His lack of back­ground meant he was a on which the in­dus­try could write its own

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at Har­vard Busi­ness School in the USA and moved to Lon­don to work for man­age­ment con­sul­tancy McK­in­sey & Co. Af­ter four years he felt he wasn’t pro­gress­ing so left to pur­sue a ca­reer in the fash­ion in­dus­try. He hired him­self out as an ad­viser and set up a fash­ion con­sul­tancy to help young de­sign­ers find fund­ing. Suc­cess wasn’t forth­com­ing, how­ever. To amuse him­self Im­ran cre­ated a blog from his bed­room in Not­ting Hill. The tim­ing was per­fect. In 2007 a new dig­i­tal age was dawn­ing – fi­nally, luck was on his side and Im­ran was savvy enough to see the op­por­tu­nity.

An early stroke of for­tune was his friend­ship with Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet. She had worked at Tatler mag­a­zine and from her flat in Chelsea in 2000 started one of the first busi­nesses sell­ing de­signer fash­ion on­line. With the help of her French banker (now ex-) hus­band Ar­naud, Natalie quickly at­tracted in­vestors and by 2010 she sold her busi­ness to gi­ant lux­ury con­glom­er­ate Richemont – owner of brands such as Cartier and Dun­hill – for £50 mil­lion.

Natalie spot­ted Im­ran’s po­ten­tial and with her con­nec­tions was able to in­tro­duce him to in­vestors, giv­ing him, by as­so­ci­a­tion, an aura of cred­i­bil­ity. In 2013, he had seed money worth more than £1 mil­lion from in­vestors in­clud­ing LVMH, owner of Louis Vuit­ton and Chris­tian Dior, plus ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist In­dex Ven­tures, which al­ready had stakes in on­line busi­nesses such as Net-a-Porter and Asos.

Im­ran’s idea was sim­ple: the clue was in the name. While glossy mag­a­zines and celebri­ties cel­e­brated the glam­our of fash­ion, few fo­cused on the busi­ness it­self. Im­ran re­alised that while de­sign­ers such as John Gal­liano and Stella McCart­ney were fêted as celebri­ties, true power lay be­yond the lime­light and few peo­ple even knew the names of the play­ers. Who are the re­ally clever peo­ple, the cre­ative di­rec­tors or those that hire them? In an age of celebrity, the back­room boys were ready for some at­ten­tion.

Old-school in­dus­try news­pa­pers such as Women’s Wear Daily and Drap­ers Record sud­denly sounded out of date. The big la­bels in Mi­lan and Paris, strug­gling to make sense of this new land­scape, were in­trigued by Im­ran’s dig­i­tal busi­ness back­ground. As one Lon­don-based lux­ury com­men­ta­tor says, ‘He brought tech to what had been con­sid­ered a cre­ative in­dus­try. His lack of a fash­ion back­ground meant he was a blank page on which the in­dus­try could write its own sto­ries.’ The strictly suit-and-tie cap­tains of the fash­ion in­dus­try were more com­fort­able talk­ing to some­one with an MBA than a fash­ion di­rec­tor in a lob­ster hat.

Im­ran’s McK­in­sey back­ground en­abled him to launch his ca­reer with a spec­tac­u­lar charm of­fen­sive. Not be­ing a trained jour­nal­ist, ini­tially his on­line jour­nal largely sup­plied links to sto­ries from other sources, such as The New York Times and the Fi­nan­cial Times. He didn’t re­port the news, he re­ported on the re­port­ing of it so could not be held re­spon­si­ble for the views ex­pressed.

There is no doubt that Im­ran’s suc­cess is based on his hunger to be part of the in­dus­try. He has been se­duced by the glam­our of fash­ion. Un­sur­pris­ingly, suc­cess at­tracts re­sent­ment, and ru­mours abound of in­creas­ingly diva-like de­mands – this is a man who, while un­fail­ingly po­lite in pub­lic, takes him­self very se­ri­ously and is said to ex­pect to be treated ac­cord­ingly. How­ever, no one will ad­mit to hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced bad be­hav­iour first-hand.

It would make lit­tle dif­fer­ence if the sto­ries were true. Fash­ion loves its mon­sters, and anec­dotes are glee­fully swapped. Any­one watch­ing The Devil Wears Prada would con­clude that work­ing for Amer­i­can Vogue’s Anna Win­tour was far from a walk in the park, but the thinly dis­guised fic­tional ac­count of her out­ra­geous treat­ment of staff merely bur­nished her im­age.

One big ques­tion about The Busi­ness of Fash­ion is how prof­itable it is – or isn’t. In the dig­i­tal arena fi­nances are far from trans­par­ent. The Lon­don-based e-com­merce com­pany Far­fetch is a favourite of the site (Natalie Massenet is co-chair­man) and The Busi­ness of Fash­ion glee­fully re­ported that it raised around £680 mil­lion when it floated on the New York stock ex­change last month, valu­ing the com­pany at nearly £5 bil­lion, while ad­mit­ting that it has yet to make a profit. Some be­lieve this is true for Im­ran’s busi­ness, too. One anony­mous US fash­ion com­men­ta­tor says, ‘I sus­pect that it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to plan for Im­ran. I think he imag­ined he would be ly­ing on a trop­i­cal beach by now, hav­ing sold out for a Louis Vuit­ton trunk­ful of cash. So far it hasn’t hap­pened.’

One as­pect of Im­ran’s life that is met with great sur­prise by many is largely due to as­sump­tions about the fash­ion in­dus­try it­self. That is, most peo­ple take it for granted that he is openly gay. ‘Ab­so­lutely not,’ in­sists an in­dus­try in­sider who has spent time with him on the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence cir­cuit. ‘He re­fuses to con­firm ei­ther way. His re­sponse, with some justification, is that he hasn’t time to have a per­sonal life.’

The hard work has paid off. Back in 2007 when Im­ran was in his bed­room writ­ing a blog, US Vogue an­nounced its Septem­ber is­sue was the big­gest mag­a­zine ever – a feat that be­came the film The Septem­ber Is­sue. Nei­ther Im­ran nor Anna could have known it, but this was the mo­ment that Neme­sis, the god­dess in charge of cut­ting peo­ple down to size, licked her lips. The mag­a­zine’s pub­lisher, Amer­i­can Condé Nast, has since plunged into the red and gos­sip rages about Win­tour’s fu­ture. Mean­while, Im­ran is planted firmly on the front row and it looks as though he will be there for the fore­see­able fu­ture. The old-school fash­ion ed­i­tors will just have to budge up. Im­ran with Kate Moss, top, and Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, above, who spot­ted his po­ten­tial early on

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