A very select group of bloggers met up at The Papered Parlour in Clapham last night to celebrate 60 years of the Laura Ashley brand. It is 60 years since Laura Ashley began printing scarves on her kitchen table in Pimlico, London. Tucked away behind the bustling streets of Clapham, lies the magical Papered Parlour, an independent space dedicated to teaching crafts and providing a space for local artists. Founders of the Papered Parlour, Claire and Louise along with the fabulous Laura Ashley ladies welcomed us in off the breezy street.
Stepping out of the cold into the Papered Parlour was like being a child entering Santa’s grotto for the first time. The space was decorated with Laura Ashley dresses from their winter range, candles and mugs featuring the reintroduced archival prints lined the shelves, an array of sandwiches, cakes and cronuts (a hybrid croissant & donut) laid on the table and I couldn’t help but notice Nancy Mc Nails sat in the corner ready to start work. To say I was excited would be an understatement.
Nancy Mc + DIY nails: Swiftly dumping my bag, I made a b-line for Nancy and was agog at the incredible nail designs on offer, including the iconic Laura Ashley Pelham print and my all-time favourite Clarissa floral print. Needless to say I opted for bright red nails and the Clarissa print on each ring finger. I chatted with Nancy and her friend Tammy of DIY Nails, Tammy creates amazing nail decals to order, so you can upload an image of any picture you like and she’ll create transfers for your nails >yelps<
Peek into the Archive: As I sat and had my nails done we were given a brief history of the humble beginnings of the Laura Ashley brand. We were shown an array of the very first pieces printed by Laura and her husband Bernard. The brand began back in 1953 with Laura Ashley and her husband Bernard Ashley printing small runs of headscarves, table clothes and tea towels on silk screen in their London flat. It was incredible to be given the opportunity to see the very first prints, they had a charming level of imperfection, with the borders being slightly off. The journey from such humble beginnings in Laura’s London flat to the global fashion phenomenon we know and love today is a true inspiration, demonstrating how one small idea can shake the world.
Print like Laura: Following our look into the archive, we were soon given the chance to turn our hands to a little printing of our own. We had a choice of four Laura Ashley archive prints including the Pelham print, which is one of Laura’s earliest prints, originally made into a headscarf. The Pelham headscarf has been recoloured and will be available in the 2013 winter collection. True to form, I opted for the floweriest print available and set to work! I made a bold decision to try and print two colours, my favourite pink and red combination. I printed the tee you can see in the image above, what do you think?
Getting the chance to screen print was a blast. We were given the choice to print onto a tee or a tote bag, some of the tote bags in the Pelham print looked brilliant, I loved the bright red print below. It was great to see prints from the archive being reborn, flaunting bold geometric prints that may not be typically associated with Laura Ashley.
Swinging winter collection: The Laura Ashley 2013 winter range pays homage to some of Laura’s early designs including a mix of 1960’s bold geometric and monochrome prints. Several of the styles would be ideal for work, including the 60’s style shift dress shown on the mannequin holding the giant pencil. The Laura Ashley ladies were all sporting their geometric jumpers, which looked great. After the screen printing mayhem we feasted on cronuts and cakes and stood around gossiping about travel, baking, fashion and pretty much everything in between!
The event was much more than an excuse to take endless selfies and lust after pretty dresses, it was a celebration of a great British brand, a chance to get your hands dirty and relive how Laura Ashley would’ve printed her very first scarf on her kitchen table all those years ago. The Laura Ashley brand has stood the test of time through a multitude of economic crashes, proving that good design that successfully caters for our lifestyle needs, is always in fashion. With the rise of retro, vintage and heritage fashion and styling reaching the mainstream on Britain’s high-street, now is the perfect time for long established English brands such and Laura Ashley to unearth their rich archive and celebrate their design success.