Fashion: The designer-to-the-stars revving up menswear
He dresses actors, pop stars and sporting heroes. Stephanie Smith meets Imran Khan, the Bradford designer shaking up the men's fashion world.
Fast cars and fashion… it’s a glamorous, heady mix, but one that designer and entrepreneur Imran Khan handles with irrepressible flair and enthusiasm. By day, Imran can be found in a prestige car showroom selling Lamborghinis, Bentleys and McLarens. But his impeccably snappy attire hints at his alter-ego existence, as a fashion designer creating bespoke menswear that is increasingly in demand by dapper gents of all ages and backgrounds.
He has made clothing for dressers of distinction including TV presenter David Dickinson, actor Rupert Grint and the late magician Paul Daniels, and indeed dozens more stage and screen personalities, both in the UK and in India and Pakistan.
Boxer Amir Khan is a favourite client and Imran has made several suits and jackets for him, including a striking blue three-piece suit worn to last month’s National Television Awards. The Bolton fighter first visited Imran’s shop, IK Collection, which is on Westgate, Bradford, in 2016. “He said ‘I’ve seen all your stuff online, it’s really nice.’ He’s a lovely man and we got on so well.”
Amir Khan, Imran says, is among a new wave of fashion-loving men shaking up menswear across the communities. “He loves clothes. What’s popular is Nehru style – it’s massive in India, massive in London Fashion Week, and it’s come up here now.”
Every weekend, several families come to Imran’s shop to order menswear, often for an upcoming wedding. As well as blazers, IK Collection specialises in sherwanis, knee-length jackets which he and his team craft in luxe fabrics, from Venice and across the world, with beautiful embellishment, for wedding outfits. “Asians at a wedding spend between £20,000 and £30,000, and they spend a lot of money on their outfits,” he says. “People do say they like a personal service.” He also takes appointments at the shop in the evenings, after work.
But back to the day job. Now 36, Imran was born in Bradford, and still lives there with his wife, Iram. At school, he struggled with dyslexia, and left at 16. “The teachers told me I was not going to get anywhere in life,” he says. “I had learning difficulties, but I was good at sketching.”
He joined a programme in Bradford that helped young people into work, and fancied working with cars because that was what his father used to do, so he started at Dixons in Bradford. There he met Giles Castleton, now owner and managing director of the GC Motors car dealership in Harrogate. Imran has been working there for around 10 years and is pitch co-ordinator in sales. It’s a job he loves and he credits his boss with giving him invaluable support and advice throughout his career. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have got anywhere in life,” he says.
Alongside the cars and the designing, Imran has also been a model for several years, featuring in commercials for DFS and L’Oreal, and as an extra in dramas including Coronation Street and Life on Mars. He recently shot a campaign for Go Outdoors. “You have to make time. If you don’t make time for something, you won’t get anywhere,” he says.
The menswear designing began a few years ago, when he sketched a jacket for himself, and then got it made up in fabric he ordered from Pakistan. “Everyone commented on it, and then one of my friends was getting married and wanted an outfit.”
That was it. More and more friends and acquaintances wanted his clothes and soon it was a business. He opened the Bradford IK Collection shop, then another in Manchester and now there’s a franchise in Newcastle.
He has a tailoring team of seven working from the Bradford base. Part of the work is done in Mumbai and sent back for bespoke tailoring here.
Imran has also created womenswear, including bridalwear. “Really lovely, but it’s too much – you’ve got to stick at what you’re best at,” he says. He recently made a sari for Pakistani singer Naseebo Lal and will be doing the make-up at her show when it comes to Bradford this year.
Imran has always been one to spot an opportunity. He made a jacket for actor Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in Harry Potter) when he found he was filming in Manchester; he contacted the agent of the late Paul Daniels and asked to make him a waistcoat; and also managed to meet and dress David Dickinson when he was in Bradford recently filming Dickinson’s Real Deals. In preparation, he and a colleague bought some old spoons from a charity shop. “We said, ‘we’re going to go down and see if we can get on TV’.” When they got there, the spoons were valued at £30-40. “I said, ‘Really? We bought them for £2.50’.” He also got to give to Dickinson a quilted gilet he had made. Imran says: “He said, ‘I love this. That’s a cracking deal’.” The programme will be aired later this year.
Meanwhile, business continues to grow, as do opportunities. He’s looking at developing more franchises. In April he is going to Pakistan with Amir Khan for a photo shoot, and hopes to expand further into the fashion market there. “I love making outfits for people,” Imran says. “I love bringing families together.”
IK Collection is on Westgate in Bradford and on www.ikcollection.co.uk. Jackets start from £350.