Laura Ashley

Twenty five years ago today Laura Ashley died.

She was in the great British tradition of designer entrepreneurs who create large businesses out of their taste, passion and drive. We need more of her like to help pull us out of recession, and to create the extra jobs our country needfs.

Josiah Wedgewood led the way with his ability to excel at innovation, design, marketing and new methods of production in his chosen industry.

You do not create them with more quangos, higher taxes or more regulations.


  1. P Haynes
    September 17, 2010

    Anyone thinking of investing in a business in the UK should have in mind Income tax at 50%, NI, VAT 20%, IPT, landfill tax, fuel duty and inheritance tax 40% etc. and excessive regulation of virtually everything from employment, planning, energy to waste.

    These will combine to ensure that nearly all of what you make will end up as tax, and not with you. It also makes it very difficult for you to compete with competitors who are not so handicapped.

    Even if the business does very well your investment will struggle to beat inflation after tax – just do the sums.

  2. john Laity
    September 17, 2010

    You mean our roads could be packed with British built LDV Maxus Hybrid vans, making the air nicer to breath!

    Could we design, manufacture stuff and so employ our unemployed population? Think of the savings in benefits!

    You tease me John Redwood!

    I long ago filed my engineering Degree away and took up a role in PR. Don't tell me I could be doing what I long to do.

    Anyway the yellow streak swathed across your blue ideas is sure to want to tax the hell out of any enterprise I take a risk on…

    …better I pay my mortgage with useless services revenues and let the unemployed be supported by "fairer taxation".

    You don't seriously suggest that people who are employed in manufacturing are a vital resource to our recovery do you?

    You are truly a rose in the pile of manure and I wish you ran BIS.

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    September 17, 2010

    It's unusual for you but you have slipped into the sort of sloppy and inaccurate description of the economy that I expect from the BBC and other parts of the media. We are not in a recession even though growth may be fairly weak. Meanwhile Jeff Randall in today's Daily Telegraph has picked up your previously well noted point that, despite all the talk of cuts, the coalition government is planning to spend more of our cash in each of the next five years than Labour did last year. What a strangely Orwellian country we live in.

    1. James
      September 18, 2010

      I saw the Jeff Randall article as well. There is an aura of Orwellian doublespeak about this government. "An end to the war on the motorist", "We won't let matters rest there", "A smaller state". The exact opposite is happening in all cases How can you have a smaller state by spending more? The use of spy cars and speed guns is intensifying and the Mail reports today how we are to be encouraged to snitch on each other even more for motoring offences.

      I was quite looking forward to all these cuts in the false belief that it would get all the assorted state jobsworths off my back. The opposite is happening, it's getting worse than under Labour.

      I don't think Laura Ashley etc would get off the ground nowadays, she'd be taxed and regulated out of business before she sold her first roll of wallpaper.

    September 17, 2010

    An aside regarding ‘The Cuts’ and the way even public services can become better ‘businesses’.
    We have watched in vain for the BBC to balance TUC coverage with the comments of Merseyside Fire Chief, Tony McGuirk.
    The view that the public services are riddled with ‘bone idle people’ wasn’t delivered in the kind of language that this site recommended and we and others endorsed in your Partnership & Productivity blog the other day but there’s nowt like an inside informer. Strength to your elbow Chief!
    The fact that Mr McGuirk helped increase productivity and improve service on Merseyside after reducing force numbers by 40% from 1550 to 850 certainly seems to undermine union leaders’ current claims and endorses the Coalition’s case.
    We read that he even used the phrase ‘More for less’ which raised our spirits enormously, so come on BBC news editors – let’s see some balanced coverage of the matter of the moment.

  5. libertarian
    September 17, 2010

    Totally agree John.

    Sadly however we now have a majority of politicians at local and national level both Conservative and Social democrat who believe that the state knows best and that the spending of taxpayers money is the only "investment" needed.

    Meanwhile some 300,000 potential new businesses in the new media/creative/technology industries are strangled at birth by the ludicrous IR35 legislation, EU agency workers directive and working time directive.

    1. James
      September 18, 2010

      I too have noticed the use of the word "investment" by all parties to describe the latest ideas for squandering our money. I must find an article and do a find and replace, substituting "squander" for "investment", it would probably read quite well.

  6. TrevorH
    September 17, 2010

    No, these people are not created at all – they are born with acumen and natural instinct. Society has to provide a system for identifying potential and a framework of stimulation and encouragement alongside the right environment for these people to thrive. We have to accept that some will fail too. Nurturing such talent brings rewards a-plenty to society in the long run and that has to be a significant long term strategic objective for the nation. Quango's or any other public sector bureaucracy trying to harness or manage entrepreneurship is never going to work without a bridge of enablement in the middle, which doesn't currently exist. Think about rolling out something like the concept of Dragons Den on a national scale, free of the encumberances of red tape and the 'can't do' mentality of the public sector. We have to disengage the limitations and constraints of the supply of public money from the entrepreneurial process, and accept that there might be some risks involved.

  7. R Whitehand
    September 17, 2010

    This is a very good point that too many people miss. It might also be worth pointing out that Hollywood was not created a Film Funding Authority. It grew from natural talent and drive. Something the British Film Council;/Board don;t seem to have.

  8. Rich
    September 17, 2010

    You must be one of a small handful of people in the modern Conservative party who believes that. Aren't you lonely?

  9. John Wrexham
    September 18, 2010

    John, You do not create them with fewer quangos, lower taxes or fewer regulations either. We need a change of culture, both in society and in government.

    The Government, Labour or Coalition, do just about anything to please the city, yet show little interest in real wealth creators. Will putting more and more young people through the sausage factories that are modern universities create a new generation that are more entrepreneurial and inventive or not. the jury is still out, but saddled with debt they will certainly be in no position to take risks or play the long game which is what most young entrepreneurs, businessmen and inventors need to play. MOst entrpeneurs succeed despite government and it was ever thus.

  10. Mark
    September 18, 2010

    Wedgwood now manufactures abroad. Royal Worcester shut completely last year. China and pottery manufacture is labour and energy intensive. Is it any wonder these businesses do not survive here given the regulation and uncompetitive energy supplies they face?

  11. Rose
    September 18, 2010

    She started up in a little house round the corner from us – as did Biba. We used to go, my sister and I, and buy hand-blocked floral printed, long cotton frocks, with beautifully made button holes in unusually pretty shades – for a fiver. We wore them everywhere and wore them out. We thought they would always be there to buy, and didn't keep them. The ones her son produced in her name weren't a patch on the originals, and much more expensive. She certainly had good taste and knew what young girls liked.

    1. Anon
      September 20, 2010

      They were not 'hand blocked'. They were screen prints. Laura & Bernard began printing textiles in 1953 at their flat in St.George's Sq, Pimlico. At first they made small neck scarves, then moved onto placemats etc. They eventually made aprons and smocks. Dresses came later and they only began retailing, at Pelham Street, in 1968. The business grew and grew and grew really because of the drive of Sir Bernard Ashley, who died last year. When Laura died in 1985 the business had more than 4000 employees and over 200 shops. Quite a business. There is a book telling the story of the brand – 'Laura Ashley' by Martin Wood (Frances Lincoln Ltd, 2009).

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