Administrators from Teneo were appointed on Monday after the company was issued with a winding-up petition by clothing suppliers who are owed millions of pounds.
About 140 jobs are thought to be at risk with one source saying more than 80 people had immediately been made redundant.
Boohoo, a larger online fashion specialist, had been in talks to buy Missguided in a prepack administration deal, while JD Sports and Asos are also thought to have taken a look but a deal could not be finalised.
The administrators said Missguided would continue to trade while they seek to complete a sale of the business and assets.
Gavin Maher, a managing director of Teneo, said: “The retail trading environment in the UK remains extremely challenging,” but he added that Missguided had generated “a high level of interest from a number of strategic buyers”.
The company was continuing to take orders on Monday but it was unclear whether the group’s distribution parter, GXO, was continuing to handle those orders.
Some of the online retailer’s UK and overseas suppliers told media that they had not been paid for months and several said they had already taken a hit in December when they were asked for a 30% discount on orders already agreed.
One Leicester-based factory owner said he was owed more than £2m and had been forced to send his 90-plus workers home as he could not pay them. He said that without payment he may be forced to call in administrators as he had not been paid since April. “This is completely unethical,” he said. “I am absolutely disgusted.”
Another Leicester supplier said he was owed about £600,000 and he was not sure if the business could survive without orders from Missguided, who made up the vast majority of his work. “I’ve laid off 10 people already. It’s hard to pick up other work because of the economy at the moment – customers are not taking on new suppliers,” he said.
“This is going to be a big impact on our business. We are not sure if we can trade as we have to pay our suppliers. It is just shocking.”
Founded in 2009 by Nitin Passi, Missguided was among a small number of internet fashion brands to have enjoyed success at a time when shoppers increasingly turned their backs on the traditional high street.
The business was set up with a £50,000 loan from Passi’s father, who was originally from India and made a fortune by setting up the big high street supplier By Design after arriving in the UK in the 1960s.
During the pandemic the company enjoyed rapid growth but has struggled since physical stores have reopened and spending power has been hit by the cost of living crisis.
Last autumn, the online retailer was saved from collapse when the retail investor Alteri, backed by the investment firm Apollo, stepped in.
Last month, Missguided said it was looking for a new investment as Passi stepped down as chief executive.
Speaking about the collapse, Andrew Busby, Retail industry lead at Software AG: “The fast fashion generation is growing up – spending less, spending elsewhere, and having more of an eye on sustainability. Together with diminishing consumer confidence, inflation and rising supplier costs have played an undeniable role in Missguided’s downfall.
“Boohoo is rightly seen as one of the key competitors and it’s likely it could still buy the Missguided brand, since it would fit well alongside the likes of PrettyLittleThing and NastyGal. However, Boohoo faces similar challenges – in particular, evolving consumer behaviour. No clearer is the changing landscape of fast fashion reflected than in Love Island’s new sponsorship deal with eBay, where contestants will be wearing second-hand clothing.
“Missguided won’t be the last fast fashion retailer to collapse. There will be a consolidation in the sector and those who diversify, for example into secondhand, will stand more chance of survival. We shouldn’t forget that the cost-of-living crisis is still only at first base – it will get much worse during 2022. This will mean that consumer spend on non-essential items will decrease significantly.”