Machynlleth may be getting a permanent plaque and exhibition to celebrate the women’s fashion pioneer who made her name in the town, Laura Ashley.

The self-taught textile and fashion designer opened her first shop in 1961 on Machynlleth’s Heol Maengwyn and from there, her business boomed.

The Welsh woman became renowned for her Victorian-inspired prints and floral dresses, opening 500 shops worldwide and 14 factories.

At the April Machynlleth Town Council meeting councillors were asked for support and funding for a permanent plaque and exhibition celebrating Laura’s connection to the town.

deco shop
Currently known as the Deco Shop, the building was where Laura Ashley built her brand- at 37 Heol Maengwyn (Morris Marshall & Poole )

Ann Evans from Heritage Hub 4 Mid Wales worked for Laura Ashley in Carno and Newtown for 20 years.

She said: “The idea is to build a sense of pride in the town and increase opportunities for tourism and regeneration.

“Many don’t know Laura Ashley’s connection to Machynlleth but when Laura and Bernard Ashley bought their terraces, this is where Laura Ashley really began.

“One of their old factories is earmarked for demolition- hopefully Laura Ashley won’t vanish completely in Wales and the town council will support the proposals for a permanent exhibition and plaque.”

Ann helped create the Machynlleth MoMA 2023 exhibition ‘For the Love of Laura Ashley’, with visitors' comments calling for a permanent exhibition.

Y Plas, Machynlleth
Y Plas Town Hall has been suggested as the site for a permanent exhibition, the ‘Bernard and Laura Ashley Heritage Hub’, with Caffi Y Plas transformed into ‘Laura’s Cafe’ (Google)

Ann has permission to install a Purple Plaque celebrating ‘remarkable women in Wales’ on the site of her old shop, 37 Heol Maengwyn, but needs £600 to install it.

Ann proposed a civil ceremony at town hall Y Plas for the plaque unveiling, with creative workshops and a fashion show at the old shop to coincide with Laura Ashley’s 99th birthday in September.

She also proposed creating a ‘Bernard and Laura Ashley Heritage Hub’ for some clothing, photos and archives, currently held by Powys County Council, to be displayed permanently in Y Plas.

To expand on the theme, she also suggested Caffi Y Plas be turned into ‘Laura’s Cafe’ and decorated with prints and company artefacts.

Town and County Councillor Michael Williams said: “It’s important to celebrate modern-day culture as well as that of centuries ago. My question is about sustainability if we cannot find funding to host it permanently.”

Cllr Kim Bryan suggested 2025 to coincide with the 100th birthday may be a more reasonable timeframe for this work, whilst Cllr Ann MacGarry voiced concern over lack of space to safely host an archive.

Next steps are to be discussed at the May town council meeting.