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Laura Ashley


Laura Ashley was born on 7th September 1925 at her grandparent's house 31 Station Terrace, Dowlais, Merthyr. It was Audrey Hepburn who inadvertently sparked the growth of one of the world's best-loved and most successful fashion and home 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 table mats and napkins on their kitchen table in a flat in Pimlico. The scarves were an instant success. 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. There 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.

In its early days, the company was known as Ashley Mountney but Bernard changed the name to Laura Ashley because he felt a woman's name was more appropriate for the type of products they were making. The couple moved from inner London to Kent in 1955. Their business was nearly wiped out in 1958, when the river Darent overflowed, leaving equipment, dyes, and fabrics floating in three feet of water. Times were hard for the Ashley family because every penny of profit was being poured back into the business. Meanwhile, more products were beginning to appear under the Laura Ashley name, including aprons, oven gloves, and gardening smocks. In 1961, the family moved to Wales, the country where Laura was born and had spent much of her childhood.

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