How the Iconic British Brand Has Evolved from the 1950s to Today
For decades, Laura Ashley has been one of the world’s most influential fashion and home designers. With its roots in 1953, the brand’s namesake, Laura Ashley, and her husband, Bernard, opened a small textile printing business from their small London flat and grew the company into a global lifestyle brand before the term even existed. This year, the brand celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Our 70th anniversary isn’t only in celebration of the brand itself but the inspiring woman behind it. Our founder began her journey when she started hand-printing fabrics from her kitchen table in 1953. The brand was built on craft, creativity, and traditional values of quality and originality.
While the designs from the early days were heavily influenced by the 1920s Arts & Crafts movement, the company’s signature romantic style became synonymous with the quintessential English design seen in intricate floral and paisley prints, embroidered accents, and traditional country scenes.
After launching with scarves, the company began offering fabrics, wallpaper, aprons and other home decor items, and soon a clothing line was added. Becoming an instant hit with the public, the fashion featured traditional English country-style dresses and skirts with a nod to Victorian-era dressing. Celebrities and royals began wearing Laura Ashley. Famously, Princess Diana was photographed wearing an iconic Laura Ashley skirt before her marriage to Prince Charles. Not immune to the Diana Effect, Laura Ashley became one of the UK’s most desirable fashion brands.
By the 1980s, the Laura Ashley brand had become a household name and an international success, with the company selling their prints, fabrics, wallpaper, fashion, and other products in stores worldwide. Mrs. Ashley’s timeless designs, beloved by generations, have become synonymous with quintessential British style.
Here is a look back at the decades of Laura Ashley style.
1939: Born in rural Dowlais, South Wales, Laura understood first-hand the function and necessity of textiles in day-to-day life.
1953: Inspired by her time working at the Women’s Institute, Laura was eager to refashion the tradition of patchwork quilting.
1954: Laura invested £10 in wood for a screen, fabric and dyes. At her kitchen table, she began screen printing tea towels and headscarves by hand – the first step in building her business.
1954: Laura’s business-minded husband Bernard saw the potential in her work. The couple formed ‘Ashley Mountney Ltd.’ and moved the business from their three-bed flat to a modest workshop on Cambridge Street, London.
1955: Over the next few years, Laura and Bernard produced about 300 yards of fabric a day. This neoclassical hand-printed tablecloth was produced during this period.
1959: In the late ’50s, Mrs. Ashley decided to produce a gardening apron and smock. The success of which landed Laura Ashley a mention in The London Sunday Times, opening the brand up to the fashion industry.
1962: With the Ashley’s ever-growing business and family, the couple made the decision to move to Carno, Wales, an area close to Laura’s childhood home.
1960’s: With the success of the apron, Laura Ashley expanded into fashion. Laura mixed popular styles and patterns of the 60s and 70s with classic English romance, harking back to her country upbringing.
1968: In 1968, the first Laura Ashley shop opened on Pelham Street in London. The following year, after a lull in business, Bernard decided to invest in ‘Mad Men’ style advertising; the witty ads were a hit, and sales soared.
1971: In 1971, the Ashley’s daughter Jane Ashley took over as the in-house photographer for Laura Ashley. She shot some of the brand’s most iconic imagery, some of which are still used in contemporary collections
1972: In 1972, a new Laura Ashley logo was introduced. Laura wanted to add a floral element and the bramble was a favourite of Laura’s. A beautiful hedgerow that grows freely in the countryside, a perfect reflection of her brand.
1981: In 1981, the first Home catalogue was published. The mail-order catalogue was multi-lingual, a sign of the brand’s growing international popularity.
1983: In 1983, The Laura Ashley Book of Home Furnishings was published and became hugely influential in home interiors globally.
1985: Sadly, in 1985, Laura Ashley passed away. She is sorely missed by family, friends and all who loved Laura Ashley. Her creative vision is still very much a part of the work today, a testament to our success and longevity.
2000: In 2000, the Laura Ashley website launched, and the archive was established. The Laura Ashley archive showcases the brand’s rich heritage and holds hundreds of thousands of Laura Ashley treasures.
2013: In 2013, Laura Ashley celebrated 60 years in business. This great achievement was commemorated with the revival of the much-loved and ever-successful Bloomsbury collection.
2019: In 2019, iconic Laura Ashley fashion from the 70s and 80s was revived in collaboration with Urban Outfitters.
2020: Heritage meets authenticity in collaborations with Rag & Bone and Barbour.
2021: In 2021, Laura Ashley began an exciting collaboration with New York designer Batsheva, who embarked on a career in fashion after visiting a dressmaker to have her favourite Laura Ashley dress remade.
2023: This year, Laura Ashley proudly celebrates 70 years of heritage. Taking a deep dive into the Laura Ashley archive, a 70th Anniversary special edition collection has been created to celebrate this milestone.