CAROL Kane laughs heartily when asked if she considers herself a woman of influence.

She was recently named as number five in the North West’s 100 most influential females but, being a down-to-earth girl from a working class background, it’s not something she’s about to get big-headed about.

“Am I truly that influential?” she asks incredulously. “Probably not. I’m obviously influential in the fashion industry because Boohoo is a destination for great fashion at great value, but that’s more of an influence to our global consumer. It’s a great compliment though.


“I come from a working class background and I’ve worked bottom up, starting as a designer. I’ve done most jobs along the way. I didn’t come from a business school in London and go straight into a high position. I’ve worked very hard to get here and I’m quite realistic and down-to-earth with everyone around me. I’m a proper northern lass.”

Carol, 48, is from the North East. She is the youngest of four children. Her dad was a builder and her mum had ‘little part-time jobs’ while bringing up the kids.

She spent most of her childhood with a pen or pencil in her hand because she loved to draw.

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“There was nothing that wasn’t drawn on in our home.

“I wasn’t such an academic. I got my grades, but I always wanted to go into the arts, even though the careers officer at school said art was a waste of time and that I should do a ‘proper degree’.

She started in fine art and moved into fashion illustration and finally design.

“It’s not something I ever set out to do. I liked drawing people. But I was influenced by my two elder sisters, who made their own clothes. It was always there.”

She left home at 18, went to college in Berkshire and moved to London. Her first job – just before her 21st birthday -was based in the Far East for a London-based company with a Hong Kong office.

“I was quite naive really. I landed in a completely different culture, but they were lovely people and they took me under their wing and took care of me. I didn’t know anything, but they taught me everything, including how to use chopsticks.”

Carol, who has a long-term partner and lives in Stafford, was thrown into a world of clothing production and sourcing at a very young age.

“I learned very quickly. I could design, but in reality I was fronting and selling into the British high street and making relationships in the UK with the buyers. I was this person who could design it, source it and make the sale. I had an excellent grounding and those are the skill sets that I employ today.”

Over two or three years she worked for import companies before landing a job in 1993 in Manchester as a senior designer for Pinstripe Clothing – owned by the Kamani family, now said to be one of the richest in the country, who are behind Boohoo.

The fashion retail company was set up in 2006 with Carol and business partner Mahmud Kamani at the helm. For many years Boohoo had been quietly going about its business, but the family sacrificed anonymity in March last year when they pressed the button on a stock market listing.

“We had the right timing on our side,” says Carol. “There weren’t a lot of people in e-commerce back in 2006. There was a huge opportunity.

“When it was suggested to me that we do it I said ‘completely 1,000 per cent we have to do this’ because why would we not?

“We knew how to source, we knew fashion and we didn’t want to go into retail. We were also very challenged with being middle men at that point when lots of people were going direct to factories, so the writing was on the wall. There was no self-doubt by Mahmud and I at the time.

“Mahmud and I have worked together since I was 26 and he was 28. There’s been a lot of growing up. We’re very different but complementary.

“He’s rough around the edges and I’m more about cutting through the waffle and delivering what has to be done in a concise manner. I’m colder at times.

“We come at problems from very different directions and usually come to a similar conclusion but that comes from working with someone for a very long time. You know how the other one ticks. Mahmud is the trader with more financial acumen and I look after anything consumer, the fashion, the marketing and the brand.”

The rest is history and Boohoo, with its budget-priced clothes for fashion forward 16-24-year-olds, has been a huge success. So much so that the business has recently completed expansion of its Burnley warehouses, which now employs 830 permanent and agency staff, making it one of the town’s biggest employers. But enough about business, the question on every woman’s lips is “what’s your wardrobe like?”.

Well, actually it’s an entire room.

“I can’t resist clothes,” says Carol. “I had a couple of weeks off and into the second week I started ordering stuff so when I got home I’d have some parcels to open. It’s like somebody is sending you a present. I’m totally addicted and now we have shopping apps it means I can shop wherever I am. I don’t actually like going out shopping, believe it or not. Shopping from your desk or in front of the TV is so much easier.

“My wardrobe is a room full of stuff. I’ve no idea how many pairs of shoes I have, they’re all piled up and I have to keep them off the floor because I’ve got a puppy who is very keen on my shoes. I suppose there are several hundred pairs. But I’m pretty good at clearing out and getting stuff off to the charity shops.”

Carol is a big fan of the crisp white shirt.

“I know it’s really boring, but I wear white shirts two or three times a week. I’ve got a really nice DKNY - Boohoo do a version of it – maxi shirt dress. This autumn I’ll be doing a lot of long shirt dresses over trousers that’s a great way of taking you from summer with bare legs into autumn with a pair of wide-legged trousers.

“I’m quite unsightly at home,” she laughs. “But at work I’m always dressed up, depending on what my diary is saying. If I have to be in control and authoritative I will dress smartly and when I’m being creative I’ll be in jeans and a T-shirt because I’ll be mucking it up in a studio. I work in fashion, so you can wear what you want.”