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The Laura Ashley Legacy project: Celebrating 60 years of Laura Ashley featuring the retail executives behind the brand

Curated by:

Tweet us: @courtandsparkco #lifeafterlaura


Sixty years on from creation, Laura Ashley’s legacy has not only been to create a global iconic retailing brand, but also to launch and develop the careers of many retail executives who are now major players in retail in their own right. As former Laura Ashley retail executives, we believe that bringing together insights from Laura Ashley colleagues from across the years is a fitting tribute to recognise the role that this Great British brand has had on the UK retail industry. We invite any former Laura Ashley retail executives to input into the Laura Ashley legacy project at www.courtandsparkconsulting.com/lauraashley Claire Beasley and Pauline Wood Joint Managing Directors court & spark consulting Tweet us: @courtandsparkco #lifeafterlaura


Don’t forget to tweet us: @courtandsparkco #lifeafterlaura


Celebrating Life After Laura

Claire Beasley Joint MD, court & spark consulting

Michael Hobbs Group Chair, Vistage UK Ltd.

Charlotte Sisson Owner, By Bebbington

Ray Limburn General Manager, Philip Treacy

Pauline Wood Joint MD, court & spark consulting

Sue Hope New Business Development Director, Procure

Anne Pithie Marketing & Events Manager, Worthing College

Virginia Millington Founder, Little Fishes


Celebrating Life After Laura

Hans Ouwendijk, CEO Vlisco

Nick Ashley, Creative Director, Private White VC

Alphons Schouten, nonexecutive assignments

Anne Fyfe, retired

Steve Cotter, Non Executive director, South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust

Andy Higginson, Chair, Non Executive Director & retired

Patty Harper, director Enzo degli Angiuoni UK

Susan Rainger, Property Manager


Celebrating Life After Laura

Antonia Filmer, variety of projects

Barbara Holmes, HR Manager FM Insurance Co Ltd

Nim Ball, Sales Director at Tradworth Ltd Exports

Gary Roberts, President, Pitney Bowes

Roz Goldstein, founder Goldstein Legal

Stephen Taylor, retired / volunteer

Norna Exton, Primary School Teacher

Lindsay Cole, CoDirector, Pivotal Sales Training


Celebrating Life After Laura

Karen Borley, Co Founder and Director, Popsocial

Caroline Macdonald, Founder Holiday Cottage Agency

Sarah Callander Beckett, Managing Director/CEO, Combermere Abbey Estate

Deborah De Lonng, Founder Sweet Home London

Susan Coleman Business Support Shropshire Council

Lynda Kee-Scott, Designer

Moira Braybrooke, Charity worker for Tsungirirai

Karen Cruttenden, Business Director, Victoria’s Secret


Celebrating Life After Laura

Peter Revers, Founder PDR Associates

Pia Maclean, designer

Annie Bingham, semiretired

Marian Johnson, Interior Designer

Jeanette Nieman, Wholesale Director, Temperley LTD.

Jean Revers, owner Speciality Cut Flower Farm

Paul Munday, founder Paul Munday Consulting

Jacquie Daly, founder HR / employment consultancy


Celebrating Life After Laura

Jane Davies, TJX Europe, AVP Buying Manager

Carrie Stockton, SpaceSpace2BE2BE Owner Space2BE

Peter Allard, Director Textiles NZ and CEO Linden Leaves Skincare


Claire Beasley Joint MD, court & spark consulting What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • General Manager, West Coast USA – 1994 – 1996 • Regional Manager, Western USA – 1996 – 1997 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Director, at Arcadia Group plc. – 1999 – 2000 • Director, Retail Operations at New Look – 2001 – 2003 • Joint MD of court & spark consulting – 2004 - present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed by Katie Fleischer, Pauline Wood and Larry Gore in the Boston office. I loved the offices; all the furnishings, cushions, sofas everywhere. Talk about living the dream… What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? There are lots of good memories; I had some fantastic store teams on the West Coast and a great peer group of General Managers. Funny stories? Michael Hobbs on Group Voicemail – he will know what I mean! Being asked to say uniquely sounding English words like "banana" and explain words and expressions like "kerfuffle" and "you can't swing a cat in this stockroom”. Arriving at the new store in Cherry Creek, Denver to find it completely wallpapered in Stella Crimson instead of Gold. The call to Jacqui Gray was interesting – I didn't really need a telephone to hear what Jacqui was saying in London. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? My most travelled piece has to be an ottoman (no idea what it was called) but it was A Baker piece I found in the stockroom in Phoenix. I reclaimed it (according to procedures), shipped it back to California and then finally to the UK. Due to moving several times I have had to offload various furnishings over the years which always makes me sad. My favourite home items were huge swathes of Somerton Apricot curtains I had in my kitchen in California. 'Beautiful!


Pauline Wood Joint MD, court & spark consulting What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • UK Retail Director & USA Retail Operations Director 1973 – 1998 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Retail Director at Retail Variations – 1998 – 2004 • Founder and Joint MD court & spark consulting – 2004 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was applying for Assistant Manager, Edinburgh, and met Anne Anderson at 1st stage (at the North British Hotel) - she was the Manager of the not yet opened Lothian Road shop. The ad had asked for applications to go to Jean Revers and at 2nd stage I met Peter Revers who having commented on my hand made (not by me!) stripey socks, declared that I was just the sort of person they were looking for clearly the business required more people who had no retail experience as Anne was straight out of university and my retail knowledge was largely from an alternative bookshop plus a bit of the obligatory waitressing in London! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? There are so many over 25 years, it's hard to know what to choose. The various conferences held in the UK and USA with Board members dressed in silly costumes and making fools of themselves were definitely a highlight! From the very early days (1974) I would have to mention the time Jill Yate and I visited Rhydoldog together – she was Manager in Oxford (I was Manager in Edinburgh by now). Over dinner, Bernard Ashley talked about his plans to open a shop in San Francisco and how Jill (a US citizen) would be perfect to open the 1st US store! The local girls used to "waitress" for BA and LA's dinners and on this occasion one "new" girl was so nervous her hands were shaking as she served our meal. Whilst dishing up potatoes to Laura Ashley, one rolled off the spoon, onto the floor and bounced into the corner. As my eyes met LA's we were trying not to laugh so as to spare the "waitress's" blushes – so the four of us carried on eating as though nothing had happened – happy days! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Not many clothes as I have grown quite disciplined at clearing out the old to make way for the new! However I do still own a fabulous (unlined) mustard coloured canvas jacket (circa 1991/2) with patch pockets that often gets favourable comments when I dig it out each summer! I do have an array of Home products including wonderful White Bower curtains and Favorita cushions in my office, and Kate and Palmetto cushions in my bathroom – sad I know!


Don’t forget to tweet us: @courtandsparkco #lifeafterlaura


Michael Hobbs Group Chair, Vistage UK Ltd. What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • I was Vice President of Retail from July 1994 – February 1996 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • CEO at Adams Childrenswear Group – 1996 – 2005 • Chairman at Intimas Group plc. – 2005 – 2008 • Chairman at Mountain Warehouse Holdings Ltd. – 2006 – 2007 • Chairman at court & spark consulting – September 2012 – present • Group Chair at Vistage UK Ltd. – May 2013 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Steve Cotter recruited me, but as part of my selection process I had an interview with Larry Gore (Laura Ashley President North America) in the restaurant in the basement of Barneys, New York. Robin Williams, Steven Spielberg and Robert De Niro were sitting at the next table – now that is what I call an interview! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I had to get married so that my partner Dawn, and the family, could travel to the USA with me. Laura Ashley were unwilling to include the cost of the wedding in as a relocation expense, I had to ask the question though! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? More wallpaper than I can recall and some lovely sofas.


Hans Ouwendijk, CEO Vlisco What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • I was recruited by the Continental European Division in 1985 in Helmond as finance controller. What’s your “Life after Laura”? • 11 years at Mexx • 3 years at FF1 BV, • 4 years at Kwintet • Currently CEO at Vlisco

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Under the leadership of Alphons Schouten we turned around the Continental European Division from a loss generating business to a profitable division. I remember working together with Paul Monday on a budget presentation till 5 o‘clock in the morning. Just in time ready for a meeting with John James, who was to arrive in Helmond at 9 o‘clock that morning. Hard work but it was during this time that I learnt what team work stands for. In 1990 Alphons asked me, on behalf of the LA Group Board, to move with my family to Maidenhead. My dream of an international career became reality. With Andy Higginson we changed the business controls of the Group. During this time I was also appointed non-executive board member of the LA Japanese joint venture with the Aon Group.

What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Soon after I started in the UK Jim Maxmin joined as the new CEO. I still consider Jim one of the most inspiring executives I have ever met in my career. After two years in the UK Jim asked me to help MD of the USA Donna Moore (and afterwards Steve Cotter) in the Change management process for the USA. With my family I moved to Boston and enjoyed every minute of the years that followed. After a few years in the NAD Division I was asked to take the lead in a global change management project. A great initiative but unfortunately the departure of Jim Maxmin was also the end of this project and the end of my employment with the Laura Ashley Group. For me, my time at Laura Ashley was a fantastic learning experience that was the basis for my career afterwards


Nick Ashley, Creative Director, Private White VC What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Creative Director from 1980 to 1990

What’s your “Life after Laura”? Since Laura, I have run my own Menswear brand, Nick Ashley - all made in the UK with 10 shops in Japan and one in Notting Hill. I have also worked as a designer for Tod's in Italy, and had three years as Creative Director of Dunhill. I am currently Creative Director for Private White VC, a new British outerwear and workwear brand that is made in our own factory in Manchester - we have 3 shops, sell online with Mr Porter and J Crew and we are currently 18 months old

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? My mother bred me for the job! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? The funniest thing happened in 1980 when my brother was running the New York store. He was asked to come downstairs and ask a guy to leave because ‘he looked creepy and was looking at everybody’. David very politely removed him. A year later, David was flicking through Vogue magazine and saw a full page picture the same man - it was Ralph Lauren! Apparently he had been ‘eyeballing’. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I have 4 houses decorated in LA stuff and my children both have an archive of vintage LA clothing (mainly black label) and regularly search e- bay for additions that they wear to teenage parties, Very Proudly!


Alphons Schouten, non-executive assignments What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • President of Parfums - 1986 -1995 • Chairman of Brand Management - 1988 -1991 • Managing Director UK Retail - 1990-1991 • President of Laura Ashley Australia - 1991-1995 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Independent Consultant/Interim Manager - 1995 - 1997 • Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing Mexx Holdings B.B. - 1997 - 2007 • Various non-executive assignments from 2007 to the present.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed and appointed by John James. He had searched for a long time when I met him and seemed relieved that he finally found somebody who had the profile he wanted. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? They are so many memories - for example, the meetings in Remaisnil in France were very special and the food there was great too! The international management conferences in the UK, USA and Europe left me with a lot of good memories too, especially as they encouraged the active involvement of the executives’ wives. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? A number of our bedrooms still have Laura Ashley curtains, bedspreads and sofas.


Sue Hope, New Business Development Director, Procure What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Trainee - 1982 - 1983 • Head of UK Home Furnishings Merchandising - 1983 - 1990 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Buying Director, Country Gardens 1990 – 1992 • Buying Director, Texas Homecare 1994 – 1997 • New Business Development Director, Procure 2005 - 2013

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed by Pauline, I had never worked in a shop before so I suspect she was sceptical but she gave me a chance! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I remember BA coming into 183 on a busy Saturday and telling me off for bringing my dog to work with me!! The incriminating dog belonged to a customer! BA did apologise afterwards when he realised his mistake. I also remember the Home Furnishing design meetings at Bagleys Lane where together, the design team and all the different nationalities would work through the possibilities and eventually come to some sort of a consensus – it was great training for Life after Laura! I can remember all the names and personalities from Europe, USA, Japan and Australia – a wonderful mix! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Mainly cushions and lampshades – I wish I still had my £5 dressing gown in S79 with the frills all around the edge!


Andy Higginson, Chair, Non Executive Director & retired What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Group Finance Director from 1990 - 1994 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Group FD of the Burton Group (1994-97) • Then spent 15 years on the Main Board of Tesco - firstly as Group Finance and Strategy Director then as CEO of the Retailing Services • I’m now retired but also Chair NBrown plc and Poundland, Non Exec Director of BSkyB plc, The Rugby Football Union, Woolworths (South Africa) and the McCurrach Group.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was recruited by CEO John James and it was the first time I was headhunted! I don't remember the actual interview, but the company was starting to see some (ahem) "performance issues" as I was being recruited. I remember being told, as I signed the contract and resigned from my nice safe job at Guinness, that I could meet some of the top LA team in London on Monday after a presentation to the banks. When nobody had turned up by 9pm, I knew it hadn't gone well! There were no mobile phones then, and I kept being passed "we're delayed" messages. The banks pulled the plug on the company that week! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? My fondest memories are of the people in the business - great people, incredibly committed and, despite the worries at the time, I remember lots of laughs and parties (I think we called them conferences)? Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have various home furnishing products, including a lovely mirror a crockery set and a winged armchair. Don't ask me to name them - I was the accountant for God's sake!


Ray Limburn General Manager, Philip Treacy What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • UK Home Furnishings Director – 1986 to 1990 • Global Home Furnishings Director – 1990 to 1994

What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Managing Director Bermona Hats 1995 – 2000 • General Manager for Philip Treacy 2002 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? John Winter recruited me for my first role and we spent the first 10 minutes in his office and the rest of the interview in The Hinds Head pub in Bray. John left the business between appointing me and me then joining! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Many a fond memory - but probably trying to ‘fashion’ together a UK Retail cricket team to face the finest from Product Division in Newtown or suppliers like Nixdor! We ended up with Russ Hamer behind the stumps, Mike Smith with his tricky off spin bowling and the general fielding incompetence of Chris Satchwill – great memories. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? We still own LA bed linen, crockery and the odd fruit print.


Don’t forget to tweet us: @courtandsparkco #lifeafterlaura


Steve Cotter, Non Executive director, South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1991 – 1995: • Managing Director of the UK business • President of US business • Managing Director of world-wide retail business What’s your “Life after Laura”? Since leaving the business I have had several positions: • CEO Limelight Group PLC, CEO Retail Variations, Managing director Instore PLC, Executive chairman Faith footwear group Ltd, Chairman MAML Ltd (Property management company), Director RNLI and Director SEPT NHS University Foundation Trust. Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was recruited by Jim Maxmin. My main memory of the interview is that I didn't realise how far Bagley’s Lane was from the tube station and I had to run all the way. I finally got there, sweating and late, only to find that (thank God) Jim and Hugh Blakeway Webb had been held up in traffic and were late themselves. By the time they arrived, I had cooled down and they were the ones who were hot and flustered! My initial interview in Maidenhead was with the then head of HR, Roy Willis. He was taking me upstairs to his office from reception and, unbeknown to me, Pauline was also in the reception area. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? There are hundreds of great memories but here are a couple: I remember BA dragging me out of my office in Maidenhead and taking me into the finance department. He looked around at the finance team saying "How many of these bean counters do we need? I'll be back in 2 weeks and I want to see half of them gone"! As the finance department was nothing to do with me at the time I did wonder how I was going to achieve that goal! One day we had a board get together at Jim Maxmin’s house in Maine. In his typically enthusiastic way, Jim was sharing his vision for a Global LA using a lot of buzz words generally used in the consulting arena. At the end there followed an embarrassed silence until Andy Higginson stood up and said "the problem is Jim, that no-one understands what you're talking about”. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still own loads of LA products but my favourite is a large leather sofa


Karen Cruttenden, Business Director, Victoria’s Secret What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Store Manager, Ipswich • Area Manager • Regional Manager • General Manager, Japan • Head of Franchising and Licensing UK • Operations Director What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Apr 2005 – Oct 2009 Retail Director, EMEA at The Body Shop • Oct 2009 – Jan 2012 Multi Channel Sales Director, EMEA at Crabtree & Evelyn • Jan 2012 to present Business Director, Victoria’s Secret Middle East, Poland, Turkey and Russia with Alshaya

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Pauline Wood interviewed me for the Trainee Manager Scheme, she noticed the 14 O levels on my CV and just had me in to talk about that! That was 1984 and she still remembers that as the reason we met. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Far far too many to single out just one ... from store visits with BA, to One Day Sales, opening stores and Store Managers meetings I have such great memories and made a lot of really fabulous people many of whom are now treasured old friends. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have and wear a number of ‘vintage’ LA garments, even though I have moved house several times and countries twice – they have survived well. My favourite piece is a short sleeved natural linen jacket from circa 1995-6 which always gets admiring comments. On the home front I have several cushions that my cats love to cuddle and a very well worn but comfy leather Osborne chair, the Tiger Lily curtains really need replacing but I can’t part with them.


Annie Bingham, semi-retired What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1974 – 1992: • Rookie • Store manager • Retail Operations Board Director Europe What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Director of International Retail Operations, Yves Saint Laurent • Managing Director of Fashion S-E Asia and Japan, Chanel • Partner at TMP/ ATKearney/Edward Kelly in Paris • Lecturer, INSEAD, ESSEC and Bocconi business schools and IFM and the Marrangoni fashion schools • Semi-retired but am still heavily involved in the world of fashion!

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? The first time around it was Anthony Marangos, a charming and kind man whom I remember with affection. The next time it was the excellent and funny Alphons Schouten, with whom I built a great working relationship. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Cultural problems - A young English Laura Ashley shop assistant in Paris trying to deal with a chic French client, a ‘bonne femme de Paris’, who had chosen a particular wallpaper. Client: “I would like this paper for my drawing room”. Assistant: “Certainly Madam, how many rolls will you need?” Client: “I have no idea; enough for a normal drawing room in the 16th district.” Assistant: “but I need to know the size of your ‘normal’ drawing room to work out how much paper you need.” Client: “Are you suggesting that my drawing room is not ‘normal’?” Assistant: “No, Madam, I am certain that your drawing room is perfectly normal” …I seem to remember that a sale finally went through based on an arbitrary definition of a normal drawing room in the smart 16th arrondissement of Paris at the time! Great shop staff - who would work overnight to create a new shop image, would laugh all the way and work happily the next day. The personal relationship - that I built up with Bernard Ashley, particularly after Laura died, which was very special to me. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? A still well-used sofa, lots of early cushion covers, kitchen and dining room things and an array of dresses kept as museum pieces.


Peter Revers, Founder PDR Associates What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Sales Manager Laura Ashley - 1971 – 1974 • President & CEO, then Chairman & CEO Laura Ashley Inc, USA - 1974 – 1990 • Member of the Board of Laura Ashley Japan - 1987 • Chairman of Willis & Geiger (a LA outerwear wear subsidiary) - 1988 • Chairman of LA Australia and Co-founder and Chairman of Revman Industries (a LA bed linen subsidiary) 1989 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Founder, consulting company PDR Associates – 1988 - present • President and CEO of ‘Westminster Lace’ 1992 - 1994 • President and COO of the ‘The Nature Company’ - 1994

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Actually I wasn’t interviewed, I volunteered. BA wanted Jean (my wife) to move from Shrewsbury, and become the Bath Shop Manager. The only way that could happen was if BA gave me a job too, so I volunteered over the phone, BA said “hold on I’ll talk to Laura”, the phone went quiet, and then he came back on and said “you’re hired.” So I left my job at Timex and we moved to Bath. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Too many to tell, but… The Conferences are certainly high points. Though In 1973 when we moved to LA Headquarters in Carno, my job as Sales Manager was to do anything that wasn’t Manufacturing and Accounting. One day was never the same as the next. Worthy of note here are the late Meirion Rowlands (Director of Garment Manufacturing) Dai Jones (Director of Textile Production) and Carol Jones, ne Rowlands (Director of Accounting) Not to recognise these people at this event would be a tragedy – they, together with Moira Braybrooke were the bedrock of the company– in those days. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Of course I never wore dresses, but many places that I lived have and still do have LA decorations, our sofas and chairs are still LA.


Gary Roberts, President, Pitney Bowes What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • For approximately 9 years I ran the Retail Stock & Systems functions for the group. What’s your “Life after Laura”? • PoS Sales Team for ICL for 2 years • Retail Team for Microsoft for 8 years C • Currently the President of Pitney Bowes (International)

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was given my first role by Ray Limburn who interviewed me in the Braywick House Tea Room. My one memory is that Ray was ‘bemused’ that I was happy to be based in Mid-Wales! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Many fond memories of my times at Laura Ashley and fun had with the exceptionally dedicated colleagues I met. One of the stories I dine-out-on is when BA chose to visit my office in Carno. He walked into my office and asked me how many people were in my office, I replied “50”; he asked whether all 50 people use their stapler at exactly the same time, I said “no” – he then bellowed “then why is there a stapler on every single desk ?” - I had no answer! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? We still have many HF products dotted around the home (some of which we’ve owned since my time there in the 80’s!) .


Jeanette Nieman, Wholesale Director, Temperley LTD. What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • PA/Team Secretary to David Oliver and Lesley Exley, • PA roles working for Denise Lincoln, Hugh Blakeway Webb, Ann Iverson and looking after Sir Bernard and the family when they were visiting. What’s your “Life after Laura”? • PA to Sir Terence Conran • Sales Manager, Conran Shop Contracts division. • In 2000 I was headhunted to work for Rose Marie Bravo, CEO at Burberry Limited • Wholesale team and Sales Manager, Burberry Womenswear for the UK – 2003 – 2012 •

International Wholesale Director, Temperley Limited

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I applied for a job through the Maidenhead Advertiser and had interviews with David and Lesley. I remember being very nervous, especially with Lesley. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Lots of good memories - a couple that come to mind are Sir Bernard calling reception and saying it was "BA" and the receptionist thinking he was from British Airways; others include all the changes to the Board with Jim Maxmin and Ann Iverson joining the business. Which Laura Ashley products do you still own? Unfortunately just a photo frame and jewellery box now.


Virginia Millington, Founder, Little Fishes What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Assistant Manager - 1981 - 1984 • Assistant Visual Merchandiser Home Furnishings UK - 1984 - 1986 • Head of Visual Merchandising Home Furnishing UK - 1986 - 1989 • Home Furnishing Developer Japan 1989 - 1990 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Head of Retail, Art Group - 1990 - 1992 • Founder, Little Fishes - 1996 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was recruited by Pauline Wood, and went to Temperly Road for the interview. I remember how relaxed everyone was, but the place was buzzing! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? One of my best memories was when I was manager of 183 Sloane Street. Bernard Ashley's club was also in Knightsbridge, and he often popped in unannounced after a long lunch and asked me for feedback about the company! I also have fond memories working for Laura Ashley Japan, when the Tea Shop I helped design and open with Nick Ashley, became the number one Tea Shop in Tokyo after a visit from the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still own, and use most days, my leaving present which was a set of old fashioned kitchen scales with weights from The Laura Ashley Home Collection.


Patty Harper, director Enzo degli Angiuoni UK What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1989 – 1998: • Design Assistant in Home Furnishings • Designer/Product Developer for Weaves, Lighting, Cushions, Rugs and Throws What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Director responsible for running the UK business for textile weaver Enzo degli Angiuoni UK

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Sally Gritten recruited me after I had been temping in her department . My interview was very brief as I had already worked for her for some weeks! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Years later, I remember having a cigarette at the back of the canteen with Sally Gritten and Antonia Kirwan-Taylor after a stressful meeting and being told off by Bernard Ashley in no uncertain terms that our dirty habit was making us infertile and giving us bad skin! It was an excrutiatingly painful minute or two and I will never forget it! He could make you feel 2 inches tall! I will also never forget the eccentric Lysander Meath Baker who was giving a presentation about his new lighting collection in the room sets for our Final Collection Meeting and he electrocuted himself as he plugged his light into the socket. Luckily he was fine but his hair stood on end more than normal! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still own my Bloomsbury Grapes Linen curtains in pink from the original collection and I also have some Clarissa curtains as well. Both prints have been revived this season as part of the Hertitage collection! My very secret confession is that, as a teenager, I made a pair of trousers out of the Emma Home furnishings print. You will not see a photo of these for sure as I looked a fright!


Anne Pithie Marketing & Events Manager, Worthing College What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Sales Assistant, Management Trainee, Store Manager, Training Manager & Charge Card Manager from 1980 – 1995 • Marketing Services Director from 1995 – 1997 • Group Marketing & PR Director from1997 – 2000 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Freelance Marketing & PR Consultant 2000 - 2010, • Marketing Director EMEA, Crabtree & Evelyn 2010-2012 • Marketing & Events Manager, Worthing College – 2012 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Pat Lewis & Geoff Ashley recruited me in 1980 to work in the new store opening in Brighton, the interview was held at the Queens Hotel. Geoff had just retired from the Gurkhas and was the store manager for the first 3 months!

What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? My fondest memory is meeting Princess Diana when she officially opened the shopping centre in Aylesbury and came into the Laura Ashley shop. The funniest story – there are too many to mention but almost certainly involved the Donaghy Dolls, if I was pushed it would be a night at the Chef Peking... you had to be there! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I’ve got a classic white blouse from the 80's with lace detail, a Tartan mini shirt which I can still just about wear (at New Year when in Scotland and for Burns Suppers!) Various, lamps, cushions and bed linen and some china, Scottish Thistle of course! Also still in use daily is a mug we had made for everyone who attended a charge card winners activity day at Lamport Hall in 1990.


Charlotte Sisson Founder & owner, By Bebbington What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Graduate Trainee - 1982 • Shop opening team • Area Manager What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Theatre costume design • 1993 - present founder & owner at By Bebbington

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Pauline Wood actually interviewed me at Temperley Road. She was wearing a periwinkle blue and white striped jacket (S/S 1982 I guess) and I got my job offer before I sat my finals (thank you!) I remember Temperley Road, and in fact all LA premises, smelled so memorably of No 1 Perfume! I still have a bottle with a faint hint still remaining. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? One day during a Retail Ops meeting at Braywick, BA came in to join us and suggested taking one lucky Area Manager to the new Carno factory in his helicopter. Well despite my hiding behind my notes and avoiding eye contact, that girl, dear reader, was me. I gingerly drove BA and Mike Smith to the helipad at Swindon (I know) and off we set. Did you know you can see through the floor of one of those things? After about ten minutes, a whole bank of emergency lights started flashing on the dashboard, and as I was saying my prayers, we did a U-turn back to Swindon where two fire engines, blue lights aloft, were now awaiting our arrival. Mike Smith looked a little less green when I suggested we might not be going to Wales after all and I had my car there to offer him a quick getaway, so we set off leaving BA tinkering under the bonnet of his Jet Ranger. In fact it was the radio that had failed but we didn't stick around! Needless to say, I haven’t been in a helicopter again! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I had quite a stash of MD’s, LD’s and MS’s which my daughters found, to their delight, and have worn to death as perfect examples of the vintage look. An Edwardian pin tucked and lace front blouse is still going strong and my pale yellow huge chintz roses sofas and chairs are still gorgeous, perfect shabby chic and still fresh. Also two Poppy patchwork quilts in P767. When I bump into any former LA folk (and there are a few round here) we always reminisce in this rather strange numbered code, which marks us out as part of a community and common spirit that, even after all this time, is as strong as ever. That for me is the legacy of the Ashley’s: they made us feel as though we belonged to one big family.


Anne Fyfe, retired What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Group Treasurer from 1987 - 1995 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Group Treasurer for the First Group • Consultancy basis for several organisations as Treasurer • Now blissfully retired.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed by Peter Phillips and John James in Carno. Funnily enough, my over-riding memory of the interview was the delicious lunch that was served afterwards! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Well, there were lots of laughs over the years - and sometimes even a few tears. One thing that springs to mind was the day we had to sign off the re-financing package with the bankers at our lawyers’ office in London. We worked for hours that night but were still waiting on some vital figures from the U.S. When the call finally came through, one of the bankers in America said ‘can we get a move on everyone – we’re all getting pretty tired here – it is after 11pm you know’. That’s when I pointed out that it was 4am in London and the dawn chorus had just started! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have bed linen and some curtains – but I can’t remember what the pattern was called!


Roz Goldstein, founder Goldstein Legal What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Legal Adviser - 1990 - 1997 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • In house legal: o2, BT and Burger King • Founder, Goldstein Legal

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was recruited by Paul Rew, who was then Laura Ashley Company Secretary and Legal Director. He was kind and friendly. I remember that I had managed to pour coffee all over myself moments before going in to the interview. I tidied myself up as best I could, and then positioned myself very carefully as I went in and sat down. It was clear by the end of the interview that Paul really hadn’t noticed at all. I learnt from this that there are ways of overcoming the most tricky situations, and that when in doubt, “style it out”! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I have loads of fond memories, most particularly of the friends I made and who I am still close to all these years later. There were many funny stories, although my most memorable would be my first working day. Sitting at home, with more than 2 weeks to go until my start date, Paul Rew called me and asked if I could start a bit earlier. I helpfully suggested days the following week. Paul replied: “Er, no. I was thinking of a bit earlier than that.” and then in response to my further enquiry, he very meekly said “Could you possibly come in right now?” It turned out that the Company was in the process of selling a subsidiary in Scotland and it was all going horribly wrong. So that same day, and with no warning or preparation, I got off a plane in Edinburgh and went to a lawyers’ office to find, and introduce myself to, a group of men, all of whom were inexplicably angry with each other. I didn’t know which of them were my clients, let alone what they were so cross about. But somehow it got sorted out in the end and about a week later I came home again, and went to meet my work colleagues in Maidenhead. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? None, more’s the pity. Looking at the prices that some iconic pieces of Laura Ashley can fetch on Ebay nowadays, I wish I still did!


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Susan Rainger, Property Manager What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1980 to 1992: • Sales Assistant • Store Manager • Area Manager • Merchandising and Marketing Director What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Merchandising/ Marketing Director at Country Casuals • Property Manager and also an aspiring Bee Keeper!

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was recruited by a certain flame haired beauty with a fabulous, if rather intimidating, voice and an ex-army guy, Robert Landgrebe at the evocative Temperley Road. Robert asked me what my father did. Even at my young and impressionable age I was somewhat bemused at what relevance my father's career had on mine! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I have so many memories of completely charming, talented and fun loving people but probably my fondest memory was winning an achievement prize in the early days. A few of us were flown on BA's private jet to Le Touquet to stay in the Ashleys’ Northern French home. One lovely touch in that fabulous weekend was being served champagne on the plane by Paul Turgoose and Morgan Davies. This kick-started my long love affair with France. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I was well trained by various, formidable managers so keep very little old stuff but my dining room is decorated in Laura Ashley. Sentimentally, I still have my sales assistant badge and the heritage collection brooch developed by Moira Braybrooke for the 21st Anniversary and presented to me by, my then manager, the wonderful Roy.


Barbara Holmes, HR Manager FM Insurance Co Ltd What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • PA to Paul Rew – 1986 – 1991 • HR department – 1991 – 1993 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • PA roles • HR department Macdonald Dettwiler •

HR Manager, Northern Europe, FM Insurance Co Ltd 2005 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Paul Rew recruited me into my first role at LA and I remember being shown around the offices in Carno, which were all decorated in LA wallpaper and all the women were wearing LA clothes. It was nothing like any other office I had worked in! Everyone was friendly and the place had a great feel to it. I knew I wanted to work there. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I remember fondly Heulwen's lunches that she prepared for us in Carno, sitting in the Atrium and enjoying the freshest cooked lunches possible. It was a fun time at Carno and there were lots of laughter and a great crowd to work with. I remember Peter Phillips, Gwen who loved opera, John James, Mark Bunce, Carol Pepper, Tricia Harvey and so many more. I remember travelling to one of the AGM meetings in Newtown in BA's helicopter - he'd come into the Carno office and asked myself and a couple of others if we would like to go to the AGM in his helicopter - of course we all said yes! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have LA bedlinen (will it ever wear out?) and a patterned blue cord dress which I can no longer get into to but it was a favourite and so it's been kept, packed away in the attic.


Antonia Filmer, multitude of talents What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1983 – 1994: • My key/1st role was building the design team / product range for the LA Home shops and co-ordinating the design of HF licensee agreements in USA, Japan and Australia. What’s your “Life after Laura”? I founded an internet department store in 2001, did some freelance journalism and design consultancy, produced ten operas in ten years for the benefit of the Mulberry Bush, I wrote/produced/directed/edited a documentary about The Last Maharaja of Travancore/ South India in 2012/2013. I’m currently full of ideas waiting to burst!

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was recruited by Nick Ashley, who had the most intuitive feel for anyone who reflected the LA brand values. I had a temperature of 101 during the interview and remember the pink Kenzo blouse I was wearing was dripping from my fever. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Too many fond memories and funny moments to recount - all to do with the exciting times and cast of characters we worked with. Luckily for me, I adored my job and the folks I worked with - we were lucky to be given a huge amount of responsibility and influence during a time of growth. Also fondest memory is when smoking was allowed in the office! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Sofas, chairs, cupboards, bed linen, wallpaper, heaps of textiles all from the magnificent “staff sales” at Bagley’s and a Rat Catcher navy tweed coat from Lower Sloane Street Shop circa 1984 that I have just had relined in purple satin.


Nidda Boonpaknavic, Sales Director at Tradworth Ltd Exports What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Part-time sales assistant - 1973 – 1975 • Assistant manageress – 1975 – 1980 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Partner at Nimitex 1980 -1996, • Proprietor at Nimitex 1996 - present • Sales Director at Tradworth Ltd Exports 1983 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed by Moira Braybrooke, PA director and Mudita Kanasutra (Sue) General Manageress. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? The highlights of my career with Laura Ashley were the several visits to L A shops in Europe in Mr Ashley's Kingair B100 turboprop. But the most memorable occasion was when I was leaving Laura Ashley to set up my own business. Mr Ashley came into the shop, said good bye and added, "do come back whenever you want", to me.


Stephen Taylor, retired / volunteer What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Group Finance - 1988 - 1995 What’s your “Life after Laura”? Life after Laura went well: • I became the founding controller of FirstGroup plc – 1995 – 2001 • National Express Group in London Mayfair, in a similar role 2001-2007 • In the second half of the decade for some five years, I was privileged to be a member of the Risk Committee of the English Education Department in Westminster and I retired full time at the end of 2007.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Peter Phillips interviewed me and I recall that it seemed fairly relaxed, albeit professional. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? There are many funny stories but most are probably actionable! I still chuckle at the wave hopping plane trip to Eindhoven from Northolt on the LA turbo prop when BA's legendary pilot (his name escapes me) enjoyed making exaggerated turns to avoid other aircrafts; at least, I think he was exaggerating. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? We still have some curtains and various pieces of furniture. Although I have explained to my wife, on many occasions, that the staff discount no longer applies she is still an enthusiastic customer.


Karen Borley, Co Founder and Director, Popsocial What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • I joined as International PR Director in 1993 and left as Marketing Director in 1997. What’s your “Life after Laura”? • I set up my own PR agency and had my best year ever - partly because so many of my lovely ex-Laura colleagues took me on.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Stephen Cotter put me in my role as Marketing Director but it was actually Stephen Grant who recruited me. Life at LA was always rather precarious in those days! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Mostly I remember coffee and fags in the canteen at Bagleys Lane - that always seemed to be where the best goss was going down! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I have a white eiderdown and a black riding jacket and a monochrome floral dress that is extra long as it was made as a press sample - neither of them very typical


Moira Braybrooke, Charity worker for Tsungirirai What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Started the PR office - 1965 – 1970 • PR & Marketing Director - 1970 – 1980 • Garment Merchandising Director – 1980 – late 1980’s What’s your “Life after Laura”? • I’m involved with a charity called Tsungirirai, which helps orphans in Zimbabwe

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? BA – it was pretty informal and unorthodox (as you might imagine!) What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? There are SO many! In Pelham Street there was just one big communal changing room and one day I found a male on his back trying to catch a glimpse of the customers in various stages of undress! Needless to say I gave him hell and hit him - nowadays I would probably be sued!! Despite all Bernards " foibles" I had great time travelling with him as we opened more shops in Europe. I think the only reason I got a job at LA was because I could speak French and Italian and was "well connected"! Looking back Bernard was a great person to work for and it was all great fun. Most of my stories do involve BA: For example, Bernard knew that Dai Jones smoked in his office and put his ashtray in a drawer whenever BA was in Carno and likely to pop in for a chat. On one such day, (just to be awkward) Bernard just waited in Dai's office until some paper in his drawer caught fire poor old Dai!! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Lots, plus some personal memorabilia, including some of the letters from BA and LA and drawings / photos of the very early fashion shoots and some early Press cuttings – a selection of which will be on show at the October party!


Susan Coleman Business Support, Shropshire Council What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1982 to 1995: • Manager, Shrewsbury • Furnishing merchandiser • Customer services for soft furnishings and helping with launch of LA Home What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Ran the office for a small business for 6 years •

Now work at Shropshire Council, Business Support

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? My interview for Laura Ashley was with Pauline and Terry Seale in a small office in Fulham! I remember thinking how friendly & informal it was compared to the very rigid Marks & Spencer one, where I worked at the time. Susan Field was my flat mate & I had worked with her at M&S and she told me LA was recruiting. Started with 5 others, the first management trainees, in Harriet Street and wore DG3 to work, got funny looks on the tube! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I just loved every moment of working for LA: the people & the beautifully designed products Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Had a rummage & found I have some tiles, a tablecloth I made from L570 Terracotta, a tea cosy in R150 China Blue, some plates in F4 burgundy. A blanket box in Grand Paisley, a lovely vase in sweet pea and an Emma tapestry cushion cover which I had framed as a picture – amazing to see Bloomsbury back this year again!


Norna Exton, Primary School Teacher What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Saturday Girl in Spittle Street Edinburgh 1976-80 • Sales Assistant George Street 1983-84 • Display Assistant Balham 1984-87 • Display Manager Braywick House, Maidenhead 1987-91 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Display Manager Chesterman (part of Argos) 1991-1993 • UK Display Controller Edinburgh Woollen Mill 1993-1996 • Senior Lecturer School of Retail Studies 1996-1998 • Teaching assistant 2002-2011 • Primary school Teacher 2011- present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Val Heyward. I recall it was conducted in a cupboard sized office, and I was impressed because I was going to earn £4.50 per day and get 65p lunch money. Much more expensive to run these days! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Fondest memory is probably working in the false display window in the garage at Braywick, and driving around London in the transit van. My funniest memory, was when we were working in the window at Brighton shop opening and an under endowed flasher opened his dirty mac to show his wares. We all laughed and he ran off embarrassed. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still own and regularly use my black velvet bomber jacket bought in approximately 1988


Caroline Macdonald, Founder Holiday Cottage Agency What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? Early 80’s – 1990: • Harriet Street, Sales Assistant • Sloane Street Home Furnishing, Assistant Manager • Regent Street, Manager • Morgan Davies’ assistant in International Home Furnishings • Sally Gritten’s team, working on new products What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Founder,Meal delivery company • Deputy Editor of Wine & Food, House & Garden Magazine • Freelance journalist • Founder, holiday cottage letting company comprising 5 different agencies

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? It was Morgan who employed me for my first key role. I hardly remember the interview, except that I don’t think he really interviewed me – just described to me what the job would be like. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? It’s hard to identify any fondest memory as such, as there are so many: driving through the beautiful Welsh countryside at a terrifying speed with Morgan and working with him on presenting the stats for the HF meetings; working on the Home Furnishing Catalogues with at Carno with Katherine; school-girl giggles with Tania, Patty and others… Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I’ve still got drawers full of fabric off-cuts I’m too lazy to turn them into anything and too sentimental to throw them away. Some very early iconic clothing, too, but I’d look a complete sight in those now.


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Sarah Callander Beckett, Managing Director/CEO, Combermere Abbey Estate What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • PR Director for North America - 1979 –1989 • International PR Director - 1990 – 1992 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Managing Director/CEO of Combermere Abbey Estate: 1992 - present • Founding member, Director and Chairman of Premier Cottages Ltd – a marketing group promoting 4 & 5* holiday accommodation: 1997 – 2010 (still a member) • Regional Chairman & Director of the CLA board (Country Landowners and Business Association): 2008 – present.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Peter Revers and David Ashley. I had been living in NYC for 4 years and had a green card - I heard about the position through friends who knew the existing PR person, and put my CV forward. I met Peter Revers in his office on the top floor of the shop on 63 rd Street and we had a very good meeting, discussing my PR background, life in US, the Shrewsbury shop, San Francisco and many other things. Then David Ashley joined in, (it was a pre-requisite of any PR that they got on with LA and BA and he was there to check if I could handle it!)

What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? There are too many to record, but as the PR Director I had to put Press trips together for LA and BA when they were opening shops in new cities. They were famous for travelling light and BA only liked carry-ons, so LA wore clothes from each shop they visited. Laura and I travelled from NYC to LA – my first trip with her alone, to the opening of the Costa Mesa shop in Southern California with a full day of interviews and the shop opening and fashion show. On the flight she announced that she had just been to Bloomingdales and bought the Ralph Lauren rip off of the BL211 (bestselling white shirt with the ruffled front!) – we sold ours for $25 and he sold his for $75. ‘ I think I might wear it for the press breakfast and TV interview tomorrow morning as I won’t have time to get something from the shop – what do you think?’ I blanched and gulped, imagining the interviewer asking the obvious question – do you wear your own clothes? To find out she was wearing the competition’s! Fate was on our side – it was sent to be washed and ironed overnight by the hotel laundry and the ruffle edges disintegrated completely, so she had to wear something LA. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have a good selection of the HF products, and when I did the holiday cottages in 1993 and again in 2011 we used the fabrics in a number of them. I still have shirts, and suits and a beautiful linen dress which was part of a special collection to support the Bloomsbury HF range.


Lynda Kee-Scott, designer What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Designer for garments - 1974 - 1990 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • I ran my own studio in Wimbledon designing Bespoke cloths ,wedding dresses, bridesmaids outfits, mother of the bride etc.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed by Laura Ashley at their home in Sloane Street on the floor in the front room, as Laura was looking through my portfolio Bernard entered the room,he asked me where I was from and my back round, finally he said he had been a Gurkha, and so was my dad,he then turned to Laura and said I was their new designer. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Oh so many! Enjoying many dinners cooked by Laura at Rhydoldog and cooking dinner for her and their friends. Travelling all over in their private plane, being so spoiled, working with Jane Ashley as her assistant - just taking an iron and lots of clothes to locations all round the world! Finally, designing stunning party and wedding romantic clothes. L.A. taught me lots and it was a great experience, I would not have missed it and I count my good luck for being in the right place at the right time for her to choose me. I designed Princess Diana's tweed engagement outfit, maternity outfits for Fergie and lots of other Hons and Ladies! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have some lengths of fabric, lots of photos and calendars, a few lamp stands, chandeliers wallpaper too.


Paul Munday, founder Paul Munday Consulting What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Directeur Financier, Paris - September 1981 – December 1984 • Director Retail Services, Eindhoven - January 1985 – June 1995 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Director Retail Services - Mexx Europe - January 1996 – March 2009 • Paul Munday Consulting - July 2009 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? My only interview was with Mike Smith in the Paris Office in Rue de Rennes and was very relaxed and (rightly) quite short as I was already doing the job on a temporary replacement assignment from Deloitte's Paris. It mainly focused on how much money I wanted and when could I start. Together, we converted the UK single country systems into International systems allowing us to successfully retail across many countries in Europe. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I have so many of these that I find it very difficult indeed to pick the best ones. However, I think that some of my fondest memories are of the years I spent working on Parfums Laura Ashley with my good friend Sibylle de La Borde, partly at the Chateau de Remaisnil in Picardie, partly in Paris and partly in Fribourg, Switzerland. Other stories strictly reserved for around the bar in Soho! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? Curtains, lamps, glasses, Furniture, PLA range (perfumes, including 2 huge Sample bottles - No.1 and Emma). My wife Sheila also has loads of LA clothes and can't find the courage to give (or throw) them away.


Deborah De Lonng, Founder Sweet Home London What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? Jan 1991 – Jun1996: • Design Assistant • Senior Designer / Product Developer for Home Furnishings What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Design Director for Hillcrest, New York - 1996-1999 • Design Director for The Company Store & Company Kids, New York - 19992006 • Founder, Sweet Home London - 2006 – present

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Antonia Filmer interviewed me, wearing some very elegant Prada shoes. She spilt her coffee all over her desk, narrowly missing her matching leather Prada tote, so most of the interview was spent cleaning up! A few days later I got offered the position - I couldn’t have asked for a more lovely, inspiring and down-to-earth boss. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? I worked with an amazing team at Bagley’s Lane, made some friends for life, learnt so much and travelled - they were good times! One funny story of many: We (the HF team) were sent on a team-building weekend in Wales and had to start with a night exercise in the hills. It was chucking down with rain, our torches were running out of power, there were pot holes everywhere, and when we came to the edge of a cliff at about 10pm (still not having had dinner) we then had to abseil down it. We were all at the end of our tethers and couldn’t understand what this had to do with our jobs, but we saw the funny side of it afterwards, and laughter and bonding ensued. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still own a couple of upholstered dining chairs (so 90’s), some very faded Daisy cushion covers, and some Martha sponge ware.


Lindsay Cole, Co-Director, Pivotal Sales Training What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1982 – 1996: • One Day Sales • Retail Administration Manager What’s your “Life after Laura”? • I initially moved to the hospitality industry – including working in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace. • For the past eight years I have been Co-Director of our own training company, ‘Pivotal Sales Training’.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? My first interview was with Terry Seale, Retail MD, I don’t really remember much apart from admiring the White Bower curtains (which I managed to buy at a later staff sale). What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Lots of happy memories, staying at Laura Ashley’s home in Rhayader and also the Retail Conference in Majorca with the magician show – the disappearing tigers, does anyone else remember that? And of course, trying to deal with some of the more challenging customer complaints over the years! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? The White Bower curtains, a Montgomery sofa bought at the Newtown Staff shop for £25 over 30 years ago – still going strong. Lots of other curtains, Alice China – even a skirt although I haven’t worn it for a few years!


Pia Maclean, designer What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? 1983 – 1987: • Decorator Showroom design assistant to Antonia Kirwan Taylor • Furnishings secondary product designer, Mother and Child Furnishings • Secondary product designer. What’s your “Life after Laura”? After leaving LA I went into interior Design and worked for Colefax and Fowler and Chester Jones. Had three children and now continue to design interiors on my own.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Antonia Kirwan Taylor and Brian Utteridge. I turned up on crutches having had an operation on my foot and I was in agony and also being scared of Antonia! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Fondest memory - laughing excessively with Antonia and Sally Gritten. Chain smoking in the office and during meetings. But by far the fondest memory is the day I met Al Maclean. I was told he was the nicest, most helpful person in the company???? As far as I was concerned this was not the case I found him the most cantankerous, scary person I had come across. I spent several months avoiding him but finally discovered the 'nice' Al underneath all that attitude and married him. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? A very old and wonderfully battered brown leather sofa, wine glasses with engraved stars and an almost complete set of blue and white Clifton china.


Marian Johnson, Interior Designer What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Area Manager South - 1981 - 1983 • Shop Openings Coordinator - 1983 - 1985

What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Retail Development Manager, Mulberry Company - 1985 - 1986 • Interior Design Consultant, Historic House Hotels - 1987 - 1988 • Freelance Interior Design & Decoration - 1988 – 1997 • Interior Design & Decoration and planning drawings for extensions and alterations 1997 – present.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed by Pauline - I remember that we laughed rather a lot and she liked my shoes! Subsequently we shared an office at Temperley Road, although I wasn't there all that much as I spent a great deal of my time on the road as an Area Manager and even more when I was overseeing shop openings. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Loads of memories - too many to fit them all in, but I particularly remember flying to Dublin to see the proposed new shop with BA and the architect, in BA's plane. I also remember driving from Carno to Bristol with Pauline in my car in a snowstorm when the windscreen wipers fell off. We only had one pair of gloves between us and had to hang out of the windows trying to clear the windscreen and hoping we were actually on the road and not about to fall down the side of a mountain. We were so lucky to find a garage that was open and a nice boy to fix the problem. We arrived an hour late dishevelled and frozen and everybody else was immaculately dressed we must have looked like a pair of wet scarecrows. And...Pauline and I were on our way to dinner at a friend's house near Caersws, dressed in off duty jeans when we were stopped by the local police who were convinced we were on a hunt for magic mushrooms luckily the mention of Pam Meredith's name set us free! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? As well as various fabrics that I've made into clothes, curtains, blinds and cushions, I still have an amazing Marie-Antoinette style sample ballgown and yes, I can still get into it and no, I shan't be wearing it on Thursday!


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Jean Revers, owner Speciality Cut Flower Farm What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Shop Manager Shrewsbury - September 1970 • Shop Manager Bath – 1971 - 1973 • Opened Geneva - April 1972 • Laura's Assistant Carno - 1973 – 74 • Moved to USA - January 1975 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • I owned and operated a Specialty Cut Flower Farm in Vermont - selling to the Boston Flower Market 1995/2005 and also a retail flower shop.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I met Bernard, Laura and Emma (about 4 or 5) at the Shrewsbury shop - 'A Career in Management' the note said in the window. Bernard had just fired the staff for smoking in the store. He sat me on a chair in the middle of the shop and started to pace around me for close to an hour, telling his plans (dreams) of the future, asked about half an dozen questions, all the time Laura and Emma were cleaning the toilet! Peter asked me later " How did you do?" I had not a clue, but I knew Laura Ashley would soon be getting a big Scania truck, painted dark green with large white lettering saying. "LAURA ASHLEY LONDON PARIS GENEVA" - and it did! I got the job and so started my 20 year adventure. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? All the wonderful people we met along the way and too many funny incidents. BA and LA staying in SFO - Bernard traveling light, washed his underwear and the maid took them away - he had to wear Laura's the next day! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I still have rolls of fabric! I too have palmetto pillows and a couple of beautiful printed velvet evening dresses our daughter wore to proms.


Jacquie Daly, founder HR / employment consultancy What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • PA to Mike Smith • MD Retail - 1987-1989 • Personnel Officer/Manager, Retail – 1989 - 1996 • Head of Retail HR - 1996 -1997 What’s your “Life after Laura”? • HR Consultant, Mulberry 1997 • Head of HR, Mappin & Webb 1997- 1999. • Founder HR/employment law consultancy 2000 – present

Who recruited you into your first role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? I was interviewed at Braywick House by Susan Field and recruited by Mike Smith. From the moment I walked through the door I felt I had come home. All the girls were wearing Laura Ashley 'uniform' and seemed ridiculously beautiful, and Braywick House was like walking into the HF catalogue. I bought a very expensive large floral scarf for the interview. I always thought that did the trick but Ray Limburn later told me that Mike Smith had said he'd chosen me because I was the prettiest one on the shortlist! What is your fondest memory / funniest story about our time at Laura Ashley? As bad as it sounds it has to be the smoking room at Bath Road. I never actually smoked but a lot of big issues were debated and decisions made in that awful tiny room. Andy Higginson and Steve Cotter never had their own cigarettes, they were always 'cadging' them from the girls. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? When my father sold our family home 5 years ago he phoned and asked me to collect the 44 bolts of LA fabrics stored in his loft - staff sale bargains. I also remember excitedly telling Jane Davies I had bought 50 metres (why?) of Charlotte fabric in Apricot for £10 and she told me I'd been robbed. I still have a white cotton 'Adam Ant' shirt and the beautiful rose sweater - far too big to wear now but I will never part with them.


Jane Davies, TJX Europe, AVP Buying Manager What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? October 1985 – July 1996: • EPOS Helpdesk Assistant • Merchandiser • Head of Merchandising Europe • Planning & Trading Manager, Worldwide What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Selfridges – Planning Manager, Home & Leisure, • Selfridges – Head of Buying & Merchandising. Menswear, Kids & Sports, • Liberty – Buying & Merchandising Director, Main Board • TJX Europe (TK Maxx ) – AVP Buying Manager, Women’s wear (2009 – present).

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? To be honest, I can’t remember who interviewed me at Laura Ashley. I had just recently graduated and was really keen to work for the company, so I took a role working on the EPOS helpdesk in order to get my foot in the door. A few months later, I was approached by Sue Hope and she offered me a role in Merchandising. I will always be grateful to her and Ray for giving me the opportunity.

What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley So many good memories, I absolutely loved my time there, but some highlights ….. Cycling to work at Braywick House in my MD 026 with a very large bow in my hair thinking I was out of a Jane Austin novel. The Smoking room (‘THE place’ to be. Who needs social media)! The ‘Fruit print’ collection. 1988, was a good year. I think I can still quote how many metres of Orchard Duck Egg we sold ! Working on the EPOS helpdesk, up in the eaves of Braywick House, and doing nothing but telling anyone who phoned in to ‘Put your 1 and 5 keys in and turn the till on and off on the side’. It seemed to do the trick every time ! Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I do still own the lovely cotton printed pyjama bottoms that I used to wear to work in the early years. (An eighties fashion statement). Very sorry that I no longer have my P767 Cottage Sprig Tea for 2 set, I should have kept hold of that!


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Peter Allard, CEO Linden Leaves Skincare What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • Group Product Controller, Home Furnishings in 1986 • Headed up Home Furnishings Buying in the new BMG structure until 1990 What’s your “Life after Laura”? Merchandise Director Habitat for 3 years VP Merchandising SE Asia for DFS (LVMH) in Singapore for 5 years, back to the UK as Trading Director Welcome Break for 3 years, out again to New Zealand as MD DFS (LVMH) for 3 years, CEO Living Nature Skincare, CEO Charles Parsons Textiles for 3 years, currently Director Textiles NZ and CEO Linden Leaves Skincare, a niche NZ natural beauty brand, with the odd attempt at retirement in between.

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Clive Summerford and Adam Lofthouse at Carno and then final interview with Clive (ably assisted by Morgan Davies). Bagleys Lane, Morgan's office (smoke filled), just a great vibe in the entire building. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? Many fond memories of the camaraderie and sheer brilliance of many of my colleagues at the time, but one of the funniest things I witnessed was (in a very public forum) BA telling Adam Lofthouse that he should run fabric production in Carno on a hand-written card-ex system having just spent a six figure sum on a new production planning system - there really was no answer to that and Adam didn't have one! The other amazing thing was being the first into Bagleys on October 16th 1987 at my usual 7.30am (having driven from Harrow through downed trees, power lines and general debris) to witness one of the cleaners being lifted off her feet as she rounded the corner to the main entrance! For those of you who don't remember (or weren't born yet), this was the famous "hurricane" that wasn't supposed to be, according to the BBC's Michael Fisch. Monty appeared to open up the office, totally oblivious to any of the night's events. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I was very fortunate to get hold of some prototype monochrome architectural prints from the LA Decorator collection (AKT will remember them), and they have been much admired by many over the years.


Tania McIvor, founder Cloth & Clover What was your key role(s) at Laura Ashley? • High Street Kensington shop • Design assistant in the Home Furnishing • Designer of the Mother & Child Collection

What’s your “Life after Laura”? • Brand licensing • Founder member of The Licensing Company • Group creative director for thirteen years, The Licensing Company • I launched Cloth & Clover earlier this year which is a collection of furnishing fabrics

Who recruited you into your 1st role at Laura Ashley and what are your memories of that interview? Sally Gritten – I don't really remember the interview at all, except that it had been snowing all day and I was determined to trudge down Bagleys Lane in a blizzard to get there come what may.. What is your fondest memory / funniest story about your time at Laura Ashley? So many happy memories of general silliness and endless laughter with Pia, Caroline, Patty and Emma (and of course Sally - who I think was the funniest/most mischievous of us all). One very silly memory is when I went to Helmond to oversee sampling, but forgot my beloved and very huge foam shoulder pads (which were essential fashion items at the time). So, in my eagerness to look the part, I sat and carefully carved a temporary pair out of scrap foam and proudly wore them all week.. I also remember preparing endless slide shows – long before Powerpoint when we had to photograph our inspiration from magazine pages.. Maria's lunches in the staff canteen, Antonia's Johnny Moke silk shoes, the wonderful archive cupboard and being able to go to the V&A and delve into the archive which they'd now charge a fortune for us to do.. And many trips to Newtown and Carno – ah, and wonderful staff sales. Which Laura Ashley product(s) do you still own? I think I still have some of the lovely Emma Hope black velvet slippers tucked away somewhere, an old taffeta ball dress which I kept for a dressing up box (I have a son so sadly I doubt it will be used) and purely for sentimental reasons, an old Black Watch tartan dress which was uniform and which I adored wearing with stripy black and white tights..

court & spark consulting's Laura Ashley legacy project  

court & spark consulting has collated the memories of former Laura Ashley retail executives from across the 60 years of business, with an e-...