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Fashion, Furniture, Fragrance. Laura Ashley - "Shopping designed just for You"

Laura Ashley, famous name in fashion and furniture, including the renowned design service, is linked to via this page. As well as being "one of the world's best-loved and most successful fashion and home furnishing companies", Laura Ashley is very good environmentally and has a NO-WASTE policy. You can read more about this after the link, but first some of the history of Laura Ashley, quoting info from the company...

"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 Ashleys 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.Laura Ashley

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.

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 (by now Laura had given birth to three of their four children), 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. Turnover rose from £2,000 to £8,000 in 1960. The next year, the family moved to Wales, the country where Laura was born and had spent much of her childhood.Laura Ashley

Originally, the company was located in a vacant social club in the small village of Carno, Montgomeryshire. In 1967, however, the factory moved across to the village's railway station which had closed two years earlier. Within those early years, the foundations of the company were set. Bernard had developed his flat-bed printing process to produce 5,000 metres of fabric per week and - most crucially - in 1966, Laura produced her first dress for social rather than work attire.

The long length silhouette was to become the Laura Ashley trademark. It also was to work successfully in the company's favour as fashion switched from the mini to the maxi skirt at the end of the 1960's.

By 1970, sales had reached £300,000 per year, with further shops opening in Shrewsbury and Bath. In one week alone, London's Fulham Road site sold 4,000 dresses and received an extra fillip when a newspaper suggested that by donning a Laura Ashley number, women could look as beautiful as Catherine Ross in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".

A licensing operation led to the opening of department store concessions in Australia, Canada and Japan in 1971, while domestic expansion continued unabated. The first Laura Ashley shop in Paris was a sell-out from day one of trading in 1974. The same year, Laura Ashley made its grand entrance into the USA with the opening of a store in San Francisco.

It was the Paris shop, however, which was the first to feature the distinctive green frontage and stripped wooden interior. By 1975, turnover was a staggering £5 million per year and the company employed 1,000 people worldwide. Laura turned down the offer from Buckingham Palace of an OBE (she was upset Bernard had not been offered one) but a Queen's Award for Export was gladly accepted in 1977. Turnover continued to shoot off the top of the graph, reaching £25 million as Laura Ashley celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1979 with the launch of a range of perfumes.

Laura AshleyBy now the couple had relocated to France although constant air travel - Bernard was an accomplished pilot - kept them in touch with their family and worldwide business. Laura shifted her attention from clothes back to fabrics and the company launched its home furnishings collections which have grown in importance for the company today as global markets respond to strong home and fashion trends. However, tragedy was to strike without warning. In 1985, on her 60th birthday, while she was visiting her children in the UK, Laura fell down the stairs and was rushed to hospital where she died ten days later. It was an appalling, senseless loss but her name lives on through her business. Just two months later, Laura Ashley Holdings plc went public in a flotation that was 34 times oversubscribed.

The late 80's saw the knighthood of Sir Bernard Ashley, the opening of prestigious retail sites in London, the launch of the "Mother and Child" collection and "Laura Ashley Home", a range of exclusive home furnishings. Laura Ashley celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1993, the same year that Sir Bernard retired as chairman and became honorary life president. The Ashley family remain interested in the development of the business. Over recent years the company has weathered the managing effects of worldwide recession.

However, in May 1998, MUI Asia Limited became a major shareholder in Laura Ashley and remain committed to returning Laura Ashley to prosperity. Under the leadership of the Chief Executive Mr K C Ng, this world famous international brand is profitable once again. The overall strategy is to focus on modernising the brand whilst remaining true to Laura Ashley's brand values.

Key motivators include product development to meet the needs of target customers through focusing on signature product ranges. Investment in stores with an extensive refit programme in the UK and in Europe, and an effective communications strategy has been put into place to articulate the brand image. The brand strategy has provided a solid base upon which the company is progressing."Laura Ashley

A success story. This surely must be an inspiration to those of us who have an aspiration to set up a business and grow to international status. Meanwhile, to explore the actual site of Laura Ashley and possibly buy some top-name fashion, furniture, design, etc, here's the link...

Link Here To Visit Laura Ashley

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