In mid-September, during another busy day at London Fashion Week, the fashion world made its way from the Tom Ford show and a cocktail party at 10 Downing Street over to dinner. At Berners Tavern in central London, the designers Jonathan Anderson, Nicholas Kirkwood and Christopher Kane mingled alongside executives like Domenico De Sole of Tom Ford, LVMH’s Pierre-Yves Roussel and Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet. Even the actor Dan Aykroyd showed up.
They were there at the invitation — and, in some ways, tacit celebration — of Imran Amed, the 39-year-old editor in chief and founder of the website The Business of Fashion. The dinner signified the most recent publication of the BoF 500, a power list conceived by Mr. Amed a year ago and already a much-scrutinized list of who’s in (Kendall Jenner, Shayne Oliver) and who’s out (Terry Richardson, Olivier Theyskens).
Most of the people in the room were on the list, of course, a fact that seemed to make Mr. Amed almost giddy as he talked about it later: “I literally went through the seating chart and planned every single table, thinking, ‘Well, who would like to talk to whom?’ ”
A few days after the event, Mr. Amed sat in the restaurant at the Palazzo Parigi Hotel in Milan, fresh from that morning’s Giorgio Armani show. He was dressed in a colorful Sacai shirt, Nudie jeans, a Burberry trench, Prada boots and dark Céline eyeglasses. He is not an imposing figure. He’s either 5-foot-3 or 5-foot-4 (he said he would have to measure himself to confirm) and, depending on how bulky the show invitation he’s carrying that day, weighs a little north or just shy of 100 pounds.
As Mr. Amed recalled the dinner, it was hard not to accept the fact that he was very much among his peers, and that Mr. Amed himself would surely occupy a spot on that list of 500 if he weren’t the one conjuring it up.
It has been quite the leap for a onetime fashion nobody, a former McKinsey management consultant who had gone from back-row blogger to front-row fixture in the space of just a few years.
“It’s not like I ever sat in my room and said I was going to start a media company and become an editor in chief,” Mr. Amed said. “It was never my dream. It was something that just happened.”
There are plenty of sites dedicated to monitoring Rihanna and Cara Delevingne’s Instagram accounts and the latest red carpet faux pas. The Business of Fashion isn’t that.
“It’s really about the ideas,” Mr. Amed said. “It’s not about flash or controversy.” Two recent stories on the site were about Hermès’s retail strategy in China and an analysis of digital sales among luxury brands.
The Business of Fashion site, which Mr. Amed started in 2007, has steadily gained a fashion-world following. Many readers get a tip sheet sent out at 6 a.m. London time (Mr. Amed compared it to The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet) that, in a chaotic and cross-continental industry, has become something of a daily destination. Ms. Massenet described it in an email as a “must read every day.”
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The designer Tory Burch said: “It’s something I’ve added to the list in the last year or so. Before I actually get to reading the papers, I read it.”
Born in Canada to East African parents of Indian descent, Mr. Amed studied commerce at McGill and graduated from Harvard Business School before taking a job at McKinsey & Company in 2002. He did banking in South Africa, real estate in Australia and pharmaceuticals in England.
And then, about four years into the job, he realized he was miserable. Friends encouraged him to take up meditation, but he initially resisted. It was around this time that a man from Singapore changed his life and set him on a course to the fashion world, Mr. Amed said.
“A man stopped me in the New Delhi airport, and he said to me he wanted to tell me some things about my life,” Mr. Amed said. “I thought he was one of those kooks.”
Mr. Amed listened to him anyway. The man wrote something down on a piece of paper and asked Mr. Amed to name a color and a flower, and to choose a number from one to five. Mr. Amed answered (blue, lily, three), and it was the same thing this airport seer had written down.
“This sounds really crazy, and I’ve never told any journalist this before, but there was some sign,” he said.
Mr. Amed eventually set off on a mediation retreat, and quit his job from McKinsey in 2006. He wanted to break into a creative field, but he wasn’t sure which one. He most certainly was not a fashion nut (“I didn’t read Vogue,” he said), and his only exposure to the industry was what he saw on television. “Fashion was really impenetrable to me,” he said.
But he had a friend who took him to some London fashion shows, where he would “stand by the wall and watch,” he said.
He got an idea and started meeting with young designers. He diagnosed a problem that many fashion companies (and groups like the Council of Fashion Designers of America) diagnosed around the same time: Designers were bursting with ideas but were often disasters as businesspeople.