Meghan Markle’s engagement dress designer blew failed fashion label Ralph & Russo’s cash on exotic lingerie, court papers claim
The glamorous designer of Meghan Markle’s £56,000 engagement dress has been accused of squandering her company’s cash on luxury lingerie and costly hair-salon appointments before its collapse.
Documents released by the High Court detail extraordinary new claims that Australians Tamara Ralph and her ex-business partner Michael Russo ‘personally enriched themselves’ before their fashion label went to the wall in March.
Ralph & Russo was renowned for designing stunning haute couture gowns for stars including Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Minogue.
Ms Ralph says her director’s loans were not used to extract money out of the company but as a ‘proper accounting mechanism’. She said she has not been given enough details about the lingerie spending to be able to respond
But earlier this year The Mail on Sunday revealed how the pair had been accused of plundering the fashion house to fund jet-set lifestyles.
Ms Ralph, who is being sued by the company via its administrators for £20.8 million in damages, has strenuously denied the allegations. Now, in newly released legal papers submitted by the company, it is claimed that:
- Ms Ralph spent more than £300 of company cash on luxury lingerie at Agent Provocateur in Paris and £130 on an eyelash treatment;
- More than £1,500 was spent on ‘weekly blow-drys’ for Ms Ralph at the fashionable Larry King hair salon in South Kensington, London, charged to a company credit card;
- Two of the fashion label’s bosses refused to pay a £15,000 bill for a stay by Ms Ralph at a five-star hotel – prompting her to claim they were discriminating against her because she was pregnant;
- Ms Ralph complained that her £225,000 salary was ‘extremely low’ for someone in her position. Ms Ralph and Mr Russo won acclaim in December 2017 for designing the diaphanous gown worn by Meghan Markle for her engagement. Less than four years later, the firm collapsed, owing £23 million to creditors and the taxman.
In a witness statement, Paul Appleton, a company administrator, blamed Ms Ralph and Mr Russo for the collapse, adding: ‘The founder directors have personally enriched themselves beyond their contractual entitlements.’
Ms Ralph rejects the allegations and says the cash flow problems were ‘in the main’ caused by Russo, accusing him of ‘siphoning funds out of the company’ and subjecting her to a campaign of ‘abusive bullying, harassment and sex discrimination’.
Dan Morrison, a lawyer for the company, claimed the £300 spent at Agent Provocateur was put on a company credit card and then classified as a ‘loan’ to Ms Ralph. A model is seen above wearing Agent Provocateur lingerie
Mr Russo has called Ms Ralph’s allegations ‘misleading and false’.
Dan Morrison, a lawyer for the company, claimed the £300 spent at Agent Provocateur was put on a company credit card and then classified as a ‘loan’ to Ms Ralph.
When the company collapsed, Ms Ralph owed £195,436 in director’s loans, which she has since repaid, while Mr Russo owed £2.6 million.
Ms Ralph says her director’s loans were not used to extract money out of the company but as a ‘proper accounting mechanism’. She said she has not been given enough details about the lingerie spending to be able to respond.
She was not aware a company credit card was used for her eyelash treatment, and only put blow-drys on expenses for interviews, photoshoots or meetings when no third party would pay, she added.
Emails submitted to the court reveal tensions between Ms Ralph and executives over use of funds.
It is claimed that in November 2020, two Ralph & Russo bosses refused to pay her £15,000 bill for a stay at a five-star hotel in London. Ms Ralph had moved to Monaco to live with her British-Indian billionaire boyfriend Bhanu Choudhrie.
‘This isn’t a matter of opinion, Tamara. It’s just not a business trip,’ wrote Robin Maxe, the company’s chief operating officer.
Mr Appleton claimed Ms Ralph reported both bosses to human resources ‘and claimed they were discriminating against her because she was pregnant’. Eventually, the company paid the bill, he added.
Her spokesman said the bill related to a business trip at the company’s request while she was pregnant. The cost has been repaid to the company, he added.
In February – one month before the label collapsed – Ms Ralph was asked about her debts to the company. She agreed to repay the cash but added: ‘I’ve taken an extremely low salary for many years, (market rates for my level are £5mil a year, whilst I take £220k).’
Her spokesman insisted Ms Ralph did not believe her salary was low. She is suing for sex discrimination and victimisation, he added.
The glamorous designer of Meghan Markle’s £56,000 engagement dress has been accused of squandering her company’s cash on luxury lingerie and costly hair-salon appointments before its collapse. Harry and Meghan are seen in their engagement photos