The Mancunion

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Fashion profile of the week: The Kamani family

Ella Searle delves into the story behind the Kamani family, Manchester’s very own retail tycoons

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This week’s fashion profile is based a lot closer to home than the distant catwalks of Paris, Milan and New York. Rather, thanks to the Kamani family, Manchester has been placed firmly on the map as the home of one of the biggest fast-fashion empires. Dubbed the ‘Boohoo Billionaires’, the Kamani’s are a self-made success story that have catalysed their wealth from humble beginnings to owning multi-million pound fashion brands Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing, and Nasty Gal, boasting an estimated £1 billion pound shared fortune.

The Kamani’s fast fashion empire began with father Mahmud Kamani, who began selling handbags on a Manchester market stall, to later move to establish wholesaling giant Pinstripe, where he supplied textiles for the likes of New Look, Primark and Topshop and became an expert in his field.

It was at Pinstripe where Kamani met Carol Kane (now Joint Chief Executive of Boohoo), and both recognised the huge potential the internet offered for fashion retailing and e-commerce. It was out of this shared excitement that Boohoo was born. Their contacts in the local rag trade is what truly bench-marked Boohoo, as they revolutionised the lead time for garments hitting their site, rushing the hottest celebrity trends onto their site within a two-week period. This completely re-hauled the design process used by traditional high street retailers.

Their business model is evidently successful, with profits doubling to £31 million on sales that grew by 51% to almost £300 million in 2017, showing how despite scorn from traditional retailers, the numbers don’t lie. Boohoo is now worth three times that of traditional retail giant Debenhams.

Yet, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Kamani’s doesn’t end with their father Mahmud, but rather they have made their fashion empire a family affair. Brothers Umar and Adam founded PrettyLittleThing in 2012, using the same fast fashion model as their father’s label, but aimed at a bolder, more fashion-orientated customer. Their marketing strategy involving celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Instagram influencers to promote their brand has boosted PrettyLittleThing’s success to be crowned the fastest growing company on the web in 2017. This saw  the company be acquired for a significant £3.3 million deal by Boohoo in 2016.

The fruits of the Kamani’s success is clear; they are able to uniquely relate to their following of young, cash strapped customers keen for a fashion fix and are un-paralleled in the speed in which they offer their trend led product. Furthermore, their rags to riches story is boosted by their online presence, where the younger brothers flaunt their lavish lifestyle and fashion-forward style on Instagram, creating more allure to their brand as they mix their low-cost items with iconic designer brands.

Looking forward for the family, it seems to hold only more growth, with the recent launch of boohooMAN led by youngest brother Samir and Boohoo’s acquisition of Nastygal, it seems Manchester will remain the Northern powerhouse for fast fashion for many years to come.