Laura Ashley – Welsh Icon

Who’s the designer?

Why is this important to us at Goodwash?

This is one of the iconic designs of Laura Ashley, founder of one of the most successful global Welsh brands ever. For more than half a century her name has been synonymous with quintessential English style but Laura Ashley was Welsh through and through. 

She rose from humble beginnings, born in her grandmother’s home, a colliery worker’s cottage in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil to become the owner of a multi-million pound fashion and furnishings empire, with 500 shops worldwide carrying her name. She was educated first in Merthyr Tydfil and later in Croydon before being evacuated back to South Wales aged 13 during the second World War. At 16 she left school and served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service and later as a secretary for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in London. While working as a secretary and raising her first two children, she undertook some development work for the Women’s Institute on quilting. Revisiting the craft she had learnt with her grandmother, she began designing headscarves, napkins, table mats and tea-towels which her husband Bernard Ashley printed on a machine he had designed in their attic flat in Pimlico. They invested £10 in wood for the screen frame, dyes and a few yards of linen and the rest is history! Her headscarves were a huge success retailing via mail order and High St shops including John Lewis. She later moved back to Wales with Bernard and her 4 children opening her first shop opened in Machynlleth in 1961, and a factory two years later in Carno, Powys. She really was a leading female entrepreneur. We can only hope that Goodwash will emulate her success!

The museum of modern art in Machynlleth is a fantastic venue and have chosen to celebrate and preserve her legacy in an exhibition  – for the love of Laura Ashley, from June 24th to 6th of September 2023. We may just see you there!

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