Together they are worth billions - but who are the city's retail movers and shakers?
Manchester is the undisputed online fashion capital of the UK. We called it years ago.
Operating out of offices in the Northern Quarter, Ancoats and nearby in Salford, are some of the biggest names in the affordable fashion industry. Together they command millions of customers worldwide, and equally make millions (and in some cases billions) each year. The success has been infectious. So much in fact, we've counted more than fifteen successful e-commerce businesses based in the city.
And Manchester makes the ideal setting. After all, the city was dubbed 'Cottonopolis', due to the city's control of the global cotton industry with over 80% of the world trade in the finished material passing through the Royal Exchange. Yet Manchester's rag trade has changed considerably since it created the world's first steam driven textile mill. It’s gone digital. It's fast. A little too fast. Trend-led e-commerce sites now rule the roost in the age of convenience, with no sign of slowing down.
Lead by retail family dynasties, high-school dropouts, bedroom entrepreneurs, ex-footballers and reality stars, we've listed some of Manchester's most successful retail tycoons.
*recent figures by reputable sources
Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane - Boohoo.com
Key figures: net worth £2.6 billion. In 2018 boasts sales of £183million and a stock market valuation of nearly £2.5 billion.
Thirteen years from its conception, Boohoo.com is now an industry leader in the fast fashion market. Now topping the British rich lists as one of the wealthiest people in the North West, its co-founder Mahmud Kamani and entrepreneurial family are said to be worth a billion - a family retail legacy which began with a market stall. Whilst working at his father's successful clothing supplier company, 53-year-old Kamani partnered with talented renowned designer and 'proper Northern lass' Kane back in 2006 to sell clothing online for the captive youth market - the rest, as they say, is history. Today, as the UK high street struggles in a competitive and ever-changing market, Boohoo.com recently witness a massive sales boom, cementing its position as one of the UK’s most influential online retailer.
Umar and Adam Kamani - Pretty Little Thing
Key figures: PLT recorded a 228% rise in sales to £181.3 million in April 2018
It appears entrepreneurial spirit is a Kamani birthright. Sons of Boohoo mastermind Mahmud Kamani, 30-year-old Umar launched Pretty Little Thing alongside brother Adam Kamani in 2012. The company - which has headquarters in Manchester, London and LA - was purchased by Boohoo.com in 2016. Since acquisition, it witnessed a 95% sales surge in the latter half of 2018, as it conquered the 16-34 youth market with trend-led clothes and big name collaborations. Masters of influencer marketing, Pretty Little Thing was recently ranked as the most engaging brand of 2018 with more than seven million captive social media followers. An influencer in his own right, Umar has attracted over 500,000 Instagram followers for his lavish lifestyle posts. Kamani admits he was an 'amateur playboy' before he began business and today his hedonism is more 'work' than play.
Nitin Passi - Missguided
Key figures: Missguided was valued at £700m in 2017 and recorded £200m in sales during 2018
Founded in 2009 after a family loan, online fashion venture Missguided enjoyed a meteoric rise in the years that followed. 36-year-old Nitin Passi - who topped the British Asian rich list in 2016 - is said to have launched the e-commerce site from a warehouse in Prestwich. After doubling its profits and expanding internationally, Missguided is said to be worth approximately £700 million (as of 2017), and operates from a impressive 300-person office in Salford Quays (which includes blossom tree, a 'selfie tunnel' and a pink room). Targeting the 'socially immersed' generation, Missguided is a dab hand at promotion - it's hard to find a taxi or billboard without its unmistakable logo. Although 2018 was a rocky year for the company, with a reported £46 million losses, Missguided anticipates 'returning to historic levels of profitability' in 2019.
Victoria Molyneux - Want That Trend
Key figures: £7 million in yearly revenue
It's safe to say Victoria Molyneux's career had a humble beginning. After leaving high school with no qualifications, an ambitious Molyneux began her e-commerce business while pregnant in 2015. In just a year, the businesswomen raked in close to £2.9 million after her 'Christmas swing dress' was widely popular - did we mention she sold via Facebook? Known for its attainable approach to fashion, Want That Trend is on the continued upswing and is now earning an estimated £7 million in yearly revenue.
Adam Frisby - In The Style
Key figures: £40 million turnover
With no business plan and no major investment, Adam Frisby's route to starting his multi-million pound company wasn't typical. After a string of jobs, he was made redundant in 2015 with a £1000 pay-off which he used to buy six dresses and launch the In The Style website. In just three months the brand began making a stir on social media, inspiring collaborations with reality stars such as Charlotte Crosby, Lauren Pope and Binky Felstead. Today, operating from an impressive Salford base, In The Style is raking in a £40 million turnover. Speaking to Fashion United, Frisby revealed plans to grow the business internationally: "the UK is about 85% of our business currently, but 15% is international, and we’re looking to grow that to 20/25% over the next year. We’re looking at the US, Australia, and areas of Europe."
Tayyab, Qasim, Ateeq, and Bilal Akhlaq - Public Desire
Key figures: reportedly on track for a £50 million turnover within the next three years.
Public Desire began as an Ebay and Amazon store in 2007 by four brothers—Tayyab, Qasim, Bilal and Ateeq Akhlaq. After deciding to tap into the profitable millennial market, they officially launched their trend-led shoes and accessories site in 2014. With over 1 million followers on Instagram, they've commanded an international customer base with a reported 'split of 50% UK sales, 25% to the US and the remaining 25% to the rest of the world'. According to the Business Desk, Public Desire employs around 50 staff and is targeting year-on-year organic growth of around 20%.
Lee Bloor and Matthew Newton - Lavish Alice
Key figure: made £8 million in 2017 after expanding into China
Lavish by name and nature, one of Manchester's original online retailers continues to report impressive growth. Partners Lee Bloor and Matthew Newton began Lavish Alice in 2009 'with just a printer and a laptop' after taking a gamble during university. They also started local public relations outfit Label PR and used contacts to communicate their own brand. After ASOS.com bought their first collection they reinvested in Lavish Alice and expanded the range. The duo revealed the company has 'no outside investment, family handouts or shareholders. They've recently tackled the lucrative Chinese market and collaborated with Chinese movie star Liu Shishi - this international move earned them £8 million.
Ash Kumar - Native Youth
Key figure: sold in 30 countries worldwide
Ash Kumar began Native Youth back in 2012 initially as a 30-piece menswear collection. It has since grown to include womenswear and accessories in the brand's signature laid-back silhouette - a nice alternative to the typical fast-fashion aesthetic. Native Youth is now available to buy in over 30 countries worldwide; including Japan, UK, USA and South Korea. Kumar, a Manchester Metropolitan graduate, started his fashion career working at his family-run high street fashion house, Influence. Influence was founded in the 1970s by Kumar’s grandmother, and is now run by Kumar and his brother Sanjeev, who are both directors. Back in 2017, Native Youth won Draper's prestigious 'Young Fashion Brand of the Year' award for its 'international growth, strong identity and “amazing” marketing'.
Reece Wabara - Maniere De Voir
Key figure: estimated worth £1.3 million
Venturing into the fashion industry is not unusual for footballers - at least where Beckham and Ronaldo are concerned. Yet for former Manchester City footballer, Reece Wabara, it was a matter of go big or go home. Wabara set up his online label Maniere De Voir - which means 'ways of seeing' in French - back in 2014 alongside his football career. After his footballing pursuits ended in 2017, his label kicked off and now sees an impressive £1 million turnover each year. Featuring affordable luxe menswear and womenswear, Maniere De Voir is also popular with his peers such as Jesse Lingard and boxer Anthony Joshua.
Seema and Sandeep Malhotra - Forever Unique
Key figure: Spears estimated worth £2.6 million
Cheshire's Seema Malholtra had a vision of creating occasion-wear fit for nineties supermodels when she started her fledging brand Forever Unique in 2008. A trained designer who studied at the University of Salford, Seema went on to design a capsule collection of ten dresses and 'within one week Seema’s designs had sold out'. Today, Forever Unique has expanded to include up to 200 pieces available to purchase online and various stockists. The glamorous label, seen on the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and Kate Middleton, has estimated to have given the Malhotras a net worth of £2.6 million. It was of course her stint on ITV reality show Real Housewives of Cheshire which propelled Malhotra into the spotlight.
Adeel Fiyaz - EGO shoes
Key figure: generated £2.5m in revenue from Instagram alone
EGO shoes was originally founded as a bricks-and-mortar store over ten years ago in Liverpool and Manchester by Mohammed Fiaz. The company was later taken over by son Adeel Fiaz, who launched the website in May 2015 after gaining interest on Instagram. It's been less than five years of the Ego Official e-commerce site but the brand is growing from strength to strength with the help of influencers such as Kendall Jenner and Little Mix. Last year, Fiyaz revealed to The Daily Mail the brand made £2.5 million in sales from Instagram alone - a 'small fraction' of the brand's total earnings.
Ross Worswick - Couture Club
Key figure: £15m turnover every year
It's safe to say Couture Club boss Ross Worswick is well known in Manchester and beyond. After a stint on MTV reality show Ex on the Beach in 2014, Worswick turned his hand to the fashion industry. In the same year, Worswick paired up with business partner Scott Shashua and began his street conscious menswear brand. After opening bricks and mortar stores in Trafford Centre and Dublin, the brand has since seen a £15m turnover each year - an unexpected result. Speaking to Now magazine, Worswick said: 'The first year of the business I got the usual things like, “Just another reality star starting a brand, let’s see how long this one lasts”‘I don’t think many people take you seriously but for me that meant less distractions and more time to knuckle down and grow the business. If anything, the comments and lack of belief drove me to work harder and prove everyone wrong.’
Nathan Alexander - BODA Skins
Key figure: £3.5m yearly turnover
While its peers have conquered the fast-fashion online market, BODA skins favours investment style in the form of handcrafted leather jackets. Manchester-born CEO Nathan Alexander founded BODA Skins back in 2013 after a move to Turkey in his early twenties. After a relationship breakdown, he was inspired to start his business designing luxury jackets handcrafted by family-run leather artisans. Selling via the online store and selected stockists, BODA Skins was originally launched in Manchester without any outside investment. Now, BODA Skins is a £3-5m turnover business. Fans of the brand include Justin Timberlake to Jonny Depp. In recent reported news, Nathan invested '£500,000 in new premises in Salford and employs 30 people from around Greater Manchester, including apprentices who receive specialist training'.