When Imran Amed, a Harvard Business School graduate and former management consultant with McKinsey & Company, saw a gap in reportage about the fashion industry, he decided to launch a website called The Business of Fashion. “Most of what I was reading online focused on the individual—what they wore, what they liked—or there was commentary on what celebrities were wearing,” says the London, U.K.-based Calgarian. “There was nothing about the industry itself.”
Now Amed—who grew up on a steady diet of CBC’s Fashion File—has become the self-styled Tim Blanks for the digital generation. Some 90,000 people follow his Twitter posts, which are also republished on the New York Times website and Style.com. He has more than 100,000 monthly visitors to his website, including the executives of some of the world’s biggest luxury goods companies. Nadja Swarovski, creative director of the billion-dollar crystal company, is a follower, and so is Oscar de la Renta CEO Alex Bolen, Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, and the chairman of Condé Nast International, Jonathan Newhouse.
What makes The Business of Fashion special? According to Bonnie Takhar, the New York-based CEO of the fashion house Halston, Amed is essential reading because he is often ahead of the mainstream press when it comes to uncovering cutting-edge ventures in the fashion industry, such as the site’s recently launched “FashionStake Diaries,” which will follow a new start-up aimed at financing young designers. “[The Business of Fashion] is going to be The Economist of fashion, for fashion,” says Takhar.
The subjects he writes about are varied, but Amed always stays close to the mission of offering clear analysis of the business and spreading financial literacy like it’s the new black.
In just a few posts, he goes from discussing how China holds “the biggest opportunity for luxury brands in a generation,” to outlining the “Business of Fashion Basics”—finance lessons aimed at young designers explaining things like the difference between equity and debt.
There are also regular entries by a roster of international contributors on emerging designers, investing in global brands, and, of course, how digital media is transforming fashion.
One of the most popular features on the site are live-streamed interviews with “fashion pioneers” such as Massenet (who is credited with getting women to buy luxury online) and Jefferson Hack, the founding co-editor of the avant-garde Dazed & Confused magazine. Amed, now a fashion pioneer in his own right, gets his subjects to muse about style through the lens of business and technology, covering topics like the changing landscape of luxury consumption, the future of the fashion media, and how to use Twitter to build a brand.
Amed’s off-line empire is growing, too. He travels to the world’s style capitals to work as a talent scout and fashion business consultant to international luxury brands, and he’s been invited to share his insights on digital media as a guest speaker at leading business schools (London Business School, Harvard and INSEAD). In 2008, he started teaching the first-ever business course for undergraduates at the renowned London fashion school Central Saint Martins. “Fashion companies are now less able to control the conversation about their brands,” says Amed. “Smart brands have realized they have no choice but to be part of the conversation because it will continue with or without them.” For now, Amed is happy to lead the discussion.