By Andrea Lillo
Laura Ashley’s classic feminine touch is familiar to several generations of women, and this venerable brand continues to evolve to meet contemporary needs.
The home textiles category has had a close and cozy relationship with the brand for decades. Rich Roman, president and chief executive officer of Revman Intl., estimates more than half a billion dollars of Laura Ashley home textiles products have been sold over the nearly three decades the brand has been around.
That’s a lot of Laura.
Roman has been associated with the brand for almost 30 years, having first introduced the brand in 1982 while he was at Burlington House, which was then bought by J.P. Stevens. Roman later left to start Revman, and he grabbed the Ashley license when it became available. Revman has the license for bed, bath and window.
“I’m one of the few people still involved with the brand that actually knew Laura,” Roman said.
Ashley knew her customer. One of the reasons the brand has done so well for so long, Roman said, was because she based most of her designs on 18th and 19th century designs. “There’s always going to be a customer who likes traditional looks, but they’ve done a good job of evolving it into more contemporary looks as well,” Roman said. “Most sheet patterns don’t last very long anymore, but to this day, her patterns last longer than just about anyone else’s.”
Hollander Home Fashions has also been a long-time Laura Ashley licensee, having partnered up with the designer a decade ago for its basic bedding. What attracted the company to the brand in the first place was its strong history, said Louis Smith, vice president of brand management. And women who grew up with the brand are now passing that recognition on to their daughters, he said. Laura Ashley “brings a fresh, contemporary approach to classic style that continues to evolve,” he said. “It’s one of our biggest brands.”
To celebrate 10 years with the brand, Hollander debuted its anniversary collection, which shipped this past spring and includes four prints and two jacquard patterns. One of the patterns used was from a better selling Laura Ashley print, he said, and was delicately placed on the gussets of pillows to give the product added detail.
In fact, through its Laura Ashley collection, Hollander was the first company to put patterns on basic bedding, Smith said. And the company continues to pull patterns from the Laura Ashley archives or from the new releases from the company. A best-selling wallpaper pattern in the United Kingdom, for example, provided the inspiration for a woven jacquard pattern.
“It’s always important to have brands,” Smith said. “Consumers gravitate toward them and it legitimizes the purchase.”
One of Laura Ashley’s newest licensees is Candle-lite, which began shipping its line of Laura Ashley candles and home fragrances last November.
“We were looking to expand distribution into areas other than food/drug/mass,” said Lisa Murphy, product manager. “Laura Ashley is a recognizable brand and has a good sense of brand loyalty.”
Candle-lite’s licensed collection contains 77 SKUs, and targets mostly independent gift and specialty stores. “It’s a very cohesive line,” Murphy said, as the embossed pattern on the glass is also engraved on lids or metals. The candles are of a soy wax blend, and include six fragrances such as White Daisy & Lily, Blooming Orchid & Pear and Ginger Tea & Lime. “It’s a simple, elegant line that ties into the Laura Ashley elegance.”
And the brand shows no signs of fading. “Every survey we’ve ever done with consumers on brand preferences shows Laura Ashley is always in the top 10 and often in the top five,” Roman said. “It’s changed over the years, but the new principles have done a very good job of repairing it and a remarkable job of licensing the brand.”
Other Laura Ashley licensees on the soft side include Mohawk Home and Kravet Fabrics.