Lead Forensics

Karen Millen: from bankruptcy to success

Modern fashion icon Karen Millen opened her first fashion store four decades ago, and by the year 2000, she managed to open 400 stores in over 65 countries. Victoria Beckham and Joan Collins are said to have been admirers of her fashion brand.

In 2004, she sold the Karen Millen brand to an Icelandic firm for £95 million and it was said that she personally pocketed £42 million from that transaction. However, as part of that deal, Karen lost ownership rights to the Karen Millen trademark.

In 2008, an Icelandic bank took control of the company, but subsequently filed for bankruptcy when it was revealed that they had not paid off 40% of the acquisition cost. Later on in 2010, HMRC imposed a tax avoidance fee of £6 million on Millen, which left her unable to make payment. This eventually led to her bankruptcy in 2017.

Boohoo acquired ownership of Karen’s famous brand in 2019, and began selling garments online. Initially sceptical about its success rate, Karen was soon proven wrong as Boohoo invested heavily into marketing the label. They stocked their warehouse with heavy duty garment rails filled with Karen Millen clothes. Although not designed by Karen herself, the brand continued to reflect her values of quality clothing created using sustainable methods.

In 2023, Boohoo approached Karen to collaborate on designing a 30 piece ‘The Founder’ collection. She commented:

“It’s really good to be back. I feel like I have a purpose.”

Though she mainly lives a quiet life away from the fashion spotlight, Millen’s brand has a high profile at karenmillen.com.

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