60 years of Laura Ashley

From humble beginnings to today’s multimillion-pound organisation, Laura Ashley’s appeal lives on. I had a flick through the company’s archives…

Laura Ashley 1980

The 1980 Laura Ashley bridal collection. ‘I’m really a 19th-century person living in the 20th century,’ said Ashley

Mother-of-two Laura Ashley started to print headscarves on her kitchen table, with her husband Bernard, following a Women’s Institute exhibition on traditional handicrafts at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her inspiration came from the 1953 film Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn.

From the couple’s vision and an initial outlay of £10, which they spent on wood for a screen, dyes and some linen, a multimillion- pound business was spawned. And although Laura Ashley died in 1985, last year, the company reported an annual profit of £18.8m.

But, as Laura Ashley celebrates its 60th birthday, just what is this heritage label’s secret of success; a brand that was once described as making British women dress as milkmaids? Continue reading