Today's book reviews involve two designers- one who I thought I knew well, and the other who I knew not at all.
I loved Martin Wood's book on Nancy Lancaster and devoured his follow-up on John Fowler (who didn't?!). So when I heard that his next subject was Laura Ashley, I was intrigued. Intrigued because Wood was writing it, and curious about what made Laura Ashley a compelling subject. Well, let's just say that the last time I was taken with anything Laura Ashley was back in the 1980s- but I'm enchanted by her, her story, and the look once again.
Welsh born Laura Ashley and her husband Bernard got their start in the apparel and textile business in the early 1950s when they began to print fabric in their home. The business took off with a line of small neck scarves that became all the rage. Tea towels followed, but it was their garment line that took the company to an entirely new level- and made Laura Ashley a household name in Britain and beyond.
Of course many of us fondly remember those Laura Ashley dresses that we wore as children (they were a little Laura Ingalls Wilder-ish, but hey, it's better than some of the clothes little girls are wearing today), but did you know that Laura and her husband were innovators? Bernard insisted on selling their fabrics alongside the garments, something which people felt would never work... but it did and quite successfully. And many of their prints were actually a bit edgy looking, a far cry from the traditional florals that many of us associate with the house. Who knew? I certainly didn't.
The book is chock full of photos of various clothing collections (the Venetian Collection was pretty fabulous) as well as color photos of their prints. But for me, the best part are the photos of the Ashley homes. If you swoon for very British interiors, trust me, you'll have a ball reading this book.
Remember this photo? Diana was wearing a Laura Ashley skirt.
Laura Ashley fabrics c. 1972.
The Ashley dining room in their home in England.
And for you Francophiles, a guest bedroom in the Ashley's French chateau
And the designer who I wasn't familiar with? John Minshaw. And what a nice surprise this book was. John Minshaw Designs is a wonderful introduction to a designer whose work is classical with a twist. There is a brief biography of Minshaw- important for those of us who are new to the designer- but the monograph is mainly a compilation of project photos. No need for me to write anything else because I think the photos will do Minshaw more justice than my writing will.