Fashion designer Tamara Ralph, whose dresses were worn by Meghan Markle and Lily James, returns to the red carpet even though her failed fashion brand still owes millions to former employees and the taxpayer
The glamorous designer who made a £56,000 engagement gown for the Duchess of Sussex is once again dressing celebrities on the red carpet – despite the collapse of her fashion house, which owes millions to former employees and the taxpayer.
Tamara Ralph ran the luxury brand Ralph & Russo alongside former business partner and boyfriend Michael Russo before going into administration in 2021 with outstanding debts of over £20m.
The couple were accused in documents filed with the Supreme Court of plundering millions from the company to fund a luxury lifestyle, with Ms 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 redressing celebrities for red carpet events as part of a solo fashion venture. Lily James wore an elaborate white cut-out gown from Mrs Ralph’s private collection at the Baftas last Sunday.
Questions: Tamara Ralph and former business partner Michael Russo
The designer posted a picture of the Downton Abbey actress on Instagram after the event with the caption: “Ethereal Lily James glows in Tamara Ralph making her mark at tonight’s BAFTA Film Awards.”
Two days before the ceremony, Mrs. Ralph launched a new fashion company, the designer of which is listed as the sole director, and all shares are held by the Monaco company. The 41-year-old currently lives in the south of France with Bhanu Choudhrie, 44, a billionaire financier and donor to the Liberal Democrats.
Following its launch in 2010, Ralph & Russo has become one of the UK’s most iconic fashion houses, with clients including Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow.
However, in 2021 it went into administration and Mrs Ralph blamed the pandemic. She and Mr Russo have since been accused in court papers of using the fashion house to fund their lavish lifestyle, with allegations that the company’s pension pot was mugged before it collapsed.
Glamour: Lily James at last week’s Baftas in an elegant gown by Mrs Ralph
Former Ralph & Russo employees still owe £364,781 in wages and holiday pay, although it is “unlikely” all of this will be paid, according to administrators.
The failed fashion house also owes nearly £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 strenuously denied the allegations and said she had repaid any money given to her in company loans and her use of company expenses was transparent.
Investigators are also trying to discover what happened to around £60m pumped into the company, including a £17m loan from investment firm Candy Ventures Sarl, developer Nick Candy, starting in 2018.
This figure has risen to over £26m plus interest, according to the latest report from the administrators.
Last night, Mr Candy said, “Celebrities who choose to wear her designs will regret their association with the tarnished brand.”
A spokesperson for Ms Ralph said: “One hundred per cent of her employees are again former Ralph & Russo employees whom Ms Ralph considers family and who are very happy to work together again. Mrs. Ralph also works with her former suppliers who fully support her new venture.
“Ms. Ralph didn’t run the financial and business side, she was the creative director.
“The company was sold over 18 months ago by its secured creditor Candy Ventures to Retail E-commerce Ventures, which is still in business.”