Now I understand the definition of 'a labour of love'. I've been fruitlessly searching for the perfect (and budget-friendly) dresses to flatter my gorgeous bridesmaids, Lol, Jane and Rach, since the turn of the year. As I write this I still haven't found 'the one' though my weekend search brought me to Karen Millen and, as I browsed the new collection for inspiration, my curiosity turned to the woman behind the name.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Karen Millen was founded on a loan of £100 which Karen and partner Kevin Stanford used to buy one thousand metres of white cotton. Though Millen sold the label in 2004, her brand now proudly boasts 84 standalone stores and 46 concessions in the UK alone, and trades in 23 countries across the globe.
Asked about the secret of her success some years ago, she said: "you have such hunger when you're young. All we lived for was to build the brand and I think we were so convinced in ourselves, and in what we were doing, that we wouldn't let anyone tell us 'no'... We got rejection all the time. You've got to be pretty tough to deal with that ... and I guess we must have been."
Since quitting the fashion industry, Karen has turned her talents to a "more rewarding" enterprise - working with Hope HIV, which gives fashion skills to young people affected by the disease, and Teens Unite, which aims to improve the lives of young adults who have life-limiting diseases. "I have had time to assess what I've done with my life", she says. "I can think that it's been incredible, but it's nice now to give back."
Source: Northside; Karen Millen