Started Fashion Empire in London Flat : Designer Laura Ashley, Hurt in Fall, Dies


Laura Ashley, whose first fabric designs laid out on a kitchen table led to a worldwide fashion empire with yearly sales of more than $130 million, died today from injuries sustained in a fall. She was 60.

A Walsgrove Hospital spokesman said Ashley never came out of the coma she slipped into nine days ago after falling down the stairs at her daughter’s home. Company and hospital officials have refused to discuss the circumstances of Ashley’s fall.

Ashley was a success in fashion and furnishing fabrics but once said, “The idea of four babies, cooking, sewing and looking after the home suited me perfectly.”

The company she and her husband, Bernard, founded on the kitchen table of their small London flat 32 years ago developed into a Laura Ashley fashion empire of 4,000 employees in 180 shops and 10 factories around the world.

The business, for which three of their four children also work, will continue under family direction, a company spokesman said.


Ashley’s most celebrated customer was Princess Diana, who in the days before her engagement to Prince Charles often appeared wearing the printed cotton skirts and pie-frilled blouses that typified the Ashley style.

Laura Ashley’s designs for wallpaper, clothes, furniture, curtains and the like were her own, but her husband also had a key role in promoting them.

Their marketing successes brought huge wealth, including chateaux in Europe, a private plane and a mansion near London. Their success forced them into exile in New York for a time because of tax problems.