For many 1981 will be remembered as the year Britain was in the depths of one of the most severe recessions in history, resulting in mass unemployment and rioting throughout the UK. But for Medway College of Design’s most recent graduate, Karen Millen, it was the year she would begin her career that would set her on the path to becoming one of the most recognised names in the fashion industry.
Together with partner Kevin Stanford they secured an initial loan of just £100. The couple worked tirelessly increasing their initial investment allowing them to open their first shop in 1983.
The company quickly grew to a global brand boasting 130 standalone stores throughout the world including stores in London, Sydney, New York, LA, Tokyo & Moscow. During which time Karen’s designs became favourites for numerous celebrities including the likes of Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss and even worn on occasion by members of the British Royal Family.
After separating in 2000 Karen & Kevin sold the business in 2004 to pursue other endeavours. Taking a step back from business to focus on her three children Karen became a great advocate for numerous charities, her most notable achievements include the funding and setting up of a school in South Africa with the charity HopeHIV and co-founding Teens Unite which she still is still very much involved with today, offering support for 13 to 24 year old suffering life-limiting illnesses such as cancer.
In 2007 Karen was recognised for her invaluable contribution to the British fashion and awarded one of the highest honours, an OBE for service to the retail industry. Shortly after receiving an Honorary Doctorate from De Montfort University and University College of Arts of which she often assisted as a special guest judge for student selections for The London Graduate Fashion Week.
In the years since selling Karen Millen her passion for interiors led her to working with a select few private clients on projects that allowed her to express her creativity in a variety of different architectural settings. This ultimately led her to her current venture Homemonger LTD. An online retail brand offering beautifully curated homeware products sourced from her travels around the world.
Already a favourite with interior designers, Karen aims to create a brand with Homemonger that challenges the mass manufactured culture we have found ourselves in. Each collection curated has been carefully considered as an essential addition, showcasing personality and adding character to any home.
This past year has taken her back into the world of fashion and back to where it all began. With Karen Millen being sold to the Boohoo group in 2019 and moving the stores to an online only business. Karen was invited to create a small 30 piece collection under the name The Founder which launched on the 4th May this year.
Much as Karen’s story began, 2023 finds the world in an unprecedented state. 42 years on from the recession in which Karen built an empire, there is a similar feeling of opportunity for new beginnings…