Karen Millen founder loses battle for right to use her name

Karen Millen
Karen Millen AW16

Karen Millen, founder of the eponymous fashion chain, has lost a high court battle for the right to use her name for homewares and lifestyle ventures.

Millen sold her business to the Icelandic group Baugur for £95m in 2004 and with it signed away the rights to use her name on future businesses.

Following the collapse of Baugur during the financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent restructuring of Karen Millen Holdings, which had been controlled by administrators to the failed Icelandic Kaupthing Bank, Millen decided to challenge the agreement, according to The Times.

Karen Millen
Millen: high court challenge

Millen claimed that she had lost significant sums as a result of the Baugur collapse and said she wanted to use the Karen Millen name in a different sector from the chain’s heartland of fashion, but judges ruled it would cause confusion between the two brands.

It has been suggested that Millen may come back with another proposal to use the “Karen” name only, as the court felt less strongly that that would cause issues. It is not known if she will take this option.

Karen Millen had been part of the Aurora Fashions group, which also owns Warehouse and Oasis, but was spun out on its own in 2012 as it was anticipated it would end up being bought in an MBO by former CEO Mike Shearwood.

However its Icelandic investors, which include Kaupthing, decided to hold on to the business and Shearwood left in September 2015. Its former chief creative officer Gemma Metheringham left the brand last month to join high street giant Next.

Millen founded the business in 1981 with her ex-husband Kevin Stanford.