Ashley the person
Ashley was born in 1925 in Merthyr Tydfill in Wales as Laura Mountney.
She married Bernard Ashley in 1949 and remained married until her
death in 1985. Laura's interest in fabrics started whilst she was
working as a secretary for another company. During this time she
started to design quilt covers for the local Women's Institute, based
on the skills she had previously learnt from her Grandmother. Before
long she had progressed from just designing quilt covers and instead
also started designing napkins, table mats, headscarves and tea towels
etc. At this point her husband Bernard got involved. He designed a
printing machine in the attic flat in London that they were living in
that could print all the designs directly onto plain fabric. However,
it was the headscarves that gave the Laura and Bernard the break they
needed. This came about after Laura visited a display of traditional
Victorian handicrafts at the Victoria and Albert museum in London.
Laura started to look for other examples of Victorian designs that she
could actually buy and she soon found that nothing existed anywhere.
She quickly realised that here was an opportunity to re-invent designs
that were once very popular with the Victorians. The easiest item to
re-make using the Victorian designs would be the Women's headscarves,
so between them in 1953 this is what Laura and Bernard concentrated on
long the Ashleys' Headscarves had become very popular, so much so that
even the big retailers such as John Lewis where also selling them.
They also developed a successful mail order sales channel as well. At
this point Bernard left his good job in the City to help produce more
headscarves along with the development of new product lines.
Between them they
then set up and managed their own fashion
retail company which in 1953 was originally just called Bernard Ashley
Fabrics, shortly afterwards the name was changed by Bernard Ashley to
just Laura Ashley as he felt that a female based company name would be
to the product range. Laura Ashley was in charge of the design side of
the business and Bernard was in charge of the operational and sales
side. Laura Ashley kept working until her death on the 17th September 1985
from a brain haemorrhage. This resulted after falling down the stairs at her
daughters house 10 days earlier on the 7th September 1985 (on her 60th