Daily Mail

Greed that bankrupted the fashion Queen of the High Street

She built a £35 m empire on a £100 loan — now Karen Millen’s gone bust after being caught in a £6m tax dodge. But what happened to her millions?


catwalk-style clothes designed and made by Millen on her kitchen table. A second shop soon followed in nearby Tunbridge Wells.

Throughout the Eighties, the business expanded with more and more Karen Millen stores opening across Britain’s High Streets.

Her tight-fit clothes and Versacesty­le bustiers became hugely popular among fashion-conscious young women in search of office and wedding outfits with an edge.

By the time the pair came to sell their business to Icelandic investors in 2004, there were 130 Karen Millen stores in cities as far-flung as Beirut and Los Angeles.

The couple seemed to have it all. As well as their fashion empire, they went on to have three children together — Josh, 26, Jordan, 24, and Jake, 19, setting up home in a palatial Georgian mansion in the village of Wateringbu­ry in Kent which boasts a swimming pool, seven-a-side football pitch, tennis court, helipad and a mini lake.

Ironically, just when it seemed that life couldn’t get any better, it began to fall apart and Millen and Stanford separated after 20 years.

Speaking to this paper five years ago, Millen said the decision to part was hers.

‘There was no real love in the house. It had no heart. There was no one thing that sparked the end. We got together when I was a teenager and after being with someone that long, things don’t go wrong overnight. We grew into different people. We had different opinions about the direction the company should go in and would argue all the time — about everything.’

But while Stanford remarried and had more children, Millen’s love life has been less straightfo­rward.

In 2003, she became embroiled in a relationsh­ip with convicted fraudster Graham Briggs who had recently been released from prison after a £50,000 fraud on the Isle of Wight and who was running the hotel that Millen had checked in to in France’s Dordogne region.

He was later accused of conning wealthy British expats out of nearly £ 2 million. Millen has always vigorously denied Briggs’ boast that she had given him £1 million after he seduced her.

She told the Mail in 2011: ‘I went out with him at a time when I was feeling emotionall­y fragile, but I never gave him any money. No way would I have done that.’

That rather ill-judged relationsh­ip was followed by a romance with former England footballer Sol Campbell who is 13 years her junior, but that also petered out.

Since then, she has spoken about the difficulty of finding love as a single woman in her 50s.

‘I used to panic because I thought I would never meet someone.’ Ironically, however, her biggest heartbreak appears to have been the sale of her company. Describing the day she signed away Karen Millen in July 2004, she told the Mail in 2011 she became ‘ an emotional wreck’ and felt as if she had ‘betrayed’ her staff.

‘It was like watching your child grow up and leave home — but with the knowledge that they would never come back.’

What Millen does next remains to be seen. Her bankruptcy will limit her business activities for two years. Neverthele­ss, it seems unlikely that the Karen Millen story will stop here.

She told The Times this week: ‘It is my intention now to finally put the past behind me and I look forward to a clean start.’

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 ??  ?? Fall of the house of Millen: Karen Millen faces losing her palatial home (top)
Fall of the house of Millen: Karen Millen faces losing her palatial home (top)

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