Laura Ashley Holdings plc is an international designer and retailer of clothing and home furnishings. Invariably described as 'quintessentially English,' the Laura Ashley name conjures up images of pretty, romantic women and rooms draped in tasteful, gracious dresses and soft furnishings.
Laura Ashley markets a dream of English gentility and elegance, as well as countryside wholesomeness and purity, which can be purchased in the urban centers of Britain and around the world.
Laura and her husband Bernard started their business in 1953. Working from the kitchen table in their London home, the two used the hand silk screen method to print textiles. Laura designed small items such as linen napkins and tablemats, and Bernard's specialty was furnishing prints. Design inspiration came from many sources, particularly nature and 19th-century prints by artists such as William Morris.
Along with domestic expansion came overseas growth: the first foreign shop opened in Geneva in 1972, followed two years later by stores in Paris, Dusseldorf, and San Francisco. Success followed success, and it seemed that the global appeal of Laura Ashley's pretty floral designs would result in a retail empire.