Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Laura Ashley was a British fashion and fabric designer. Laura Ashley was one of the first British designers to experiment with the concept of lifestyle marketing. Her romantic vision of nineteenth-century rural life, adapted to modern domestic realities, inspired a generation of middle-class Britons who returned to country life in the 1960s and 1970s.The wholesome approach of Ashley to fabric design embodied the old-fashioned ideals of family , home and an unhurried environment where at bedtime someone always comes to tuck you in.
Not only because of her inspired talent, but also because of the alliance she had with her husband, Bernard, was the remarkable success of the multinational fabric and clothing empire that bore her name.
While the designer Laura Ashley continued to develop her multi-million dollar business with franchises all over the world, the woman Laura Ashley lived as a recluse. She wore her own designs and flew regularly with a set of her fabrics in her private aircraft with its interior decorated.
She shunned ads. In an interview during the early 1980s she said, “The idea of four babies, cooking, sewing, and looking after a home has fitted me perfectly.” When asked to describe the inspirations for her designs, she said, “Living remotely as I have doneI have not been brought up with the city influences and we have grown in our own way. I think the domestic arts are wonderful.”
The company began when Mrs Ashley and her husband set up silk screens to print placemats and scarves on their kitchen table in Pimlico, London, in 1953. She started to design linen tea-towels printed with Victorian playbills and posters in 1956, as a side line.
Victorian ruffled pinafores, old-fashioned smocks, feminine skirts and lace-trimmed nightgowns not only emphasise the practical point of view of Ashley, but also their return to the philosophy of nature.
And while the home furnishings series may have come straight from a Victorian farmhouse, in country and city homes, restaurants and offices, the coordinating selection of tiny floral prints, borders and ceramic tiles has found popularity.
The Ashley’s moved to Surrey in the early 1950s and then to Carno, Wales, the new headquarters of the Laura Ashley operation, in the late 50s. Bernard Ashley was made responsible for the company’s engineering and business aspects from the beginning, while Mrs Ashley continued to design.
In Wales, labour was abundant and industry flourished. Mrs Ashley found renewed inspiration in the countryside and planned to branch out to fashion aprons and house-dresses from household textiles.
In the late 1960s, she went into retailing, opening her first shop in London in 1969. Her uncle, Nick Ashley, took over management of the company when Ashley died in 1988.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Laura Ashley announced that it would file for administration in 2020, putting 2,700 jobs at risk. After struggling for several years, the company blamed its problems on a “significant” drop in trade, with no end in sight to COVID-19.
Gordon Brothers, an investment firm, announced on April 22, 2020, that it had acquired the Laura Ashley brand name, archives, and intellectual property rights out of administration. Laura Ashley announced in October 2020 that she would return with a flagship store in the Westfield Shopping Centre in West London in 2021, as well as a series of new stores, through Next’s 500 UK stores and website.
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.
Czerwinski, M. (2009). Fifty dresses that changed the world. Conran Octopus.
Dormer, P. (1999). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers: the key personalities in design and the applied arts. Greenwich Ed.
Wikipedia contributors. (2021, May 13). Laura Ashley plc. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:35, May 18, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Laura_Ashley_plc&oldid=1022978422
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