Fashion designer Tamara Ralph, whose dresses were worn by Meghan Markle and Lily James, is back on the red carpet despite her collapsed fashion company still owing former staff and the taxman millions.
A glamorous designer who made a £56,000 engagement dress for the Duchess of Sussex is once again dressing stars on the red carpet – despite her ruined fashion house owing millions to former staff and the taxman.
Tamara Ralph ran luxury company Ralph & Russo with former business partner and friend Michael Russo before going into administration in 2021 with unpaid debts of more than £20m.
The couple were accused in documents filed in the High Court of looting millions from the company to fund their luxury lifestyle, with Mrs Ralph spending company cash on business class flights, luxury hotels, beauty treatments, yoga classes and lingerie.
But now the Australian designer, who denies the allegations, is once again dressing celebrities for red carpet events through a solo fashion venture. Lily James wore an elaborate white dress from Mrs Ralph’s private collection to the Baftas last Sunday.
Questions: Tamara Ralph and former business partner Michael Russo
The designer Instagrammed a photo of the Downton Abbey actress after the event with the caption: “Ethereal Lily James looks radiant in Tamara Ralph couture as she makes her mark at tonight’s Bafta Film Awards.”
Two days before the ceremony, Ms Ralph launched a new fashion company, with the designer listed as the sole director and all shares owned by a company based in Monaco. The 41-year-old now lives in the South of France with Bhanu Choudhrie, 44, a billionaire financier and Liberal Democrat sponsor.
Since launching in 2010, Ralph & Russo has become one of Britain’s most famous fashion houses, with clients including Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow.
However, it went into administration in 2021, with Ms Ralph blaming the pandemic. Since then, she and Mr Russo have been accused in court documents of using the fashion house to fund their lavish lifestyles, with claims that the company’s coffers were raided before it collapsed.
Glamour: Lily James at last week’s Baftas in a chic Ms Ralph dress
Former Ralph & Russo employees are still owed £364,781 in wages and holiday pay, although it is “unlikely” all of this will be paid, according to administrators.
The collapsed fashion house also owes almost £10.5m to 337 creditors, including more than £2m to HMRC.
Ms Ralph is being sued by the company through its administrators for £20.8m in damages. She has strongly denied the allegations and said she has repaid the money given to her through company loans and that the company’s use of expenses was transparent.
Investigators are also trying to find out what happened to around £60m that was pumped into the company, including a £17m loan from property developer Nick Candy’s investment firm Candy Ventures Sarl, from 2018 onwards.
That amount has now risen to more than £26m with interest, according to the trustees’ most recent report.
Last night, Mr Candy said: “Celebrities who choose to wear her designs will regret being associated with a tarnished brand.”
A spokesperson for Ms. Ralph said: “One hundred percent of her workforce is reunited ex-Ralph & Russo staff, who Ms. Ralph considers family and they are all very happy to be working together again. Ms. Ralph is also working with her former suppliers who fully support her new venture.
“Ms. Ralph didn’t run the financial and business part, she was the creative director.
“The company was sold more than 18 months ago by Candy Ventures’ secured creditor to Retail E-commerce Ventures, which continues to operate the business.”