We Love…Laura Ashley

This year is a big one for Laura Ashley. This year the quintessentially British company turns 60.

To celebrate they have an exhibition in Bath Fashion Museum called The Romantic Heroine, featuring their 1960s and 1970s dresses. Think flowing, cotton styles that capture the essence of their Victoriana style that they were so famous for.

They have also just opened the Laura Ashley hotel in Elstree, Hertfordshire. Containing 49 elegantly designed rooms, of course decorated using their own wallpapers, linens and homewares; they have created a boutique hotel to showcase their brand. A Tudor house set in 10 acres..what’s not to love.

So where did it start 60s years ago? In 1953, both Laura and her husband Bernard attended a class on traditional handicrafts held at the V&A. She was so inspired she decided to make herself a patchwork quilt but  couldn’t find any suitable material so they both decided to make their own. They spent ten pounds on a screen and dyes and sat about in their kitchen producing fabric squares.

From that they started designing and making scarves and tea towels which sold through Heal’s and John Lewis. The business took off and they moved to Kent in 1955 for the space to create even more designs.

They opened their first shop in the 1960s in Wales selling their designs as well as honey and walking sticks. Another shop opened in 1967, at the same time they produced their first dress. Bernard had developed a large printing machine which could at last produce large pieces of fabric so they could now design larger garments. As fashion styles evolved into the new late 60s floaty maxi look, their love of the smock Victorian style came about just at the right time. They opened their first London store and business boomed. Apparently business was slow at first so Bernard made 100 adverts to give out on the underground and sales rose by 300% in 3 days. He clearly had a business head, she had a design flair and together they created a brand that it still here 60 years on.

By 1975 their turnover was £5 million. By the end of the decade they had moved to Northern France, where she developed her French, country style that is still apparent today.

The 1980s was about their home ware range as well as designing floral midi dresses perfect for the Sloane crowd. The Laura Ashley Book of Decorating launched in 1983, just at a time where we were focusing on doing up our homes after the retro 1970s.

Business was strong, the future looked great when Laura tragically died in 1985, falling down a flight of stairs. The loss was huge, her design flair and her values were sadly missed: so much so that when they floated on the stock market it was  30 times over subscribed.

Bernard was knighted in the late 1980s and retired in 1993. In 1998 MUI Asia Limited  became a major shareholder of the company.

I personally found Laura Ashley in the early noughties. Suddenly single I set about restoring an Edwardian home and filled it with girly vintage. It was a mixture of vintage finds, modern Habitat furniture with splashes of Laura Ashley homewares. Think cushions, glass lamps with silk shades and their great Deco inspired mirrored furniture. My design style has never really been classic, but mixed in with vintage I created a space that was cosy, feminine which looked great with the period house.

 

My old cat Pear lounging on a Laura Ashley chair and cushions

My other cat Peach, against Laura Ashley cushions

10 years on we sell Laura Ashley vintage dresses, and they always sell fast. It seems you all still love the prints, the traditional style with many resembling the 1950s.Here is one of my favourites sold recently.

So Happy Birthday Laura Ashley..We Love You!

Images courtesy of Laura Ashley Press Office

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Competition time!

Would you like to win this gorgeous hamper, perfect for summer picnics?  Inside the vintage wicker hamper is a hand crocheted rug, a 1960s yellow insulated jug, 2 Tupperware style beakers, a 1970s Thermos soup jug, 4 1960s yellow plastic eggcups, 4 1970s yellow melamine bowls and a retro board game.   What you have to do:

1.Follow our blog.  This can be done by subscribing or by following via BlogLovin (see links on side of page)

2.you also need to leave a comment to any post throughout the month (you must leave your email address so we can contact you if you win (this isn’t shared with our readers)

3.Share the competition with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

The winner will be drawn on the 20th August and will be notified that week. Good luck!

 

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3 Comments

  1. Sue
    August 14, 2013 / 11:27 am

    I have a long white ‘Victorian’ Laura Ashley dress almost identical to the one second on the left, of the top photo, but mine has a long matching wide belt which ties in a big bow at the back. I found it in a charity shop a few years ago. Its the most beautiful dress I have ever owned… but will never wear!
    I have loved Laura Ashley since being introduced to her gorgeous tiny flowered fabrics by my friend Judith. In the late 1970s we would travel to Manchester on the bus from Pendle and buy fabric scraps from the Laura Ashley shop. We loved the clothes, but could only afford the scraps to use for patchwork but that was fine because we still had a bit of ‘Laura Ashley’. I still have some of the pieces we bought back then!

    • Your vintage life
      Author
      August 14, 2013 / 12:07 pm

      Wow…you must send us a picture of the dress x

  2. Sue
    August 31, 2013 / 1:16 am

    Hi, I have finally found my Laura Ashley dress! All my retro vintage stuff has been packed away for a few years. I also found a Laura Ashley Shirt/Blouse from the same era, that I had forgotten about. Going through my old suitcases its like finding treasure! How do I send you a photo? Sue

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