morning person, up at 6am most mornings. He spends at least 100 days a year travelling. Another key differentiator has been his global outlook.
Amed was born in Canada, to parents of Indian descent who were from East Africa, and eventually he moved to London. Being cosmopolitan is at the heart of BoF. "Most fashion companies are based in New York, Milan and Paris - I am not in London by accident but on purpose. It is truly the most global city in the world".
With a list of columnists who always say it as it is, such as the very respected yet opinionated fashion editor, author and academic Colin McDowell, and a list of contributing editors that includes Vogue India's outspoken and well-networked Fashion Features director Bandana Tewari, Milan's leading fashion writer Angelo Flaccavento and the former fashion editor of South China Morning Post and currently one of Hong Kong's most important fashion bloggers, Divia Harilela. Amed picks contributors who have the same vision of fashion as he does.
"These fashion writers are also entrepreneurial in their outlook to journalism." He meets most of these writers on his travels. Always on the pulse, his coverage of new markets like China, India, and Brazil has ensured BoF truly leads the industry's thought process. Which explains his weekend trip to the Emirates. Analytics made him aware that for fashion, Dubai is definitely top of mind right now.
In 2013, Business of Fashion closed a round of $2.5 million in funding led by Index Ventures. (This venture capital firm has invested in Dropbox, Facebook, Asos and Moleskin). Investment has made no difference to the independent voice that is BoF's true USP. "We chose investors who believed in our vision. As Oscar de la Renta's Bolen says, "Digital or analog, our industry needs more clear voices.BoF is consistently covering the leading edge of industry issues. From working conditions in Bangladesh to Tom Ford's Spring video in lieu of a runway show, his team get to developing the issues early".
Amed still manages the Instagram account himself. "Each type of media has a different purpose - Twitter for instance, is for breaking news." As for now access to BoF content is free, and registered users receives a daily digest of key stories curated from key publications around the world. The site's traffic comes mainly from the UK and then from the United States and Asia.
In the same year as the funding closed, Amed unveiled BoF 500, a live index of the people shaping the global fashion industry, accompanied by a special print edition of the magazine. That was also the year BoF 500, his website, was named as one of the 50 best websites of 2013 by Time magazine. This was followed with the launch of BoF Careers, the Global Marketplace for Fashion Talent, with launch partners including Net-a-Porter Group and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey group. And in September, BoF added runway reportage to its repertoire with noted fashion critic Tim Blanks joining BoF as editor at large. "We realised that the product is what drives the industry, but we did not review the product until we had the right voice," says Amed on BoF's somewhat late arrival into fashion show coverage.
He says one of the most challenging interviews he has done till date is that of Giorgio Armani. "First there was a translator," he says. "But also, he is a living legend," he says. Yes, Amed is fashion's original nerd.
The writer is Khaleej Times Consulting Fashion Editor

Imran Amed with Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label
Imran Amed with Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label
Amed with American designer Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo
Amed with American designer Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo

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