Laura Ashley is another iconic British brand , known for fashion , interiors and accessories. It’s a company which has been on a knife’s edge financially for many years but still it has a high street presence.
Although Laura Ashley might not be to everyone’s taste and boy does it have competition, I feel there is still room in our hearts for this brand.
You might think now this dress is damn right ridiculous but in the day her designs were sought after and contemporary.
Laura Ashley (7 September 1925 – 17 September 1985) was a Welshfashion designer and businesswoman. She originally made furnishing materials in the 1950s, expanding the business into clothing design and manufacture in the 1960s. The Laura Ashley style is characterised by Romantic English designs — often with a 19th-century rural feel — and the use of natural fabrics.
While working as a secretary and raising her first two children, Ashley undertook some development work for the Women’s Institute on quilting. Revisiting the craft she had learnt with her grandmother, she began designing headscarves, napkins, table mats and tea-towels which Bernard printed on a machine he had designed in their attic flat at 83 Cambridge Street, Pimlico.
The couple had invested £10 in wood for the screen frame, dyes and a few yards of linen. Ashley’s inspiration to start producing printed fabric came from a Women’s Institute display of traditional handicrafts at the Victoria & Albert Museum. When Ashley looked for small patches carrying Victorian designs to help her make patchworks, she found no such thing existed. Here was an opportunity, and she started to print Victorian style headscarves in 1953.
The scarves quickly became successful – retailing both via mail order and at high street chains such as John Lewis – and Bernard left his City job to print fabrics full-time. The company was originally registered as Ashley Mountney (Laura’s maiden name), but Bernard changed the name to Laura Ashley because he felt a woman’s name was more appropriate for the type of products they were producing. The new company moved to Kent in 1955, but when the third of their four children was born, the family moved to Wales in 1960.
Laura Ashley’s first shop was opened at 35 Maengwyn Street, Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire, in 1961. The Laura Ashley association is commemorated by a small plaque. The shop sold locally produced honey, walking sticks as well as the couple’s own products. Here Laura worked with a seamstress to introduce their first forays into fashion, producing smock like shirts and gardening smocks. The family lived above the shop until moving to Carno, Montgomeryshire. They first set up in the vacant social club, but moved in 1967 to the local railway station, which had been closed two years earlier.
Laura Ashley has slumped to an annual loss of more than £14m after a collapse in demand for its signature floral home furnishings.
The retailer said Brexit concerns had hit consumer confidence and stopped shoppers from making big-ticket purchases or starting big DIY projects.
At the same time, the housing market has slowed and house moves are key to the health of specialist retailers like Laura Ashley. As a result, like-for-like furniture sales were down 9% and demand for its decorating products, which include curtains and wallpaper, was down nearly 14%.
It is a great shame that this company was sold to Malaysian Holdings and shop closures are anticipated with further job losses.