Working for Laura


One of my weekly haunts is Barnes and Noble. I enjoy going early in the morning or at supper time while the store is quiet. Last week while looking through the shelves on interior design I came across a book called Home. Fifty designers had submitted their reflections on their homes. As I flipped through the pages I came across the name Nick Ashley. The name triggered a lot of memories. In the late eighties I worked for the Laura Ashley company. Nick was the son of the founders, Bernard and Laura Ashley. Nick’s parents had started the company in the mid-fifties and by the time I worked at their store in the U.S. they were incredibly successful. Laura Ashley was part of the “British invasion” in design. People couldn’t get enough of the floral patterned dresses and decorating their homes in English Country. Just as the company was at its height in 1985, Mrs. Ashley died. She had scheduled a trip to the States for a much anticipated company party but while on holiday she suffered a brain aneurysm. I remember hearing the shocking news and was told not to come in to work as stores were to be closed in her memory. I always felt that when Mrs. Ashley died, the company changed. The design of the clothing lacked her creative touch and the company began to spread itself thin by saturating the retail market. According to Nick, “…that was the end of it all, really.” The thoughts and observations I had then were right. Later that same year that Mrs. Ashley died, her husband came to our store. My impression of him was that he was like any husband who was now a widower…he seemed lost. The company itself seemed lost too. It never really recovered and I saw many stores close including two at which I worked.

By the way, I bought the book.