The House of Harlot closure has been confirmed in a statement issued by founder Robin Archer this afternoon (Thursday May 5).
Robin spoke to us off the record when we ran the original item. Because he was clearly doing everything correctly and told us all would be officially revealed following a creditor’s meeting on Tuesday, we agreed not to publish anything that would identify the label until he was able to issue his statement.
House of Harlot Ltd began liquidation proceedings in early March — something only a few readers of the financial press picked up on.
The consequence of poor trading conditions during 2015 and — despite an excellent previous year, bad debts from two of the label’s fashion industry clients totalling £20,000 — forced director and owner Archer to consider “the only practical option” to safeguard the future of the brand and to ensure the best financial solutions for staff members.
The company entered into a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation procedure with good planning to ensure minimum damage to any creditors, and to ensure full delivery of any outstanding orders, with a view to winding up just after the Torture Garden 25th Anniversary Birthday Ball.
On May 3 at a Creditors Meeting in the City of London, House of Harlot Ltd was officially wound up.
At the same meeting, Irida (Iris) Trika, a former employee of the company, bought the assets, designs, patterns and intellectual property of the company. She plans plan to relaunch the business as soon as practically possible alongside her IrisTheSpider line.
As part of the House of Harlot closure arrangements, the website www.houseofharlot.com and the House of Harlot Etsy site will be the main shopfronts once Iris is prepared. The bricks-and-mortar location in Princelet Street will be closed immediately while the restructuring of the business takes place.
Enquiries about placing new orders and delivery dates should be directed to Iris@houseofharlot.com.
Robin has confirmed that his former staff will all be receiving full redundancy packages, and are not owed any wages. They will receive all unpaid holiday and full pay in lieu of notice as part of the House of Harlot closure arrangements.
“While the end of House of Harlot in its long-running form is regrettable, we have been operating in challenging times,” he explains.
“The costs of running a small business have outstripped our ability to meet them, and the business model needs a full revision.”
The label was always entirely self-funded, says his statement, with minimal bank borrowing and cash investment only from Robin and Michelle Archer.
During its 25 years of trading, all staff were paid in full and on time, with correct PAYE and NI deductions, and with some members receiving pension benefits as well.
The liquidation of the company was planned to give the staff “the best opportunities for future decisions for their careers, with some receiving the best part of a half-year salary tax free”.
“I wish Kelly Duncan the best in her future endeavours,” says Archer, “and look forward to opportunities to work with her again on freelance projects, and hopefully as a guide and mentor for pattern cutting work.
“Kelly and I had worked together since Skin Two days back in 1996, and she has always been the rock of the company, since taking over from Kaisu Paakkola as production manager in 2002 after Kaisu left House of Harlot to start Torture Garden Clothing, sadly passing away that same year.”
As part of the House of Harlot closure arrangements, Florence Druart has been given the assets of the Torture Garden Clothing range. She retains the licence to produce the Torture Garden Clothing branded range with the blessing of David Wood and TG.
Florence has received all the designs, patterns, history, product-photography, style data and media dating back to the initiation of the brand by Kaisu Paakkola in 2002.
This includes the legacy range and all the new range elements for whose design Florence was responsible, and was paid for during her time at House of Harlot. Says Archer:
“I wish her good fortune with this amazing gift, which I hoped would go some way to act as compensation for her disappointment in the closure of House of Harlot.”
The gift represents a book value of some £15,000 of patterns and other media before even considering the goodwill or the direct association with Torture Garden and its travelling club business and overseas fashion show opportunities.
Robin says he is sure she will take the business to “ever greater heights”, adding:
“I also wish the same for Dana Omari, whose fine detailed appliqué work and excellent finish of our garments was always a pleasure to see.
“If ever there was a job requiring tiny lettering or complex logos, Dana was always my first choice for detail. She also was tasked with quality control of garments before shipping, making sure there were no glue marks.
“Dana organised shipping as well as production and did her best dealing with the vagaries of the Fedex website and the pressure of careful packing against a collection deadline and its paperwork.
“I am sure we will be working together on my freelance projects in the near future, so long as she is available!”
Following the House of Harlot closure, Robin Archer himself is moving on and “planning to work far less hard than I have done for no money these past two years”. But he says he expects to be receiving further work from longterm custom-design clients.
“I plan to share this work on a freelance basis with my former team members, as it becomes available, as well as to pursue other activities which have become important to me.”
Thus ends the winding up statement of a company that has been an enormously significant contributor to the international latex fashion scene for a quarter of a century.
People will no doubt mourn the loss of the old House of Harlot.
But fans of the brand should take heart from the knowledge that it will live on in the talented hands of Iris Trika, that Torture Garden clothing will continue under the highly experienced guidance of Florence Druart, and that Robin Archer’s own talents will not by any means be lost to the latex clothing scene.