Brothers Ash and Ish Siddique, 38 and 36, made clothing for high street retailers at their father’s knitwear firm in Manchester’s fashion district before they decided to start selling their own brand of womenswear. In doing so, the co-founders of Missy Empire pivoted from following in the city’s textile tradition, to becoming trailblazers in the emerging industry of fast fashion. Part and parcel of the growing demand for “ontrend” products, fast fashion uses a constantly changing array of new designs that can be turned around quickly and then sold exclusively via social media. Missy Empire has excelled by securing endorsements from social media stars, and leaning on the brothers’ manufacturing background to get products made in just five to ten days. They first tested the waters by selling cancelled factory orders on eBay before launching the Missy Empire ecommerce site in 2015. The business now sells everything from scarves to swimwear — all of which can be bought directly through the company’s Instagram page, which has almost 1m followers. The brothers estimate that some 95% of the traffic to their website comes from people redirected by social media. Sales hit £13.9m this year, and sponsorship of popular bloggers and reality TV stars with multinational appeal — such as Scottish-Lebanese model and blogger Emily Shak, who has 800,000 followers in countries including the US and Denmark — has helped drive exports to £3.3m, an average increase of 360% a year since 2017. This success has not gone unnoticed. Last year, HSBC agreed a six-figure funding deal that allowed the firm to quadruple its stock capacity with a new 30,000 sq ft warehouse in Manchester. Marketing staff at the new HQ are overseeing the brand’s expansion across the key markets of America, Europe and Australia, as well as extending its reach in the UK. It is currently running a taxi advertising campaign, with 100 cabs bearing the Missy Empire branding in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester. Ash and Ish are also considering opening a warehouse in the US, where the company has successfully trialled next-day shipping. What next for the brothers who have founded an online fast fashion empire in Manchester, and carved out success in a fast-evolving, ultra-competitive industry? Each owns a 45% stake in the company — with 10% owned by their father, Choudhry — and oversee its daily running, with Ash as managing director and Ish operations manager. Confident in their ability to scale, both at home and overseas, the question is whether they can match or surpass their fellow Mancunian fashion giants: Missguided with sales of £216m, and Boohoo, valued at £2.8bn.
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