Womenswear retailer LK Bennett has collapsed into administration, putting around 500 jobs at risk. The brand has appointed corporate undertakers at EY to carry out the process.
It emerged last month the company had hired advisers to look at options for the business, including fresh investment or a full sale.
But the group will now be put into the hands of administrators, throwing the future of 41 stores and at least 480 employees into doubt, although EY is expected to issue a more detailed update later on Thursday.
Known for its signature kitten heels and smart daywear, the brand has attracted celebrity fans including the Duchess of Cambridge over its near 30-year history.
The firm is owned by founder Linda Bennett, who had stepped back from the brand in 2008, but returned in 2017 as a consultant. Later that year, she bought back the controlling stake previously held by Phoenix Equity Partners.
According to the most recent available accounts for the company, Bennett invested £11.2m into the group upon her return to ownership. They showed a loss before tax of £47.9m for the year to 29 July 2017.
The failure is the latest in a string of mid-market women’s fashion labels to buckle under the pressure of dwindling high street sales. Last year, Irish designer Orla Kiely closed five retail stores as the fashion brand went into liquidation.