Designer Tamara Ralph, whose gowns were worn by Meghan Markle and Lily James, is back on the red carpet, despite her bankrupt label still owing millions to former employees and the IRS.
A glamorous designer who made a £56,000 engagement gown for the Duchess of Sussex is dressing stars for the red carpet once again – despite her fashion house having collapsed owing millions to former employees and the IRS.
Tamara Ralph ran luxury brand Ralph & Russo with former business partner and boyfriend Michael Russo before going into administration in 2021 with unpaid debts of over £20m.
The pair were accused in documents filed in Superior Court of looting millions from the company to fund lavish lifestyles, with Ralph allegedly spending company money on business-class flights, luxury hotels, beauty treatments, yoga classes and lingerie.
But now the Australian designer, who denies the allegations, is again dressing celebrities for red carpet events through a solo fashion venture. Lily James wore an elaborate white gown cut from Ralph’s private collection to the Baftas last Sunday.
Questions: Tamara Ralph and former business partner Michael Russo
The designer posted an Instagram photo of the Downton Abbey actress after the event with the caption: ‘The ethereal Lily James looking radiant in Tamara Ralph couture as she’s making her mark at tonight’s Bafta awards.’
Two days before the ceremony, Ms. Ralph opened 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 donor to the Liberal Democratic Party.
Upon its launch in 2010, Ralph & Russo became 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 Russo have been accused in court documents of using the fashion house to fund their lavish lifestyles, with allegations that the company’s pension fund was raided before it collapsed.
Glamour: Lily James at last week’s Baftas in the elegant Ms Ralph gown
Former Ralph & Russo employees still owe £364,781 in wages and holidays, although all of this is “unlikely” to be paid, according to administrators.
The bankrupt fashion house also owes nearly £10.5m to 337 creditors, including more than £2m to HMRC.
Mrs. Ralph is being sued by the company through its trustees for £20.8m in damages. She vehemently denied the allegations and said that she paid back all the money given to her through company loans and that her use of company expenses was transparent.
Investigators are also trying to find out what happened to around £60m pumped into the company, including a £17m loan from investment firm Candy Ventures Sarl from property developer Nick Candy from 2018 onwards.
This figure has now risen to over £26m with interest, according to the most recent trustees’ report.
Last night, Mr. Candy said: ‘Celebrities who choose to wear her designs will regret their connection to a tarnished brand.’
A spokesman for Ms. Ralph said, ‘One hundred percent of her workforce is former Ralph & Russo employees assembled, which Ms. Ralph considers it a family and that they are all very happy to be working together again. Mrs. Ralph is also working with his old suppliers, who are fully supportive of his new venture.
‘Mrs. Ralph didn’t run the finance and business side, she was the creative director.
‘The business was sold over 18 months ago by its secured lender Candy Ventures to Retail E-commerce Ventures, which continues to operate the business.’