A FASHION boss who built a £100million online empire has won a bitter legal battle with a rival who claimed he stole his business idea.
Adam Frisby is the founder of In The Style, a digital womenswear brand he said he created in his bedroom with £1,000 redundancy money.
The company uses TV personalities and social media influencers like Stacey Solomon and Olivia Attwood to design and market its lines.
It has enjoyed huge success, making Mr Frisby – who dropped out of school with no GCSEs aged 15 – a multimillionaire with an estimated £35m fortune.
But the 35-year-old found himself dragged into a High Court row by businessman Paul Clements over whose idea In The Style really was.
Suing for millions, Mr Clements claimed he told Mr Frisby of his plan for the business in 2013 and put in his own start-up money.
He alleged that Mr Frisby "took advantage" of that to set up his own company using the idea.
But this week, after a trial in Manchester, Judge Mark Cawson threw out Mr Clements' case, branding his "narrative" of how In The Style started to be "false."
Speaking afterwards, Mr Frisby said becoming embroiled in the case had led to the "most difficult and unimaginable few months" of his life and that he was "pleased and relieved" with the ruling.
"The judgment confirmed I have told the entire truth," he added.
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Manchester-based In The Style describes itself as "a digital womenswear fashion brand that champions female empowerment, inclusivity and body confidence".
The company website describes how Mr Frisby launched the business from his bedroom in 2013, building it up to the point where it is now run out of a 30,000 sq ft warehouse, with clothes made in the UK and China, and has 120 staff.
Private equity firm Causeway Capital reportedly injected £2.5m into the company in 2019 and now owns a majority of the shares.
In The Style launched its first celebrity-designed clothing collection with TOWIE star Lauren Pope and the brand has since created collections with other big names including Charlotte Crosby, Billie Faiers, Perrie Sian and Jacqueline Jossa.
The company sells through its website and app, with marketing focused on social media.
Mr Frisby has talked in interviews about how he dropped out of school at 15 with no qualifications and worked in Burger King and as a carer before following his fashion dream following a redundancy.
But at the High Court, he faced accusations by Mr Clements that he had nicked his business idea and even the name for In The Style after they met a year earlier.
Mr Clements claimed to have developed the business model and had engaged Mr Frisby to test and activate his plans, putting up £10,300 as an initial investment.
He claimed to have "fully disclosed" the plan, including his ideas for advertisement, promotions and marketing, and the identity of potential suppliers, to Mr Frisby.
But through an associate, Mr Frisby had "falsely or wrongly told Mr Clements that the business plan had no future," he claimed, before instead developing the idea using his own company.
Mr Frisby denied the allegations, saying he was inspired to start up his fashion empire in or around May 2013 by Want That Trend, an online business which sold women's clothing.
He said he discussed doing something similar with a friend, Jessica Devine, who was subsequently involved with In The Style.
He claimed he only met Mr Clements once when he and Mrs Devine approached him to ask him to invest and that he never spoke to Mr Clements again after that meeting at the Crown and Anchor pub in Ancoats, Manchester.
From June 2013, he worked "tirelessly in the creation, development, growth and success of the company" – with no involvement at all of Mr Clements.
Ruling on the case, Judge Cawson said it was "telling" that Mr Clements had only asserted his claim after the stock market floatation of In The Style was reported in the media.
"I have come to the firm view that the narrative advanced by Mr Frisby is the true narrative, and that the narrative advanced by Mr Clements is a false one," he continued.
"Consequently, I find that the idea behind In The Style and its business concerning collaboration with celebrities involved in reality TV in the marketing, through a website and social media, of fast fashion to younger end women, was that of Mr Frisby and Mrs Devine, and that Mr Clements played no part therein.
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"Further, I find that the only meeting between Mr Frisby and Mr Clements was the one meeting at the Crown and Anchor, at which Mr Clements was sounded out as a potential investor, but which did not lead any further than that."
Mr Clements' claim for unlawful misuse use of a business plan was dismissed.
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