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Laura Ashley has long been a reference for Batsheva Hays, whose namesake brand has become a go-to for prairie-like, retro-inspired dresses since launching in 2016. “I’ve been talking about Laura Ashley as my inspiration for years,” says Hays. Now, the Brooklyn-based designer is partnering with the British label for a 15-piece collection, out now.
The Laura Ashley x Batsheva collection, for women and children, features Victorian-inspired dresses with ruffles, voluminous shapes, and high collars that evoke the kind of pastoral lifestyle we’ve all dreamed up during lockdown. It also includes matching aprons and oven mitts. “I tried to design for women who don’t know the brand but also who do have the nostalgia and attachment to [Laura Ashley],” says Hays.
Growing up in New York City during the 1980s, Hays recalls driving into Manhattan with her family to visit the Laura Ashley store on Madison Avenue. Since 1953, the brand — named after co-founder Laura Ashley — cemented a reputation for quality textiles and a signature aesthetic that largely consists of floral prints and unabashedly feminine silhouettes. With the collaboration, Hays is excited to spotlight Laura Ashley for a new generation who may be unfamiliar with the heritage brand: “I like the idea of introducing it to women who have never heard of it.”
While dreaming up the collection, Hays dove into the Laura Ashley prints archive. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Hays had to digitally research past collections, sending images of old Laura Ashley textiles and prints for the brand’s team to find. The team also scanned old hand drawings of vintage pieces and prints for Hays to reference.
The collection comes at a time when cottagecore is still a big trend, with puffed sleeves, crochet, and quilted textures continuing to take over fashion. For one of the more unexpected designs, Hays opted to infuse a Victorian-style corset into one of the dresses, which she says was inspired by an old Laura Ashley line drawing. She says that she instantly knew it’d have “so much appeal to people.” But it was also a way to bring in a part of Laura Ashley that’s not always at the top of the mind when thinking about the brand: “Sometimes you find these hidden gems that have been hidden away and it’s fun to rediscover them.”
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