Will THIS chintzy collaboration revive Laura Ashley? Retailer teams up with trendy New York designer to release frou-frou frocks in archive prints as it fights back after Covid collapse
- Laura Ashley succumbed to Covid retail crash and was bought by US investors
- Owners have invested in rejuvenating the brand, including a Next collaboration
- Latest move is a capsule collection with New York-based designer Batsheva Hay
Laura Ashley has announced a limited-edition collaboration with a New York-based designer as it continues to rebound after being forced to close more than 100 stores due to Covid.
The fashion-to-furnishings British retailer, which started life on Laura Ashley’s kitchen table in 1953, was the pandemic’s first high-profile casualty when it collapsed after failing to secure rescue funds, forcing the closure in July 2020 of all 123 UK stores, its Welsh factory and its website, costing more than 1,600 jobs.
But the brand was rescued by Gordon Brothers, the global advisory, restructuring and investment firm, which has invested in restoring the brand to its former glory, including launching a collaboration with Next.
Now, in its latest move, the retailer has launched a 15-piece collaboration with independent designer Batsheva Hay, who has produced a range of smocked and tiered dresses that draws on the retailer’s archival prints and line drawings.
Laura Ashley has announced a limited-edition collaboration with a New York-based designer as it continues to rebound after being forced to close more than 100 stores due to Covid. Pictured, designer Batsheva Hay models one of the pieces from her Laura Ashley range
The York dress, priced £218 in the Serene print, boasts a bold floral design with a gold and black collar. The collection, priced from £36 ($50) to £229 ($315), is available on the Laura Ashley website for US shoppers. In the UK, it is available via Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion
The collection, priced from £36 ($50) to £229 ($315), is available on the Laura Ashley website for US shoppers. In the UK, it is available via Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion.
It is the first time Laura Ashley has collaborated on a collection with another female designer.
Batsheva spoke of how the brand helped inspire her own designs, saying: ‘When I made my first dress a few years ago, my idea was to take a classic Laura Ashley shape and adjust all sorts of things — make the neck a little rufflier, add contrasting fabrics, bring up the waist,’ she explained.
‘All I wanted to do was revisit and reimagine Laura Ashley and this is my chance to do it. I am working with archival prints, line drawings, and garments and mashing them together.’
The designer added: ‘I grew up in the ‘80s in Queens, and we used to drive into Manhattan to visit the Laura Ashley store on Madison Avenue. Laura Ashley always symbolised my dream of femininity — natural and romantic and a little costumey.’
The Welsh layered dressed in the Sherwood Forrest print (pictured on Batsheva) is one of the matching mother-daughter pieces and costs £203.90 for the adult version. Batsheva, who has produced a range of smocked and tiered dresses that draws on the retailer’s archival prints
The pieces echo classic Laura Ashley prints and styles, like these 1980s bridalwear designs
Designer Batsheva has modelled her favourite pieces from the collection including a voluminous smock called the York dress, which features a clash of yellow and pink, floral blues and bold greens and is complete with statement ruffles, bow sleeves and collar.
Laura and Bernard Ashley entered the trade from their kitchen table in 1953, hand-printing fabric in their tiny Pimlico flat.
They built the company into a national chain before her death in 1985 from a brain haemorrhage following a fall down the stairs at her daughter’s home just days after her 60th birthday.
Laura Ashley has tried to reinvent itself, several times. Notably, in 2007, when it reissued a selection of classic designs, but in more modern, more malleable fabric and colours, such as dove grey.
Designer Batsheva has modelled her favourite pieces from the collection including this frock which combines the Laura Ashley pattern with her modern take
The collection combines Victorian-inspired silhouettes with Laura Ashley floral prints across a range of 15 pieces. Pictured: Batsheva in a dress priced £218
And again in 2013, when it raided the archives, reissuing classic designs, including the very first scarf from 1954, this time in silk.
But in March 2020, it would permanently close 70 stores, with plans to cut 268 office jobs and furlough more than 1,500 workers.
Gordon Brothers came to the rescue and has sought to bring back one of the great British brands.
It relaunched in spring with shops within Next stores and a website run by Next. This includes a flagship Laura Ashley store at Westfield in West London, taking up 3,000 sq ft of the huge Next store there.
Gordon Brothers hinted it might not be the last collaboration for the brand.
Carolyn D’Angelo, the investment firm’s brand managing director, and the global Laura Ashley President, commented: ‘Batsheva, who is such an inspiring designer and a fan of the Laura Ashley brand, has brought real passion and life to each piece.
‘Being a part of Batsheva’s creative process to bring high fashion pieces to the marketplace has us inspired to create more Laura Ashley collaborations.
‘We are excited to continue to work with brands and designers that continue to be inspired by the legacy of Laura Ashley.’
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