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Fashion | Dec 20, 2016

Evolving the business of fashion

From blog to big time with Imran Ahmed

It’s close to a decade since the Harvard-educated writer Imran Amed began broadcasting his thoughtful analysis on the state of the fashion industry from a Typepad blog from his laptop, on his sofa, in London’s West End. He called it The Business of Fashion – a no-nonsense, unapologetic title that translated his own sensibility for the machinations of global industry directly towards the creative and rambunctious world of fashion. From those early days of diligent reporting, journalistic integrity, and the bold choice to grant airtime to opinion, Amed’s humble website has grown to encompass a multichannel platform that services millions of monthly readers with some of the most competitive breaking news mingled with personal, constructive interviews with industry leaders and emerging talents.

BoF, as it is fondly known today, has been no overnight success, a fact that Amed will freely admit amongst anecdotes of his fights with fashion PRs in order to enter shows and events across the major capitals - slowly but surely gaining credibility and the access that goes with it. Add to that his pointed challenge to beat the generation of bloggers whose rise to fame ran parallel to his own career, and one may begin to fathom the dogged determination and strategizing that has allowed BoF to thrive in competition not only with the ‘blog’ generation, but with some of the most respected bastions of traditional media. “At first, my approach for BoF wasn't to fill any market gap or opportunity, but rather to have a creative outlet for my interest of the intersection of business and fashion,” Amed told QICGRE. “But soon, I realised that there were many others interested in the same space - coming from both sides of the industry; creatives looking to understand business, and business people looking to understand creativity. Over time, we have added other interesting intersections - fashion and technology, fashion and sustainability, fashion and education - all of which are now part of the BoF that people know today.”

Those intersections are what have helped BoF position itself as a thought space for cross-pollinating disciplines and a yardstick for industry standards. With its emphasis on statistical data, long form essays, and one-to-one interviews, BoF has ensured its distinction from the image heavy, celebrity-driven content of many fashion magazines and their websites. The Daily Digest newsletter too has been a critical tool in securing and building the site’s audience, not only for the fact that it delivers the key headlines to one’s inbox every morning, but also for the likelihood that those headlines will include unmissable industry buzz, financial market speculation, and the latest show reviews from a fashion week somewhere in the world that you are not.

 

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“It actually started from day one”, explains Amed, of the newsletter’s early inception. “At first, people only received a newsletter when the website was updated with a new article, which at the time was once or twice a week, and these people were mostly my family and friends. Then, as more and more people were signing up, I realised it was valuable to turn this into a daily habit, and started creating the Daily Digest of recommended stories from around the web. Today, the Daily Digest newsletter has become a really powerful way of engaging with more than 200,000 subscribers. Newsletters have become really trendy with media companies everywhere, but we are lucky.” Although the Daily Digest pulls from a host of external sources for its content, the site itself has developed in myriad directions, providing timely content to readers interested in emerging designer talents, the brand-building strategies of new and established labels, and the state of the fashion job market (alongside the BoF Careers classifieds section).

There is no doubt that the re-positioning of the Style.com formula into an e-commerce platform had created a massive gap in market-driven fashion news online, a fact not lost on Amed who invited seasoned fashion journalist Tim Blanks to head up his fashion review team. Blanks’ willing engagement has lent significant cultural clout to BoF, with his iconic plume offering a more highbrow edge to Amed’s editorial vision. “We have an amazing team of people who come from all over the world,” says Amed, of his core editorial team and the network of writers who contribute to the site. “They have been taught as engineers, lawyers, economists, entrepreneurs, classics majors and everything in between. I like to call us the fashion nerds, and it is through this nerdy lens that we like to observe, analyse and interpret what is going on in the fashion industry.”

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The BoF special print edition
“I like to call us the fashion nerds, and it is through this nerdy lens that we like to observe, analyse and interpret what is going on in the fashion industry.”

Part of BoF’s charm is its melting pot of diversity, its breadth of subject matter, and the manner in which it communicates those subjects. Since Amed’s seeded investment project in 2013, this has seen the team mount such initiatives as the special Print Edition, a compact journal now in its 7th edition which has seen such prestigious designers as Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld, and Jonathan Anderson grace its covers with their validating presence. Another crucial development for 2016 has been BoF Voices, a public talks series that began with local editions taking place in Hong Kong in January 2016, and Sydney in March. The significant and positive aftermath of these talks will culminate in the inaugural Annual Gathering for Big Thinkers, which will take place at Soho Farmhouse in the English countryside over the first three days of December. The Australian edition sponsored by QICGRE and hosted by Tim Blanks, saw Brioni’s creative director Justin O’Shea speak on an enlightened panel discussion about the challenges of ‘distant fashion markets’, wherein O’Shea’s buying expertise from his previous role at MyTheresa.com came into play.

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