Laura Mountney, better known as fashion icon Laura Ashley, was a Welsh fashion designer who lived from 1925 to 1985, but her fashion dynasty marches on. Her style is characterized by natural fabrics with beautiful “country feel” prints and shapes that are reminiscent of the 19th century, where romance was sewn into every dress a lady wore.
She served in the Women’s Naval Royal Service, where she met her future husband Bernard Ashley. They married in 1949, and began their designing business together, where they first designed scarves, napkins, place mats and tea-towels. The scarves became very successful, Laura then became interested in producing printed fabric, after being inspired by a Women’s Institute display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Their first shop opened in 1961, originally as Ashley Mountney, but Bernard later changed the name to Laura Ashley, as he felt a woman’s name was more product appropriate.
Fashion was introduced first as smock and gardening tops, and demand for her fashions eventually led to the classic Laura Ashley style of romantic, Victorian era silhouettes that involved long, full gathered skirts, fitted and dropped waists, puffed shoulders with tightly fitted sleeves, exposed low necklines, and off-shoulder styles.
In 1985 at age 60, Laura Ashley died from a tragic fall, but her memory is still alive and well within her company. To this day, the Ashley family is still involved in the day-to-day operations of Laura Ashley.