Karen Millen heads for China

The UK fashion brand Karen Millen plans a big expansion into China, after buying the rights to use its name there. Karen Millen has 314 outlets in 40 countries and makes more money from its overseas business than in the UK.

It has been planning the move to China for three years and has been in complex negotiations with a Chinese investor who had bought the rights to the names of many of the UK's major brands, including Karen Millen. After initially being faced with an asking price of £1m, the company secured the rights this year for "tens of thousands" of pounds.

Locations in Beijing and Shanghai will lead on to a chain of 65 shops in the next five years.

Karen Millen has pitched itself as a "bridge" brand – one between high street and luxury, competing with US names such as Michael Kors, DKNY and the UK's own Reiss.

The Chinese launch is being overseen by Karen Millen's managing director of Australasia, Shaf Dewani. He said: "The first stores in Beijing and Shanghai will be company owned. We will then look at a blended model by opening stores in tier-two cities with a partner in a franchise model."

Karen Millen was hived off from its sister company, Aurora Fashions, in March. Retail experts believe the company is being lined up for sale next year, but the firm's executive chairman, Derek Lovelock, said: "It is a great brand, but there is no sales process running."