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Couturier to Rihanna, Meghan Markle Bought Out of Bankruptcy

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The British couturier that’s dressed Kate Middleton and Angelina Jolie and crafted Meghan Markle’s sheer, $75,000 engagement gown has been purchased roughly 14 weeks on from its collapse into administration.

Ralph & Russo has a new lease on life after Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV) bought the “globally celebrated brand” out of bankruptcy, taking on its business and assets, Tai Lopez, executive chairman of the two-year-old Miami Beach startup, said in a statement Thursday.

In the short time since its inception, REV has snapped up ailing retail nameplates, ditching their brick-and-mortar burdens for a lean, digital makeover. Stein Mart is now under its purview after filing for bankruptcy last year, as are value-oriented Dressbarn, onetime home goods titan Pier 1, sporting goods banner Modell’s and Linens ‘n Things, another home textiles player. All operate through e-commerce only, with REV’s ESR Holdings managing product warehousing in many cases.

Designer Tamara Ralph, Michael Russo walks on the runway during the Ralph and Russo Fashion Show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2018 held at Old Billingsgate in London, England on September 15, 2017.

Designer Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo walk on the runway during the Ralph & Russo Fashion Show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2018.

Creative director Tamara Ralph and former CEO Michael Russo birthed the design label in 2010, eventually evolving its haute couture origins by launching a made-in-London ready-to-wear collection of evening dresses and gowns in 2018 and offering sunglasses, leather goods and other accessories. With maisons in London and Paris, boutiques in Monaco, Dubai and Doha, and a presence in premium retailers like Saks and Harrods, Ralph & Russo has attracted royal admirers and A-list celebrity fans like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Aishwarya Rai with its red carpet-ready confections.

But trouble fell last year when the coronavirus pandemic canceled social calendars across the globe, effectively destroying demand for the design house’s see-and-be-seen garb. Ralph & Russo furloughed staff, shuttered operations and didn’t show a collection during Paris couture week.

Retail Ecommerce Ventures, which has transformed Stein Mart and Dressbarn online, acquired bankrupt luxury design house Ralph & Russo, worn by Beyonce during her Mrs. Carter world tour.

Beyoncé in Ralph & Russo during her Mrs. Carter world tour.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was likely a lawsuit earlier this year from minority investor Candy Ventures that disputed the terms of its 17-million-pound ($23.4 million) loan. Just days later, Ralph & Russo was placed in administration, the equivalent of bankruptcy in the U.S., to “restructure the company” and “ensure its ongoing success,” according to a statement on the brand’s website.

Paul Appleton of Begbies Traynor Group, which acted as the couturier’s administrator along with Andrew Andronikou of Quantuma Advisory, pointed to REV’s “strong track record of acquiring and growing iconic retail brands globally,” noting the joint administrators remain “confident that this acquisition will bolster the success of the Ralph & Russo brand.”

Ralph & Russo has been purchased by Retail Ecommerce Ventures after collapsing into bankruptcy.

Ralph & Russo RTW Spring 2021

The acquisition of a luxury design label seems to be a departure from REV’s playbook of purchasing mid-market brands with largely mainstream, mass-consumer appeal. Lopez, however, seems ready to take on the challenge. “With REV’s investment, there is massive potential for the Ralph & Russo brand to retain and grow its market leading position at the forefront of luxury design,” he said.

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