Imran Khan, resident of Bradford and now a celebrated fashion designer has his own store in the city. The award-winning store ‘IK collections’, was a result of sheer hard work and dedication to beat all odds at life. Coming from a humble background, diagnosed with dyslexia, being raised in an underprivileged area of Bradford, Imran Khan truly turned his world around and now has impressed the King himself with his work.
Asian Standard met Imran Khan at his Westgate store to learn more about his journey.
“I’ve always wanted to be different than the rest of the lot,” Imran Khan explained when asked how he changed his life around.
“I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia, in those days, there was not much help, not many knew what it was. In dyslexia, when I used to read something, I got numbers mixed up and letters mixed up. Dyspraxia was just fidgeting. I had those two issues with me, but the most important thing was that I had a vision.
“The vision was to be different, to do something different for the whole community. I started with a charity called Khan-can People’s charity. We did a lot of fundraising for dyslexia to spread awareness of the condition. We spread awareness about breast cancer awareness. We did fashion shows too.
“I built up from there, and slowly I carried forward. I went to a car place called ‘Dixon’s Motors’. I still go there once a month. It is now called GC motors in Harrogate.”
Imran Khan said that to be successful in life, focus and consistency is important.
“The South Asian community,” Imran quips, “they go to university for a degree, but they don’t stick to it, and they end up doing something else.
“I would always suggest, stick to something you are good at.”
Speaking about his entry into the fashion industry, the designer says, “I remember, when I got into GC motors, I worked with cars, I was chauffeuring the owner to a hotel in Manchester. There was an Asian couple there, the woman came up to me and said, ‘I really like your jacket, where did you make it from?’, I said I designed it myself. She took my number down and a few weeks later she messaged me and asked me for a price for making a similar jacket, I gave her a price and she was impressed. From there, it’s all history.”
Imran Khan, set up IK collections at the present, Westgate location in 2018. Recalling his initial days, he said: “In 2014, me and my friend, took a really big order. We always used to meet the customers in a hotel, showing them the fabric. So, when we took the order, we decided that we need a shop, because we can’t keep doing this in hotels.
“We went down Leeds Road, couldn’t find any store. We went to Bombay stores, had a meeting with the owner, had a couple of more meetings, it went well. We then decided to rent a small shop, it was as big as a small room. I only had £500, I gave the owner the deposit for the rent, since then things kept happening, then I decided that we needed a bigger space.
The present location was seemingly destined to be converted into a designer showroom; Imran feels.
“We found this space, and as we were clearing out the rubbish, I found some pictures, of this shop, as a tailors’ in 1960. Later I found out that this used to belong to Alan who still works with us. He sold it to someone, and then I took it on, so it’s destiny.
“So last year, I was lucky enough to buy the whole space and expand. We wanted the English customers to come in, we wanted the Asian customers to come in, we wanted everyone to feel at home.”
Apart from the King, the designer has made clothes for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Boxer Amir Khan among others.
Recalling his first celebrity customer, he says, “To be honest, my first celebrity customer
was Amir Khan, a very nice gentleman. He walked in, I wasn’t too sure what he was looking for, I think he wasn’t either. I showed him a few pieces and told him, this is what you should wear. He took the first outfit from us; the deal was that he would promote us. It was so successful, working with him. We still work with him.
“We’ve had loads of other celebrities, it’s just word of mouth, that’s what it is now.”
Speaking of his struggle with dyslexia and dyspraxia, Imran says, “At school, I was the only kid at that time, who used to sit with a language support teacher. It was tough, kids used to make fun saying, he can’t read, but it didn’t push me back, it didn’t stop me. When I was sixteen, I was selling my own hampers and stuff.
“I left school at an early age. I went into this course called ‘Workable’, they asked me what you want to do, I said I like to work with cars. They gave me a work experience at Dixon’s, there they asked me to pass the driving test for a full-time job. I still spend time with an owner once a week.”
When asked about his clothing designs, Imran Khan says, “Back in the day, there wasn’t much designer wear. There were Armani and other brands, they didn’t do designer clothes. I remember, when I used to do fashion shows, people used to look at my clothes and say, ‘I’m not too sure about that, it’s too powerful,’ But I knew that it was going to happen, and it has happened. Now, if you look around, everyone is doing this.
“With the designing team, I have a young designer, I have an old designer we put both the heads together, to come up with something good.
“We work with local fabrics, all UK fabrics.”
Recalling his interaction with King Charles III last year when his majesty visited Bradford, Imran says, “I was thinking what to wear, should it just be a normal suit. Something in my head was telling me, you should wear what you design, you cannot wear something simple. So, I chose to wear a jacket with an Italian design.
“On the day, I woke up at 7am, I wore the jacket, and I walked down to City Hall. A few people looked at me and praised my jacket, that’s when I thought, this is going to get a lot of attention. At City Hall, I was upstairs, when the King came over. He came straight to me, and said, ‘I really like your jacket,’ I told him that I designed it myself. He loved it, especially because he likes young apprentices, and secondly because it was all designed in Britain. I told him, I would like to make you a jacket. I told him his size, he was impressed. He told him he will tell one of his lieutenants to meet me.
“When I got back, I had a meeting, we were so excited to make the jacket. Normally to get
the jacket made, it takes eight to twelve weeks, but for us it took us four to six months. The reason why, is that we have never made handworks. It was exhausting, but we did it.”
Speaking of his plan with the store ahead, Imran says, “I want the young apprentices to take over and run the store, and set up more IK collections, throughout the UK. I am setting up the base right, so that’s what I want, I want to take forward IK collections.