Laura Ashley Exhibition At MOMA Machynlleth

Laura Ashley was one of the most important names in British Fashion in the 20th century, and her links and legacy in Mid Wales were celebrated this Summer in a lovely exhibition at MOMA Machynlleth. The town of Machynlleth played a huge part in the work of the designer who was a favourite of the young Princess Diana, and created many romantic looks that harked to the Victorian and Edwardian eras during her 1970’s and 80’s heyday. Laura and her husband Bernard opened their first shop and workshop in Machynlleth, at 35 Heol Maengwyn in 1961, a building that now has a commemorative plaque to mark this important fashion site. The company that they founded went on to open more than 500 shops, and became a trademark of beautiful British design.

The exhibition featured many items from Laura Ashley’s archive, with it’s centre piece being a Wedding Dress she made over 30 years ago, which was recently purchased by the founder of the Heritage Hub from an Oxfam shop in Witney Oxon. There are also other pieces that range from beautiful 1980’s blouses, to catalogues, jewellery and advertisments – all wonderfully evocative of the period.

There is also a piece especially commisioned for the exhibition. This is:

 a Pixel Portrait Quilt of Laura Ashley commissioned by Ann Evans, founder of HH4MW, who worked for Laura Ashley in the 1970s. This quilt was made by self-taught British quilter Devida Bushrod, who now lives in Tulsa, USA, from 1,500 pieces of fabric in 13 colours.

The exhibition has been organised by the Heritage Hub 4 Mid Wales (HH4MW), a group of volunteers which aims to enhance local civic pride in significant entrepreneurial pioneers from the region, including Laura Ashley. I believe this is the first exhibition in the town dedicated to Laura, and it is apt that it has taken place in 2023, the year that ‘The Little Laura Ashley House’ has opened in the town, selling beautifully curated, original vintage pieces in Laura’s old home on Heol Maengwyn.  You can check out their Instagram page here.

The exhibition was a glorious treat for fashion lovers, and I was so happy to be in Wales when it was on, and to quite literally stumble upon it when visiting the town on the famous Mach market day. It was a fascinating look at some of the key pieces created by a woman who left a lasting legacy on British fashion design, one that continues right up to the present day.


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