Laura Ashley

( 2 )

Overview

Welsh designer Laura Mountney was born in 1925 and married Bernard Ashley in 1949. She started her fashion empire humbly — on her kitchen table in Pimlico — where she designed and produced distinctive scarves using her husband's silk screen. Her taste for and imaginative use of rustic, romantic fabrics with flowery patterns became a hit in British department stores in the early 1950s. Popularized by Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, head scarves were just one component of a business that would soon ...

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Overview

Welsh designer Laura Mountney was born in 1925 and married Bernard Ashley in 1949. She started her fashion empire humbly — on her kitchen table in Pimlico — where she designed and produced distinctive scarves using her husband's silk screen. Her taste for and imaginative use of rustic, romantic fabrics with flowery patterns became a hit in British department stores in the early 1950s. Popularized by Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, head scarves were just one component of a business that would soon touch every area of couture and home decor, from dresses and blouses to household textiles and furnishings. Examining Ashley's art against the background of her life, and showcasing little-seen images of her creations, Martin Wood tells the story of the brand one woman created and built into a worldwide phenomenon that continues to resonate today in the phrase "Laura Ashley style."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"What we offer is a basic view of life, a country way of life even if you're living in the city," Laura Ashley once said of her clothing and home furnishings brand, built on the Welsh designer's signature floral prints. A new book, Laura Ashley chronicles every rose—and a few thorns—along the way. Country Living Magazine

Laura Ashley is not just a fashion brand, but a household name, but how much do you know about the woman behind the label? Wood contacted Ashley's friends, family and colleagues to compile the biography, which charts the rise of the brand from a small printed scarf business to a global operation as well as revealing the life story of pioneering designer Laura and her husband, Sir Bernard Ashley as they developed their print factory and their business, through to Laura's untimely death aged 60. Elle UK

Laura Ashley is a business that ideally integrated the personalities, interests, talents, tastes, and drives of its founders. (Martha Stewart is a later example of this distinctive type of modern business.) Martin Wood has written previous books with an art-book style on other businesses in the area of design, style, and fashion based on individuals who combined an outstanding artistic sense with an outstanding business sense. In this work, the many sides of Laura Ashley from the aesthetic of its founders, the sources of their product ideas, their manufacturing equipment, to their decisions on the path to their extraordinary and influential success are covered in words and pictures. Reviewers Bookshelf

PETAL PUSHER: You know who was so decidedly un-fashion week?
Laura Ashley. And that’s precisely what made the First Lady of Floral so
badass. From her humble beginnings making scarves at her Pimlico
kitchen table to the prim (but veddy see-through) skirt the then Lady Di
wore in that infamous photograph – an Ashley print, natch – the
designer’s life and influence is chronicled in photos and drawings, many
from the estate’s archived in the new coffee-table tome. NBCNY

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780711228979
  • Publisher: Lincoln, Frances Limited
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,130,241
  • Product dimensions: 9.34 (w) x 11.58 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

From the land of myth and song 6

Kitchen table chic 18

Fashion icon 36

The Victorian revival 84

Hearth and home 110

Triumph and tragedy 164

Notes 180

Bibliography 186

Index 188

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2009

    a look into the growth and phenomenal success of the Laurel Ashley brand

    The book with easy-going text and varied photographs takes one beyond Laura Ashley the brand to the husband-and-wife team of Laura and Bernard who were also business partners. From their marriage in 1949 to Laura's accidental death in their showcase home in 1985, the path of their success in business and complementary talents playing into this come to be seen.

    What strikes one most is the rhythm of fortuitousness, seizing upon opportunities such incidents afforded, timely fundamental business decisions, and enlightened public relations on the road to the Laura Ashley brand's phenomenal success; while all along the road, the company kept its basic aesthetic sense intact. The company's sensibility and standards "remained firmly rooted in the Victorian era" throughout the brand's somewhat meandering path to the top. Laura herself realized in hindsight, "I didn't set out to be Victorian but it was a time when people lived straightforward, basic lives, when everything was clear cut and respectable...Respectability matters a lot to me." This reference is seen throughout the product line over the decades from the 1950s to '80s when the company was at its height. This reference remained constant in spite of nods to rock celebrities and occasions of showiness and glamour; which were advertising and public relations gambits, not signals of a changed direction. Though Victorian in its sources, Laura Ashley was fresh, not retro or stodgy, in its image, designs, and products.

    In getting behind the brand, one sees also the essential role played by Bernard. "Bernard was the colourist and to him colours were like language...The color palette, for which they were to become famous...." Bernard also made some fundamental early decisions concerning production facilities which put Laura Ashley on a firm footing by which to pursue the opportunities that arose. Besides contributing ideas for designs and new products, Laura was largely the public face of the company to the fashion- and interior decoration-worlds and the media.

    Laura Ashley got its start by bringing to the London fashion market the small colorful scarves which were attracting attention from being worn by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday. The Ashleys got the idea from seeing young women wearing them while on vacation in Italy is 1953. The scarves "proved to be an ideal product" for the printing equipment Bernard had set up. The supply Bernard had talked a department store buyer into buying sold out in two hours--and the company had all of a sudden gotten a name for itself.

    Laura Ashley is a business that ideally integrated the personalities, interests, talents, tastes, and drives of its founders. (Martha Stewart is a later example of this distinctive type of modern business.) Martin Wood has written previous books with an art-book style on other businesses in the area of design, style, and fashion based on individuals who combined an outstanding artistic sense with an outstanding business sense. In this work, the many sides of Laura Ashley from the aesthetic of its founders, the sources of their product ideas, their manufacturing equipment, to their decisions on the path to their extraordinary and influential success are covered in words and pictures.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A BEAUTY OF A BOOK

    For many just the name Laura Ashley evokes for many mental images of romantic print dresses or tastefully decorated rooms, cozy with walls and furnishings covered with warmly colored reproductions of designs found in early English country life, perhaps a trellis pattern or a Regency stripe or a daisy print. The effect is always tasteful and serene.
    Laura Ashley's brand had and continues to have an enormous impact not only on the way we dress but in our homes from bedroom to bath to kitchen. The birth of her design philosophy is fascinating as detailed by Martin Wood in this stunning volume.
    Born in Wales in 1925 Laura always remembered her Welsh roots. As time passed and her brand mushroomed into a multi-million dollar business she was able to open factories in rural Wales, which brought much needed jobs to many. As a child she observed her great grandmother at work on her quilting frame and young Laura was taught to do patchwork as well as needlework. She worked for a time as a secretary in the handcrafts department at the Women's Institute where she saw what women were doing at home, and she decided to do the same herself.
    What many may not know is what a marvelous team Laura and her husband, Bernard, were. He was ambitious, a business man who "appreciated colour and design." This paired with Laura's eye for detail, fashion, and early needlework experience proved to be an unbeatable combination. Incredibly, as the world knows, they designed not only clothing but household items as well through numerous stores. Their's was a remarkable partnership.
    As is his wont Martin Wood has fulled this volume with gorgeous photos and drawings, some 200 found in the Laura Ashkey company's archives and the family's personal records.
    Laura Ashley is a book to be treasured by all who have an interest in fashion and design.
    - Gail Cooke

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