Q&A: The Business of Fashion's Imran Amed

A conversation with the Canadian founder of the influential fashion website

Daniel Cianfarra

Hailing from Calgary, London-based Imran Amed began his website, The Business of Fashion, in 2007. It is now essential reading for any editor or serious fashion tracker, offering a global perspective on the industry and an insider look into the most intelligent brands today. With Amed’s background as a Harvard Business School graduate, consider BoF the thinking person’s go-to fashion blog. In Vancouver to speak at the Searching For Style event on August 30th (FLARE‘s Editor-in-Chief Lisa Tant will also be attending), we caught up with Amed on the future of fashion.

Q: What do you attribute the success of BoF to?
A: No one is more surprised by the success of BoF than me. It started as a little experiment, writing in the evenings from my living room in London. In hindsight, I think there was a pent-up demand for an online resource with an informed analytical perspective on the fashion business that is not afraid to state an opinion.
Q: Is Twitter good or bad for fashion? How accessible is too accessible?
A: It depends how and why fashion brands and magazines are using Twitter. If they have developed a unique voice that is consistent with the brand, enabling them to engage consumers and readers in a new way, then it can work very well.  
Incidentally, it doesn’t always have to be the designers or editors themselves who are tweeting. A good example is DKNY PR Girl, one of the best examples of a fashion brand using Twitter effectively by providing a behind-the-scenes into the workings of a fashion PR department, demonstrating that accessibility done well can be inspiring and show a different side of the brand.
Q: Who is an up-and-coming design talent currently on your radar?
A: Thomas Tait from Montréal who recently completed his MA at Central St Martins and was selected as a finalist for the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize, is definitely one to watch. He’ll be presenting for the first time during London Fashion Week this September.
Q: Are Canadian designers having a moment? In London, it seems that between Erdem, Mark Fast and Todd Lynn, Canadians are making their mark. What you you attribute this to?
Indeed, Canadians are having a moment, and especially in London.
Like many emerging designers around the world, these Canadians have realized that to reach the international market they really need to be in an international fashion capital. One route that many of them seem to take is to study in London, which boasts two of the best fashion schools in the world, Central St Martins and The Royal College of Art. Then afterwards, having built networks in London’s fashion community, they stay on and take advantage of the rich tapestry of creative people that live and work in London.
Q: What advice do you give to both designers and bloggers to make their work stand out from the rest?
A: Know your target audience. Always keep them at the forefront of your mind. Understand their lifestyle and what they are looking for.  Gather their feedback and use it to tailor your approach. The voice of the consumer is an essential input into the development of any fashion business or blog.
Q: When you were studying at Harvard, did you ever think that you would be combining your business expertise with fashion blogging?
A: I didn’t even know what a fashion blog was back then, let alone think that I could combine fashion, blogging and business together!
Q: Who do you admire most in the fashion business?
A: I admire the people who have managed to build businesses, using a combination of creativity, business acumen and technology. Jefferson Hack and Natalie Massenet are two such individuals, and were both recently featured in our Fashion Pioneers interview series.
Q: Which brand or luxury house do you feel is the most innovative in their ability to meld their fabled history with current times and technologies?
A: Burberry has done an excellent job of translating its brand into the digital space. They have managed to experiment with new digital technologies, while always keeping their business and customer in sharp focus. Art of the Trench and Burberry Acoustic are two excellent examples of this.
A: What is an industry trend that you are most optimistic about?
The return to quality and value. While in Vancouver, I met with Ryan Willims of Inventory Magazine, which has become a global beacon for a shift back to classic, high-quality menswear staples which are built and designed to last. This return to quality and good design couldn’t have come sooner, especially in the age of digital technology which seems to push us to move faster and faster, and want more and more.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue the business of fashion in today’s climate?
A: Get some experience at a big fashion house first. The lessons you’ll learn about how a fashion business is run, and how the various elements of the business fit together will be invaluable.
Q: What advice would you give to the Canadian fashion industry? Many Canadian designers leave Canada to achieve success.
A: Since the international fashion markets are outside Canada, it makes sense that Canadians would seek out those markets to pursue their careers and dreams, just as they might go to Hollywood to pursue a film career, Wall Street to pursue finance or Silicon Valley to pursue technology. Thinking about fashion within a Canadian geographical context only is a mistake. The best thing Canada can do for budding fashion designers is to provide a platform for them to develop and test out their interest in fashion, educate them on both the business and creative sides of the industry and ensure that they have the confidence and global outlook to work in what is a competitive, global business.