I am a homebody, there is no denying this fact, I love my cosy home and it takes a lot to make me leave it..apart from the school run/ dog walk/ yoga sessions and occasional brave venture to the local pub to meet up with friends (they make excellent chips).
Yet the call of Laura Ashley was like a siren call from the crashing waves of the big smoke. You want me to leave my lane? To come to LONDON TOWN? On a train? And a tube? “Ahhhhh a ahhh a ahhhh” (that’s a siren call) “ahhh a ahh it’s Laura Ashley, she’s back…” (well the company is) “…ah ahh ah come along to the bright lights of the big city and see all the beautiful new floral designs of…” “Ok!!!! I am coming”. Intrepidly I donned my Laura Ashley dress of vintage print swans from a Joanie clothing collab and bravely drove to the station having hastily removed any previous items from my car as it doesn’t lock any more. I clanked and chugged my way through villages of puffing chimneys and brisk dog walking hearties and pulled into the station of scariness.
Trembling I boarded the train, why was it so scary? I used to live in London for goodness sake! I attempted to look brave and a bit fearless and read my book as if I was a very important London lady, this worked until the London station when I couldn’t work out how to open the door (oh yes- you wait until it lights up to press). Red faced but with florals beating through my heart I stumbled through the escalators, caught the correct tube and didn’t get lost finding my way to Noho Studios (sure, I walked past it and had to retrace about half a mile but that was a win as far as I was concerned).
I was greeted by a beautiful young lady who wafted expertly in one of the new dresses then my frantically beating heart in ears heard dimly “Rebecca!!!!” and there before me stood the gorgeous Belle (@designermumetc) waving and smiling and looking entirely at home and glamorously beautiful. I staggered and “glowed” my way over to give a possibly too tight but very relieved hug and began to feel the day might be ok. Belle is as beautiful and lovely in real life as she is on Instagram so I stuck closely to her as we were invited to take part in a screen printing session.
Actually it could! Her husband Shopper Dave was also there and after filming Belle asked if I would like him to film me screen printing too! What a truly gorgeous man and the ultimate Insta husband!!!!
After a heady and core testing screen print experience it was time to view the glorious new collection downstairs.
It was impossible to know where to look first! There were fashionistas and home gurus everywhere so I slunk from space to space taking surreptitious photos (I was basically a not quite undercover photographer).
Naturally I was drawn to this beautiful pink and green scheme- look at the original style Lynden sofa but upholstered in the softest of greens! The velvet cushions and the clever mix of rich purple with dark green and palest of pretty pinks is just wonderful. This is when I really began to relax – this was old school Laura Ashley with her wonderful combination of colour and pattern back in play.
The use of the original archive prints is visible on every new design and has created a beautiful cohesiveness that I think was lacking before. They have worked so hard to recaptured the magic and romance of Laura Ashley and it shines through in every new piece.
The ditsy print napkins were so soft and beautiful, the clever mix of colours and the nod to modernity in the furniture but balanced with a Laura Ashley ‘70’s vibe was a joy to behold. The thought that has gone into the pieces is just wonderful.
Look at that stunning wallpaper! And who could fail to fall into this bed without feeling like a floating Laura Ashley heroine (but possibly sporting a massive grin)?
By this time I was high on floral and colour jubilation so I swept into the fashion area with young girls in LA dresses commenting “I love your dress” with a nod and a wink to the inside clan of Laura Ashleyness (or they were just being kind but I think they were secretly impressed with my wafting). I managed a design match with another LA aficionado of my era and we smirked but resisted the urge to high five.
They have absolutely nailed this first collection. It almost smells of classic Laura Ashley (peach blossom, roses, spring tulips and cinnamon- only my olfactory opinion). The designs have been taken from the archives and reinjected with fresh modern colours that glow with happiness.
I spoke to one of the lead designers who told me that they go to their archives twice a year to bring out more classics for inspiration. Why only twice a year? Well apart from the seasonal aspect, the designs are kept in a salt mine in Cheshire (apparently the prefect conditions for fabric and paper storage) and they have to go down in to the actual mines to plunder the collection. It was definitely worth it!
The team have been so respectful of the history of this beautiful company, they have completely understood the precious memories associated with their designs and reproduced so many beauties, even keeping a retro vibe to the cut of many of the pieces.
I was beyond impressed with the sensitivity to a much beloved brand and then I entered the memory room and realised why they have so painstakingly stuck to its very long roots. The room was filled with people’s memories of Laura Ashley, from wedding dress dreams to first married curtains. It actually made me cry. So many hopes and dreams and happy recollections.
It will come as no surprise that I have adored Laura Ashley since I was a very small girl, from weeping at the just rolled down the hill grass stains on my bridesmaid dress of fantasies to my first sofa purchase of cranberry stripe deliciousness. Seventy years of romantic dreams come true is an enormous achievement and my home and my style has been enormously informed by this floral loving company. Laura Ashley was a pattern and colour genius filled with sensitivity and a way of understanding what women wanted. She has been greatly missed but this design team have worked incredibly hard to recapture the essence of this extraordinary woman. Thank you for saving this “unashamedly romantic” company.
Laura Ashley available at Next
Laura Ashley current season collab with Joanie available at Joanie (30% off with “TREAT30).