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Laura Ashley

It was Audrey Hepburn who inadvertently sparked the growth of one of the world's best-loved and most successful fashion and furnishing companies. Audrey appeared alongside Gregory Peck in the 1953 film "Roman Holiday", sporting a headscarf and so creating a style that became an instant hit around the globe. It was at exactly that time that a young couple, Laura and Bernard Ashley, were starting to produce headscarves as well as tablemats and napkins on their kitchen table in a flat in Pimlico.

The Ashley's had invested £10 in wood for the screen frame, dyes and a few yards of linen. The scarves were an instant success with stores such as John Lewis and Heal's and put them on the road to becoming an international company with a brand that is recognised around the globe.


The inspiration to start producing printed fabric had come from a Women's Institute display of traditional handicrafts at the Victoria & Albert Museum. When Laura looked for small patches carrying Victorian designs to help her make patchworks, she found no such things existed. Here was an opportunity. Laura designed the prints and Bernard built the printing equipment, so forging a complementary partnership that was to give the company its unique strength throughout the years. Laura remained in charge of design until shortly before her death, while Bernard handled the operational side.



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Laura Ashley

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