We at Grass-Fields are deeply shocked and saddened to witness a public attack launched by a former founder on various social media platforms. Our hearts are heavy, not for ourselves, but for our dedicated team, talented models, and skilled makeup artists who have been caught in the crossfire of this unexpected onslaught. In light of these events, we feel it's crucial to set the record straight and provide a transparent account of the facts.
Background & Context
Our initial encounter with Grass-Fields was accidental. We were unaware of the company when we first came across its assets being sold at a public auction by the government. The items on sale included workbenches, office equipment, computers, and more. At that time, we were simply interested in these assets for another business. We participated in the auction alongside other bidders and ended up purchasing these items, still oblivious to the Grass-Fields brand and its history.
The reason behind Grass-Fields Ltd's assets being auctioned off publicly traces back to December 2019. Contrary to some narratives, as of July 28th, 2022, Grass-Fields owed the UK Government (HMRC) a substantial sum of £794,668.76 in unpaid taxes, including PAYE, Corporation tax, and VAT, a debt that had been accumulating since December 5th, 2019 (see below). This was not a one-off incident; the founders had a longstanding history of unpaid bills and terrible customer service.
As a result, HMRC seized all goods that belonged to Grass-Fields Ltd and put them up for sale in a public auction. By July 2022, the founders had lost everything in the business, a situation that unfolded long before our involvement with the company.
As the financial situation worsened, Grass-Fields was forced into administration for unpaid debts, the largest being the UK taxpayer. The court appointed administrators had decided that the company's brand, its only remaining asset, was to be sold to the highest bidder in an attempt to recoup some of the losses.
Around this critical juncture, we had the opportunity to meet one of the former owners. Despite the company's precarious situation, with debts amounting to approximately £2.3 million - encompassing obligations to African suppliers, customers, models, makeup artists and unpaid taxes - they suggested that Grass-Fields could still be salvaged and transformed into a viable business.
The prospect of reviving Grass-Fields resonated with us on a personal level. As owners of East African Indian descent, with our parents born and raised in various parts of Africa, we felt a deep connection to the brand and the opportunity to be involved with Grass-Fields ticked many personal boxes.
It's important to understand that by this point, the former owners had already lost control of the business. Grass-Fields Ltd was submerged in over £2.3 million of debt and was unable to meet its obligations to suppliers, staff, and customers. The company was in the process of liquidation, and the Grass-Fields brand was on the auction block, set to be sold to the highest bidder by a UK Court-appointed administrator acting on behalf of the creditors.
The former owner insisted for us to buy the business, offering to come in as a consultant. Seeing the passion & willingness from the founder, we agreed to retain the founder, we placed a bid for the business's IP with the court-appointed insolvency agents, Williams & Partners Ltd. On September 21st, 2022, we made an offer for the IP and as part of this we would continue to employ all of the existing staff, so they wouldn’t lose their livelihoods. On September 28th, 2022, we were informed that our offer was the highest and had been accepted.
We then established the terms of the consultancy with the founder and took a step back. However, the subsequent months revealed a pattern of excessive spending by the founders, leading to a breakdown in our relationship. They were living beyond their means, indulging in luxury housing, high-end shopping, and expensive childcare.
In December 2022, we met with a former director of Grass-fields, the founder's uncle. The meeting revealed that the founders had left their uncle with substantial debts from Grass-fields and had continued to live lavishly while he faced personal bankruptcy. He had gone over and beyond to help them and lost everything including his own business by giving them loans which they never paid back.
During this meeting, we also learned that the founders had been stealing stock and selling it through a third party platform. This explained why Grass-fields had been unable to pay its bills since 2019 despite its significant turnover.
This revelation naturally marked the end of our relationship with the founders. We had given them a second chance, even covering £5,000 a month in rent for the former owner to continue living in a country mansion in Moor Park, along with other bills and expenses. All this was done under the assumption that the business would become profitable and they would share in the profits as consultants.
However, when we confronted the founders about these issues, and presented all the evidence (see below) they attempted to blackmail us for an additional £250,000, threatening to tarnish our reputation and the brand on social media. This was the last straw, leading us to sever our ties with the founders.
Their insistence that the business needed a 'black face' was deeply unsettling. Despite the company no longer being under their ownership, we, as people of colour, firmly believe that our customers would not discriminate based on our skin colour.
We categorically refused to have the former owners as the face of the brand, as it contradicted our core values. Our vision for Grass-Fields was never about glorifying our team or ourselves. Instead, we want the brand to be about its customers, celebrating culture and clothing, and creating a community.
We have tried to protect them by not revealing the truth until now. We could bear the personal damage and harm to the brand and ourselves, but we cannot stand by whilst our staff, models, and those associated with the brand receive daily (death) threats and hate mail.
While the former founders are attempting to frame this situation around race, our focus remains steadfastly on delivering quality clothing, exceptional customer service, and creating a positive experience for our customers. We believe that these are the core elements that truly define the essence of Grass-Fields.
Given that we have brought back the original team, consisting of individuals who had previously worked alongside the former founders, it is truly disheartening to witness the current wave of encouragement to attack this very team. These dedicated individuals have played an instrumental role in the growth and development of our business. Their invaluable expertise, loyalty, and unwavering commitment have been pivotal in navigating the challenges we faced during the revival process. They have embraced our vision, stood by our side, and poured their energy into rebuilding what was left of our company. It is both saddening and perplexing to see them become the target of such unfounded criticism.
Our Nigerian Partners
Contrary to the claims circulating that our clothes are manufactured in China, we can categorically state that this is not the case. Our products have never been produced in China. Currently, the majority of Grass-Fields clothing is proudly made in Nigeria, reflecting our commitment to supporting local industries and maintaining the authenticity of our brand.
Since we took over in September, we have taken on the obligations of the founders, even though they have escaped under insolvency and don’t need to pay anyone back. We have repaid customers / are still doing so, repaid factories in Nigeria, ensuring that the seamstresses there receive the money they were promised. These same factories continue to work with us daily to provide high-quality African-made clothing.
We would also like to clarify that our entire design team, which was in place during the tenure of the former owners, remains intact. They continue to bring their creativity and expertise to Grass-Fields, contributing to the unique and high-quality products our customers have come to love.
We respectfully urge for an end to this ongoing discourse. With the intention of putting this matter to rest, we have provided you with the complete story and context surrounding our company's journey. Moving forward, we have made the decision to refrain from further public discussions regarding this subject. Instead, we will address any potential attacks or issues privately and in a more appropriate manner. It is our sincere desire to focus our energy and resources on the positive growth and development of our business. We believe that by redirecting our attention towards constructive endeavours, we can build a stronger future and continue to contribute positively to the community we serve. We appreciate your understanding and support in respecting our decision to handle such matters privately from this point forward.
Our focus remains steadfastly on delivering quality clothing, exceptional customer service, and creating a positive experience for our customers. We believe that these are the core elements that truly define the essence of Grass-Fields.
Our focus now lies on the future, as we eagerly embrace new, stunning collections and opportunities ahead. We are committed to moving forward and remaining an integral part of an environment that celebrates and uplifts. Our dedication to fostering positivity and inclusivity in all that we do remains firm. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our valued customers, team and freelancers and look forward to sharing many more exciting moments together. Let us embark on this journey together, spreading joy, inspiration, and the power of upliftment.
The Grass-Fields Owners