Considering that it began as a holiday romance, the Millen-Stanford partnership has been pretty successful. The Karen Millen brand has become the template for smart tailored designer wear at high street prices and the couple have clothed a generation of young career women. Millen met Stanford in Morocco, having finished a City & Guilds fashion course and finding herself at a loose end. Stanford was halfway through an engineering degree, which he hated. They decided to try the fashion business, and bought 100 metres of white cotton, for £100, to make 100 shirts. They set up a sewing machine at the home of Millen's parents and got to work, initially selling at the equivalent of Tupperware parties run by friends and family. The pair, who live with their children in an 18th-century Kent house with a swimming pool, were hands-on retailers from their 1981 beginnings and today encourage weekly feedback from all their 50-plus British stores. Millen, 41, credits Stanford, 42, with the expansion. "I've just gone along with it," she says. In 2001 they sold 49% to Icelandic investors, retaining a 50% stake in trust. The deal effectively valued their sale proceeds and remaining stake at £50m. Last year they bought the Whistles fashion chain for £6.5m and opened several stores abroad.