Laura Ashley’s first shop, Machynlleth

Laura Ashley’s first shop, 35 Heol Maengwyn, Machynlleth

Self-taught fabric designer Laura Ashley opened her first shop here, in 1961. Her company grew to encompass 500 shops around the world.

The building, including number 37, is now home to The Deco Shop. The structure is much older than the Victorian frontage. The roof beams are thought to date from c.1700.

Laura Mountney grew up in a small house in the industrial town of Dowlais, near Merthyr Tydfil. She married Bernard Ashley, who worked in the City of London, in 1948. In the 1950s she taught herself how to print fabrics and began to print her designs at their London flat. Her style was influenced by Victorian décor.

She and Bernard set up the Ashley Mountney Company and in 1953 began to produce objects, such as scarves and tea towels, commercially. They started with a silk screen (a device for printing) on their kitchen table and sold the goods through established stores such as John Lewis.

The company had been renamed Laura Ashley by 1961, when the couple opened their first shop here. They had moved, with their four children, from Kent to the Dolgellau area, living in tents beside the Mawddach estuary for several months!

They opened a factory in nearby Carno in 1963. The focus was still on everyday objects until 1966, when Laura began to produce dresses. Her designs were just what many consumers wanted as the mini skirt and other fashions of the 1960s waned. The 1970s and 1980s saw the opening of Laura Ashley shops as far afield as Japan, Australia and the USA, supplied by additional factories in Wales. The brand developed a strong reputation for curtains, bedding and other home furnishings.

The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1986, but Laura didn’t live to see this transition. She died, aged 60, in 1985 after falling down a flight of stairs.

Postcode: SY20 8EB    View Location Map

Website of The Deco Shop