Turning back the frock! Laura Ashley’s new CEO vows to return British fashion brand to its ‘traditional’ 1980s styles loved by Princess Diana, Kate Garraway and Holly Willoughby in bid to save it from collapse

  • Welsh designer Laura Ashley & husband Bernard started brand at home in 1953
  • Enjoyed huge success in 1980s after Princess Diana opted for their dresses 
  • This week they were saved from going by US  bust after £4m sales sink 

Laura Ashley’s new female CEO has vowed to save the struggling British fashion brand by bringing back its iconic 1980s style loved by Princess Diana. 

Katharine Poulter took over as head of Laura Ashley after the company announced ballooning losses and a 10.4 per cent fall in sales. 

This week it dodged going bust after US bank Wells Fargo saved the day with an emergency funding deal.

But despite the ‘disappointing’ £4million sales slump, Ms Poulter is confident Laura Ashley can fight off her High Street rivals and post-Brexit retail trends by recapturing the original vision of its late founder. 

Laura Ashley’s new female CEO has vowed to save the struggling British fashion brand by bringing back its iconic 1980s style loved by Princess Diana (pictured in a Laura Ashley dress in Notting Hill, west London, in 1992) 


Kate Garraway (left) opted for Laura’s £90 Red Midi Heart Jacquard Dress, £90 to present Good Morning Britain, while fellow ITV presenter Holly Willoughby (right) chose the £110 navy version to host This Morning

This week, Laura Ashley (store front pictured) it dodged going bust after US bank Wells Fargo saved the day with an emergency funding deal

She told Drapers magazine: ‘[Customers] are telling me to be bold and sending me photographs of vintage dresses and the message is very clear: update them in a cool modern way.

Katharine Poulter (pictured) took over CEO after the company announced ballooning losses and a 10.4 per cent fall in sales

 ‘That is exactly what we’re going to be doing – reconnecting with our traditional values and strong British heritage and develop Laura Ashley as the original lifestyle brand.’ 

Laura Ashley started printing floral designs on her kitchen table at home in Wales with her husband Bernard in the early 1950s.

They opened their first shop in Pelham Street, South Kensington, in 1968, women’s clothes and home interiors.

The brand did well on the High Street throughout the 1970s, bringing French chic and luxurious soft and hard furnishings into people’s homes. 

But it wasn’t until the 1980s that it reached dizzying success, when Princess Diana threw her support behind the designer and was often seen in her dresses.  

As time has gone on with fast fashion dominating the landscape, the brand has relied increasingly on its homewear to make money.

Despite the ‘disappointing’ £4million sales slump, Ms Poulter is confident Laura Ashley (new dress pictured) can fight off her High Street rivals and post-Brexit retail trends by recapturing the original vision of its late founder

The country bride: A full-length Laura wedding gown of ivory cotton trimmed with cotton roses is pictured from decades gone by 

But with Ikea, Made.com and Habitat hot on its heals, the company has struggled. 

Now, however, they have had some new celebrity endorsements to revive their womenswear collection, including Holly Willoughby and Kate Garraway. 

Kate opted for Laura’s £90 Red Midi Heart Jacquard Dress, £90 to present Good Morning Britain, while fellow ITV presenter Holly chose the £110 navy version to host This Morning.

Ms Poulter told Drapers: ‘With the Kate and Holly dresses 60% of customers were new customers. We’re bringing in new customers and targeting a multigenerational [customer].’

They opened their first shop in Pelham Street, South Kensington, in 1968, women’s clothes and home interiors (catalogue image pictured)  

In the age of social media, it may be TV and Instagram adverts that save Laura Ashley. 

It was forced to stave off imminent collapse after concerns a £20m loan would not be available to meet immediate cash needs. 

It scrapped its interim dividend citing a ‘challenging’ trading period, and it is on track to increase last year’s full-year loss of £14.3million. 

Poulter joined the firm as operations chief in January from Wilko. 

But Laura Ashley’s chairman, Andrew Khoo, told the Guardian: ‘It’s business as usual. Whilst these results are disappointing, we believe that with the right focus and support, Laura Ashley has a strong future and can be successful again.’ 

The brand did well on the High Street throughout the 1970s, bringing French chic and luxurious soft and hard furnishings into people’s homes (catalogue image pictured) 

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