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I Really Miss Karen Millen (Plus Coast, Oasis And Warehouse)

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There was a time I could look at my wardrobe and at least 50% of it was from Karen Millen. The quality of the clothing for that price bracket is unparalleled in my opinion.  Although I bought a few of their bodycon dresses, (I’ve since let them go due to weight loss), I did find those particular dresses got to look a bit same-y and were immediately identifiable as a Karen Millen “look”. As a result, I wasn’t sad that they went to the charity shop.


I don’t think you can beat KM though for fundamental staple pieces. Their trousers are a superb fit, as are their skirts and jumpers. But what I really love about this brand is the use of colour.

I’ve got a few leather jackets from All Saints (I think they make the best leather jackets) but they tend to stick to the basic colours of black, grey and sometimes khaki. I’ve had my eye on this tomato red KM leather jacket for a couple of years and dropped a few hints to Mark around the time of my birthday (Halloween).

Not one to hold back (he gets too excited as he knows how much a love fashion), he surprised me with this jacket recently. All I can say is that I’m in love. The leather is sooooo buttery soft and it fits like a glove. I know I can pop it on with jeans in the day, a pair of tuxedo or pleather trousers for the evening or I could pop it on over a maxi dress (a la Helen Mirren). It’s so versatile and I know I’m going to get years of wear out of it.

I’m still sorry that I can’t go into the shop anymore though. I’m not a huge online fashion shopper. I love to engage with the staff, ask their opinions, try on the things they suggest for me and I love to feel the fabric. I loved the way the assistants used to take their time wrapping the clothes. OK that was a faff when you were in a hurry (like Rowan Atkinson in that scene from Love Actually) but it was a ritual I enjoyed. You just don’t get that from shopping online.


For those of you who aren’t aware, Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen were recently bought out by Boohoo. It bought the online divisions of the latter two last year for £18.2 million while all their 32 shops and 177 concessions closed.

The founder of Karen Millen has been vocal about today’s buying trends of the youth and hasn’t been very favourable towards the way Boohoo does business (Boohoo recently was engulfed by sweatshop allegations).

The clothing entrepreneur set up her eponymous brand with ex-husband Kevin Stanford in 1981, sold it to Icelandic investors in 2004 and has not been involved since. It has changed hands several times since and Boohoo took ownership last year.

Ms Millen has since said that consumers are “ignorant” in believing bargain basement clothes can be sold without a human cost. She also said that Karen Millen was once a premium brand. A brand that prided itself on delivering high-end fashion with attention to detail. Using the best fabrics and trims but keeping prices affordable.

She is saddened to see where the brand has been taken and how it has lost its way, but she has to accept that once you let go of something you have no control in where its future lies.

She’s quite right when she says that our younger generation appear to be far more aware of our environment and the damage that’s been caused over the years but then, on the other hand, there is a large percentage who seem to think that this disposable fashion is okay and, in fact, the norm. Are they so out of touch with reality and ignorant enough to think that clothes can be bought for a few pounds? How on earth do they believe that what they are buying can ethically be made for such a price without some kind of sacrifice somewhere?

She said that the low-price fast fashion industry had forced established businesses to cut standards to compete.

Here is the history of Karen Millen, the founder and her brand:

1981 Millen and husband Kevin Stanford begin making and selling white shirts to friends

1983 Couple open their first store in Kent, followed by expansion across Europe, Asia and Australia

2001 Millen and Stanford divorce

2004 Company is sold to Icelandic investors for £95m (just at the right time!)

2008 Icelandic banking crash turns Millen’s investments sour, sparking string of legal cases

2009 The brand becomes part of Aurora Fashions and is later spun out

2016 Millen loses right to trade under her own name

2017 Millen declared bankrupt in 2017 over an unpaid tax bill

2019 Launches new retail venture Homemonger. Boohoo buys up the label.

I agree with Ms Millen that shopping is an art form and one that will be lost if these big companies buy up the little guys.

I must admit to buying a few bits and bobs whilst doing the grocery shopping (F&F at Tesco and good old M&S being two faves) but I will also do my very best to support the smaller, independent boutiques wherever I can.  If we lose these businesses, I think that the art of fashion shopping might be lost forever.

Boutique shopping in the Vale?
I live in the beautiful county of The Vale of Glamorgan. It’s the most southerly county in Wales. If you love fashion, here is a list of our friendliest boutiques. They’re totally focused on customer care.

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