In today’s world, the term “influencer” has a very specific meaning. Any of us in the design world (interiors, architecture, fashion, or otherwise) brand ourselves aesthetically. Doesn’t everyone? Many design enthusiasts—professional or not—are sharing favorite finds, linking to them, and hoping for an “add to cart.”
However, before a constant feed of daily posts and product roundups, another kind of influencer infiltrated the scene. Decades-old brands (and a handful that have reached the century mark) continue to influence, dictate trends, maintain quality, and align themselves with style. Their style stands the test of time instead of accepting the here today, gone tomorrow result of 24-hour accessibility.
This series highlights those iconic brands, their history, and where they are today. It brings to light the beloved aesthetics that propel them to VIP status. First up: Laura Ashley.
While spring floral prints are nothing new—we have worn them as long as we can remember—the thought of Laura Ashley takes me right back to middle and high school days. We wore her floral rompers and puffy sleeve dresses with matching hair bows. This brand’s florals transcend all seasons.
Oddly enough, the Welsh native, began her affair with romantic English flowers in decorative interior products like tea towels and placemats. Spring forward (yes, pun intended) to her jump onto the fashion landscape. Headscarves budded into yardage, and well, the rest is cabbage rose and wisteria history.
If you were a teenage girl in the 1980s, you’ll admit to two things: a closet with at least one Laura Ashley dress and a dorm room decorated with the trendsetter’s feminine flair. After all, Laura Ashley was as much a hallmark of all-nighters as our AP art history papers in boarding school. I still remember my sister’s bedroom when she was a little girl. All pink-and-white Laura Ashley chintz, it had balloon shades on the windows and shirred lampshades to match her duvet cover.
We could not wait to pick out new dresses when we got to Florida every spring break. The Laura Ashley shop on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach was filled with prairie skirts, dresses, and rompers made of the softest cotton.
I wouldn’t say that the Laura Ashley we knew has made a comeback. Sure, the ease of prairie dresses and a good floaty ruffle still abound. But some of the exaggerated 1980s details, such as bibs and mutton sleeves, are being reinvented in a toned-down way. The OTT ’80s looks are neatly folded in fashion’s history books—and I’m thinking they should stay there. The brand’s influence is present though.
If you look forward to a new fashion season as I do, you will see her influence in today’s brands like LoveShackFancy, Ulla Johnson, and even the iconic prints of Liberty of London that I scooped up from the J Crew spring collection.
Laura Ashley itself continues the floral love but in oversize iterations that are loose and ditch all saccharin sensibilities. While some brands have evolved or even evaporated, the Laura Ashley seeds of style live on.