Laura Ashley CBE, (1925- 17 September 1985) was a British designer, born Laura Mountney in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.
Inspired by Audrey Hepburn in the film Roman Holiday, a young couple, Laura and Bernard Ashley, started to produce headscarves as well as table mats and napkins on their kitchen table in a flat in Pimlico. The Ashleys had invested £10 in wood for the screen frame, dyes and a few yards of linen. The scarves were an instant success with stores such as John Lewis and Heal’s and put them on the road to becoming an international company with a brand that is recognised around the globe.
She became a household name on the strength of her work as a designer and manufacturer of a range of colourful fabrics for clothes and home furnishings, which were originally produced by her factory in Newtown, Montgomeryshire. Her husband, Sir Bernard Ashley (married 1949), was also her business partner. She died following a domestic fall. She was buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, in Carno, Powys, Wales.
The business flourished for some time after her death, at one time having more than 500 shops around the world. The business founded in her name in the early 1960s continues to exist, though it is frequently reported as being on the verge of failure.
In May 1998, MUI Asia Limited became a major shareholder in Laura Ashley Holdings plc and under the new management, this world famous international brand is back in profit.