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Definition: Ashley, Laura from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1925–85, British fashion designer and manufacturer. After serving in the Women's Royal Naval Service, she and her husband founded a company to produce silkscreened placemats, scarves, and tea towels. Her romantic and old-fashioned look carried over into women's clothing, home furnishings, children's wear, fabrics and wall coverings and to decorative accessories. Her more popular designs included a smock blouse, patch pockets, and dresses designed in the Edwardian style.

Summary Article: Ashley, Laura
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Welsh textile designer who established, and gave her name to, a neo-Victorian country style in clothes and furnishings using natural materials, manufactured by her company. Her first shop became a model for an internationally successful retailing chain.

Ashley began the business in 1953 with her husband, and soon after she began experimenting with fabric design. Initially the company produced smocks and aprons, but by the early 1960s Ashley was designing the hallmark high-necked blouses and floral skirts, taking over an old railway station at Carno in Wales as their base in 1963. By 1967 they had opened the first Laura Ashley shop in Kensington in London. The business, which attracted a large middle-class market, expanded to include a range of wallpapers, furnishing fabrics, and decorative accessories. By the time of Ashley's death from an accidental fall in 1985 (the year the company went public) she owned 11 factories in Europe and the USA and 225 shops worldwide employing over 4,000 staff.

Ashley was born in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, and educated in London before her evacuation back to Wales during World War II. After training as a secretary, she worked for the War Office, the Women's Royal Naval Service, and then for the National Federation of Women's Institutes. In 1949 she married Bernard Ashley, with whom she started a home-based business making tea towels and furnishing materials. During her first pregnancy she experimented with clothing design, printing fabric with a silkscreen to make scarves which she sold to the John Lewis store chain. This success prompted Bernard Ashley to leave his job in the City of London and develop the business using her designs.


Ashley, Laura

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