Affordability and responsiveness are always top of the list for PrettyLittleThing founder Umar Kamani.
With a long family history in the fashion sector, Umar Kamani launched his first business, PrettyLittleThing, in 2011, initially as an accessories company to complement fast fashion etailer Boohoo (co-founded by his father, Mahmud). After 10 months in business and having spotted a gap in the market, he moved into apparel. He tells Drapers more about the brand’s ethos, what makes it stand out from the crowd and how his dad will always be his biggest inspiration.
You’ve recently launched a collaboration with TOWIE’s Lucy Mecklenburgh. How has that been received so far?
The collection has been incredible. One particular floral print dress sold out within 10 minutes. Lucy is a great fit for PrettyLittleThing because not only is she a well-known figure, she also perfectly represents the PrettyLittleThing customer.
If you could choose any celebrity to represent PrettyLittleThing, who would it be?
Probably with the way social media is working at the moment you would have to say that the Kardashians or the Jenners are the biggest influencers. Because of the demographic of the PrettyLittleThing customer, which is 16 to 24 with a low to medium disposable income, I’d have to say the Jenners – they are young and fresh, very similar to what our brand is.
Kendall or Kylie Jenner?
Whoever sells the most dresses.
What makes PrettyLittleThing stand out from the crowd?
We offer something different. We are very, very fast fashion but it’s more than just that – it’s the speed we work at and the value we offer our customers. We never want to move away from our initial strategy of offering trend-led pieces at very affordable prices. You see so many brands moving away from what they first set out to achieve.
Describe the brand in three words.
Super fast fashion.
If you weren’t working in fashion what would you be doing?
It’s impossible for me not to be working in fashion. I was born into fashion. That’s like saying if you couldn’t breathe what would you do?
Who inspires you style wise?
I’ve got two fashion personalities. One which is a smarter, classier approach and then I’ve got this completely contrasting character, which a lot of my friends often joke about. It’s a more sportswear, urban style. So I’m a mix between Pharrell Williams and David Gandy, if there is such a thing.
What brands do you wear?
I love a bargain. I love the high street – Zara, Topman. I like wearing high street and then mixing it up with one luxury item. I also love going into independent boutiques and finding new, original brands.
What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t understand why anyone would spend a ridiculous amount on clothes. But I once slipped and bought a Saint Laurent leather jacket for an extortionate amount. When it arrived I kept questioning how much I’d spent as it’s so against what I believe in, so I ended up sending it back. It was a beautiful jacket but I just couldn’t justify it.
What is your biggest fashion fail?
I’ve had so many fashion fails. My friends started laughing at me and then they stopped because it just became the norm. I hate to admit it but I once went to London Fashion Week with a blazer that had a skirt wrap on it with leggings underneath.
Do you shop online or in-store?
Usually online. It’s easier and more convenient.
Who do you admire most in the fashion industry?
My dad, because he is the best at what he does. He’s my mentor. He’s taught me everything and if I’ve ever got any problems, he’s the person I speak to to guide me through. If I can be a percentage of what he is then I’ll be happy.
What do you do in your free time?
Check the website to make sure it’s working. I also love boxing and spending time with my friends. I’m not really a clubber any more so I spend my time in restaurants and bars. My brother lives in New York so when I’m there we go to a restaurant called Tau – it is my favourite restaurant in the world – after Rosso obviously [a family-owned restaurant in Manchester run by Nurez Kamani].
Favourite place in the world?
Disneyland, because it’s full of happy people.
What three words would your friends use to describe you?
Controlling. Competitive. Confident.
And your staff?
Charming? Only joking. I’d like to think I’m doing a good job – it’s one of the biggest challenges. We have a big team of people and the way we work it’s really all about people. I can sit here doing this interview about me but it’s really about the 150 people that work here and I do everything possible to make sure I acknowledge that and look after them.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Hopefully doing more of what we’re doing but on a bigger and better scale. Boohoo has taught me that there are no limits in this industry and that’s why I can go into it with so much confidence.