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Imran Ahmed 

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUSINESS OF FASHION

Eight years ago, as the world began to grapple with the sweeping digital era, a then-31-year-old Amed envisioned its decisive impact on the fashion industry. Now an authoritative critic and influential businessman, the founder of Business of Fashion has joined the ranks of the heavyweight luxury executives he profiles. Here, the man who once tackled the fashion industry as an outsider reflects on technology, business, and creativity.

 

The world has really changed in the last eight years, since I first started writing Business of Fashion. At the time, social media wasn’t really as prominent. The most prominent social-media network was MySpace, which was for the music community. Today, of course, social media is such a pervasive part of the way we live. I think it’s clear that we’re living a digital revolution where technology is transforming the way we live. At first, the fashion industry was hesitant to use these tools. Technology was seen as nerdy and external to fashion, but technology has been like a tidal wave. Even for the people who were reticent at first, it’s clear that it’s shifted the way we all live.

The most significant change for the industry is that technology has opened fashion up. Previously, fashion was a closed business. It was a small group of elite people who communicated in a very one-way, top-down formula. It was quite static. All of those things have now changed. Fashion shows are now available on social media, and people can feel that they’re participating. Social media has opened up a conversation with consumers that brands have to participate in, and engage in conversation about everything from customer service to marketing to recruiting. Some brands are also experimenting with technology, and there’s much more openness to it. It’s much more integrated to the way we create products—for example, the Apple watch, but also other wearable technology.

When I started, none of my professional training or education was in fashion, so that equipped me with a completely naïve, outsider perspective. My views weren’t constrained with old ideas of what the fashion industry was. I was educating myself, but I still had an openness about possibilities. My perspective was: What is this thing called social media? Let’s think about it.

I started as a consultant to LVMH, but I don’t do any consulting work anymore. My consulting work was my original way of making a living, but when BoF became my business, it seemed important to me to build it as a business 100 percent. But in a broader context there are no finite, clear answers on the boundaries between journalism, consulting, and advertising or commerce. Clearly, some of the traditional business models don’t translate online. People are really rethinking how media companies can be monetized. Advertising, subscriptions, and now commerce—selling things, using media as a generator of desire—these are the three tools for media companies. I don’t see it as problematic as long as companies are transparent about what they’re doing. If you look at old media, the relationship between advertising and editorial was always very porous. I think the very honest and clear solution to address that challenge is to be transparent. If content is being created about a company, the media company is responsible for being clear about how the content is created.

My objective and mission is to continue informing the global fashion industry. It was always about helping those within and those outside the industry understand that fashion is a business. If we can help creative people understand the business side of fashion and business people understand the creative side, then we’re doing our job.  —As told to Shirine Saad

 

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