Imran Amed is editor and founder of the online publication The Business of Fashion (BoF). He talks about a turning point in luxury, emerging global markets, the industry's relationship with new media, and the Mobama craze.
PRWeek: Tell me about your career path. How did you come to be editor of BoF?
Imran Amed: Without going back into too much detail, I have a background in management consultancy, and in general a very deep business background, but I've always had kind of a creative dent to my past as well… [It was] almost like an experiment without any real objectives other than just to have a forum to discuss this really interesting intersection of business and fashion. I set up this Web site without any specific goals. In a way, I appointed myself as editor, but I was also everything else as a photo editor and researcher. So editor sounds like a bit of a lofty title for what it was, but really it was just an experiment to supplement my activities in the industry and a place to share my ideas. What I never expected is that it would be something that other people would also be very interested in reading and participating in.
PRWeek: Who were your readers initially and who are they today?
Amed: Based on conversations and reader surveys we've done, I'm really excited that our readership is made up of CEO's, creative directors, very talented industry analysts, journalists, students, academics, [and] investors, all of whom are interested in this intersection of business and fashion.
PRWeek: What is the role of BoF in the fashion industry, as an online publication in fashion media?
Amed: I like to think of BoF now as the one place that people can go to sort through all of the clutter. With the advent of the Internet and other new media technologies, there's so much content out there now. Sometimes my readers tell me they're overwhelmed with everything that gets thrown at them on a daily basis. What they tell me they like about BoF is it kind of clears the clouds and sorts through the day's news, analysis, and events. It provides what I think is opinionated analysis, which you don't find as much in the fashion industry, especially in the trade press, because, in addition to traditional journalism, blogs and independent Web sites allow people to add opinion and personality. It's not just about what we put on the site. It's about how people engage, so it really becomes more of a conversation.
PRWeek: Who is your competition?
Amed: Most independent fashion publications come at it from a consumer angle. There are very few sites that come at the industry the way that we do. It'd be inaccurate to say there's no competition, [but] I don't really look at it as competition because I think the way new media works is [that] you build a voice, and if the people are interested in what you're saying, that voice becomes a group of voices. We're just one of many players who are providing an interesting angle on what's happening in the fashion industry.
PRWeek: You touched on a key point, new media. Many say that people in the fashion industry are late to utilizing it as a marketing tool and really understanding what it's about. What are your thoughts on that?
Amed: A lot of people say the fashion industry has been slow to adapt to new media and to the Internet more generally. I'd say to a certain degree that's very true, but I'd say it's more the establishment, the traditional big players. If you look at the innovation of small startups over the past 10 years and the way they've gone out and really innovated and the way fashion is consumed, discovered, and celebrated on the Internet, you'll see there's tons of innovation going on with new media. It's almost like the startups have to go out and prove that certain things can happen successfully. So when [founder of fashion e-commerce site Net-A-Porter] Natalie Massenet goes out and says, ‘I can sell luxury goods online,' no one believes her until she goes out and sets up Net-A-Porter and it becomes this massive phenomenon. So of course all of the big establishment players pour in after that. It's a natural cycle of innovation.
PRWeek: What are some trends you're noticing in the fashion industry affecting media coverage and outlets?
Amed: We spend a lot of time on BoF discussing something we call ‘Fashion 2.0.' That is all about how new media and the Internet can be used to develop and deliver communication about fashion. For me one of the most interesting emerging trends, is I think a lot of people are convinced that the Internet is a great place to sell fashion, and that model has been proven by many companies. For me, the really emerging important trend in fashion when it comes to Internet is about how do you use the tool effectively as a communications mechanism, but also how you engage the other media outlets and voices on the Internet to discuss and celebrate your brand and products.
PRWeek: I see you have staff around the world. Is a result of an emerging global trend?
Amed: There are different things happening in different parts of the world. That allows us to keep eyes on very established markets like Japan and be on top of emerging markets like India. We recently did an India fashion week on BoF just to share some of our writers' insights from the ground. The best way to stay on top of what's going on is to have people on the ground who are experts or who operate in the industry.
PRWeek: What is your interaction with PR professionals?
Amed: I meet people all the time, but primarily we receive a lot of untargeted communication e-mails every day to our BoF e-mail address. We get a lot of requests from people who want to advertise and publicize their events or sample sales or new products, and that's not what BoF is about. It's about understanding the underlying business models, technologies, and trends driving the industries. When we receive targeted, clear communication that helps us to meet the objectives we have for our community...We're happy to work with people who come to us to help us meet those objectives.
PRWeek: What has been the most interesting trend or current event you've covered in the past few years?
Amed: I think it's happening right now. I think even before the economy took a massive turn for the worst in the autumn, we were already beginning to see the beginnings of a trend questioning the definition of what luxury is, or the role of what luxury is in people's lives. In last few years, there's been a proliferation of brands and products and designers, many of whom lack substance, quality - there's been a lot of copying, a lot of knockoffs; there's been a deterioration in craftsmanship. Just as there was a credit bubble, there was a luxury bubble. We're seeing that bubble pop right now. What it's doing is accelerating this questioning of this trend I mentioned earlier of what luxury is, and how luxury is designed by sustainability, ethics, craftsmanship, design, honesty, value. These are the words people are thinking about today. Some other words we've been hearing in previous years like celebrity, collaborations, licensing - everything is being questioned. I think it's a very interesting time for the luxury and fashion industry right now as the industry undergoes what I think is a systemic change in its structure and size.
PRWeek: What do you read to stay up to date?
Amed: I'm a voracious consumer of media. I read a lot of blogs. I read serious business publications like The Economist. I read excellent journalism and writing in magazines like The New Yorker. I stay up to date on culture with things like Vanity Fair, Monocle, and Fantastic Man, bust most of the insights, sparks, or ideas are from conversations.
PRWeek: What are your thoughts on the Mobama craze?
Amed: I think it's fantastic the world has a role model like Michelle Obama who has really reinvigorated the interest in American fashion. I think it's fantastic she's chosen to support mass market brands like J. Crew to the highest-end brands in America and in Europe like Alaia or Thakoon. The one thing I'd say is I hope it doesn't become the defining feature of what Michelle Obama's contribution is to the world. Given her experience, her education, and her intellect, there's a lot more this first lady can bring besides this excitement about fashion.
Name: Imran Amed
Title: Editor and founder
Outlet: The Business of Fashion
Preferred contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.businessoffashion.net