US investors rescue stricken couture fashion label Ralph & Russo | Business News

Ralph & Russo, the British couture fashion brand which designed the Duchess of Sussex’s £56,000 engagement dress, has been rescued from administration by a US investment firm.

Sky News has learnt that Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV), a vehicle set up by Tai Lopez and Alex Mehr, two entrepreneurs, agreed to buy Ralph & Russo late on Wednesday.

An announcement about the sale of the prominent label could come as soon as Thursday, according to insiders.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Pic: Alexi Lubomirski
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Pic: Alexi Lubomirski

The deal comes three months after Ralph & Russo was forced to call in administrators after running out of funding.

Founded in 2010 by creative director Tamara Ralph and her then-boyfriend, Michael Russo, the business has drawn tens of millions of pounds in funding from the likes of Candy Ventures, the vehicle of the investor and entrepreneur Nick Candy, and John Caudwell, the billionaire founder of the Phones 4U retail chain.

Tennor Holding, the owner of the La Perla lingerie brand and investment vehicle of financier Lars Windhorst, invested roughly £40m in return for a minority stake in Ralph & Russo in 2019 which valued it at approximately £175m.

Neither Mr Russo nor Ms Ralph are expected to play an active ongoing role in the business under REV’s ownership, although precise details of the new owner’s plans are unclear.

REV’s founders have been involved in businesses including Pier1, Radioshack, The Book People and FarmersCart, an online health food store.

The price it paid for Ralph & Russo was unclear, although one source said it was a “complex transaction”.

Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo attending the Pain and Glory Premiere at Somerset House, London
Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo founded the business in 2010

A number of other bidders, including wealthy families from Australia and the Middle East, are understood to have bid for the brand.

Begbies Traynor and Quantuma, the professional services firms, were appointed as joint administrator, with a division of Hilco hired to market the business.

Ralph & Russo’s collapse followed indications of financial strain facing the business, including its failure to make a number of salary payments and staff pension contributions.

The fashion house, which specialises in haute couture and ready-to-wear clothing and luxury goods, has notched a number of notable achievements during its brief history.

In 2014, it was the first British designer in nearly a century to be accredited by the French body which decides which fashion labels can officially be designated haute couture.

It sprang to global prominence in 2017 when the Duchess of Sussex – then Meghan Markle – wore one of the designer’s dresses in her engagement photographs.

Beyonce praised the Duchess of Sussex for her "courage and leadership"
Celebrity customers reportedly also include Beyonce

Ralph & Russo’s celebrity customers are also reported to include Beyonce, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Its average client spends £50,000 per transaction, while it has opened boutiques in Doha, Dubai and Monaco.

The company also operates from plush locations in London’s Mayfair and New York’s Fifth Avenue, befitting its internationally renowned designs.

Its journey into choppy legal and financial waters was partly triggered by the pandemic’s impact on its business, with a dearth of red carpet events – one of the mainstays of the haute couture industry – hitting demand for Ralph & Russo’s dresses.

Nobody involved in the sale process could be reached for comment on Thursday.