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.
She knew what was right and wrong in fabrics just the same as she did in life, there were no grey areas. —Lynda...
A self-taught designer born in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil , her company had its humble origins in 1953 when she and her husband Bernard started...
née Mountney 1925-85 Welsh fashion designer Born in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, she married Bernard Ashley in 1949 and they started up a business ma