Can Laura Ashley bloom again?

As the struggling 80s favourite unveils a collection based on its vintage floral prints: Can Laura Ashley bloom again?

  • Laura Ashley once counted Princess Diana and Sloane Rangers among its fans
  • The label has now unveiled The Pimlico Collection, inspired by its archive 
  • Jess Wood revealed a selection of the best items sparking nostalgia

There aren’t many brand names that become an adjective — universally recognised as shorthand for a particular style. 

But ‘Laura Ashley’ is one, instantly conjuring up images of spriggy florals, pie-crust collars and a nostalgic mix of Edwardian and Victorian styles.

You could say Laura Ashley was the forerunner to other labels that have seen wild success in recent years by promoting quirky Britishness — Cath Kidston and Boden among them.

Jess Wood revealed a selection of the best items from Laura Ashley’s new Pimlico Collection, pictured: Dress, £110, Laura Ashley; boots, £350, Reiss; bag, £415, Atp Atelier

Top, £55, Laura Ashley; trousers, £49.99, Zara; shoes, £195, L.K.Bennett

Dress, £110, Laura Ashley; shoes, £195, L.K.Bennett

There’s no denying, though, that Laura Ashley has started to look more than a little predictable, dull and dowdy. 

So I’m delighted to see the brand launch a new clothing collection that harks back to the heady days when Princess Diana and the other Sloane Rangers made its winsome smock dresses the pinnacle of middle-class aspiration. 

The Pimlico Collection is a vintage-infused range inspired by the company’s extensive archive of prints used on both clothes and interiors. 

Back in my 1980s childhood, I swooned over magazine shoots of grand boudoirs in Ashley chintz.

Dress, £85.99, Laura Ashley; shoes, £275, The Fold London

Top, £60, and skirt, £70, Laura Ashley; shoes, £195, L.K.Bennett

The label started in 1953 in Laura’s attic flat in Pimlico — hence the new collection’s name. She began making scarves, napkins and teatowels using the Victorian Liberty prints she loved, but couldn’t find in the shops. 

The company branched out into clothes, with smock shirts and dresses, and the 1970s and early 1980s were the blockbuster years, with more than 70 shops. 

Then, after Laura died in 1985, the company floundered when fashion changed — 90s minimalism and frilly blouses did not go.

But in recent seasons, there’s been a return to sepia-toned femininity, florals and nostalgia. 

So why on earth has Laura Ashley waited until now to grab a slice of the puff-sleeved pie? The verdict? Some pretty, well-designed pieces — but not quite the same trend-setting, dream-inspiring X-factor that made my 11-year-old heart beat faster.

Top, £55, Laura Ashley; trousers, £130, Jigsaw; shoes, £245, Russell & Bromley

Dress, £110, Laura Ashley; shoes, £195, L.K.Bennet

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