Steeped in nostalgia and heritage, stepping in to the Welsh archive transports you back to the sights and smells of Laura Ashley back when Laura and husband Bernard first printed floral scarves on their kitchen table. An old photograph of Laura Ashley sitting at her desk hangs above the doorway to the archivist’s office, fabric covered photo albums and books decorate the shelves, folders of fabric swatches pile high and romantic imagery from the 1970’s adorn the walls.
Before each article in the archive is carefully stored away into it’s appropriate box (there are floor to ceiling boxes of Laura Ashley treasures), it is photographed and described for our designer database. The archive has become our most invaluable resource for both the home and fashion design team, taking snippets of inspiration from our past (whether it be an interesting print, motif, vintage fragrance or even a photograph) and reinventing in a fresh modern way for today.
Ann the Archivist’s desk adorned with pretty postcards
Visitors are always greeted with a cheery welcome from our in-house archivist Ann who has overseen the smooth running of our highly secured archive for the last 10 years. Trying to browse the archive often instills this overwhelming feeling of ‘where to start?’ so we caught up with Ann to find out more about the ‘best bits’ in a small but insightful Q+A…
Tell us about your favourite pieces from the archive and why?
There are so many pieces we hold here in Wales that it’s very hard to pick my favourite! Even now I find myself opening boxes and coming across old garments and thinking they are still fab. Anyway, I’m very fond of the porcelain doll that we did from the 1980′s which I think bears a slight resemblance to Laura…
The most fascinating inspiration prints are stored at our London archive (where the designers are based) but I adore these trees, dog and deer prints…
There is also a great poster, from the 1970’s, showing a young girl in an over-sized coat with a heraldic print and the words “Actually it’s a Laura Ashley”. This made me smile when I very first saw it as it’s so quirky and fun for it’s time!
The kindest archive donation you have received?
The most interesting donation is a scarf from 1954 which is now the oldest piece in the Archive. The scarf, as you will see from the image, is a very simple print but I like the idea that someone has held onto it for so long and didn’t throw it way.
Who is your most memorable visitor?
Last October Jane Ashley (Laura Ashley’s daughter) visited the archive for the first time (lots of our employees here in the Welsh offices have been with the company for almost 40 years and knew Jane when she was just a teenager so they were very excited)- she was definitely the person I have been most happy to see. I have met Jane before but it was nice seeing her here in the Archive and reminiscing about the past. She stayed a couple of hours and liked seeing the pictures that are in my office and the large photographs on top of the cupboards (a lot of which she took herself- being the Ashley family photographer back in the 1970’s and 80’s). She was also especially keen to see the personal press cuttings of her and her family from the 60’s and 70’s.
Jane Ashley photograph from the 1970′s
If you have any old vintage Laura Ashley items that you would like to kindly donate to the archive where they will be looked after and treasured, please contact our London archivist on 020 7880 5379.
Fri, March 2, 2012
by Hope Gough filed under