Interview: Lily Ashley on Brora x The Ashleys

Words by
Lily Ashley

15th November 2022

The Ashley family has joined forces with Brora to create an utterly British collection of clothes and knits for now, honouring the legacy of Brora and Laura Ashley. SPHERE meets Lily Ashley, 30, Laura’s granddaughter, to discuss how creating the collection was an incredibly moving experience, which allowed her to become closer to the grandmother she never met. 

The result of the collaboration is a collections blending classic British luxury with quirky, fashion-forward design. It’s a collection filled with Edwardian drama, cosy knits, and statement pops of colour that bring to life the style and vision of the Ashley family, whilst also beautifully paying homage to their mother and grandmother, the iconic Laura Ashley. Lily Ashley tells us how it happened.

Brora x The Ashleys
L-R: Lily Ashley, Brora's founder Victoria Stapleton, Edie Ashley and Nick Ashley.

I didn’t meet my grandmother Laura Ashley, but... ...I did meet my Grandfather, Bernard,  and he was half of the business. He was a mad maverick with a mission and he never let anyone push him down. When I was nine he had me designing prints for him! As I have got older I have asked more and more questions about my Grandmother and I have realised she had a fierce strength that had a deep root in her loyalty, I definitely have this trait. I think one of the things so often overlooked about the Laura Ashley story is that it was a company built by a Mother, Father, children and an entire Welsh community. Edie and I were lucky enough to experience the support of the Welsh people as children growing up - there is power in Wales and the power is the Welsh people!

Brora x The Ashleys
Wool crepe suit trousers, £245

My career path has been eclectic so far… At the moment I am writing most of the time. I spend a lot of my time playing the crystal singing bowls! Voo Le Voo, my double act, have a really beautiful song coming out and I am going to make the music video for it, this summer I made a music video for Hugo Hamlet and Florence Clementine and I will be making more films, keep your eye on my Instagram for more information. I also would love to design some more, maybe homeware, or prints...any takers, look my way!

Jesse, the daughter of Brora’s founder Victoria Stapleton is the fire that created this collaboration! Brora is a family business making clothes in the UK, they are conscious and caring...What is not to love? It resonated... naturally.

Brora x The Ashleys
Brora wool and cashmere textured knit, £425

Designing and creating Brora x The Ashley’s collection was incredibly moving…We picked a couple of pieces that belonged to my Grandmother, the jeans, the scarf, the neck scarf and the only blouse of her designs she integrated into her wardrobe. Then we went into Brora where Victoria was working with Jesse as well as her very talented team. I remember stepping back and watching Dad and Edie talk about weave and stitch, about how to mix a bit of wool into the cashmere to make it more hardwearing and why using wool was so important as it is otherwise a waste product. Seeing all of these people speaking about things that they had lived with and learnt through generations was like watching a family of blacksmiths from the 1700s, there was an incredible amount of knowledge and care put into this project. We really nurtured it. We took over a year to put it together and we tried really hard to make pieces that had a timeless quality that we hope will be looked after, mended and passed on.

The scribble print in the collection was something I was exploring in watercolour… I wanted to create a print around a poem I had written but it was too much, it just kept looking kitsch or something so I doodled aimlessly whilst looking at a Laura Ashley print and this is what came out!

Brora x The Ashleys
Lily Ashley's print design for Brora x The Ashley's

One of my absolute heroes is Charlie Chaplin because…he is just so mesmerising on screen, he has got it, he invented having it, he is it, he has something so watchable, he is a little genius. Ultimately I am inspired by the freedom of his work. Charlie Chaplin and his contemporaries made cinema away from the limitations of a cultural centre - just like Laura Ashley in Wales. 

Where I live in Wales is beautiful… there are deep valleys and open hills, plenty of red kites, buzzards, welsh-mountain ponies with their gigantic foreheads, Hawthornes. I look forward to it becoming more wild, there is a beautiful river we swim in but sometimes it is so polluted by all sorts of different wastes that I’ve known people to faint when they get out!

Brora x The Ashleys
Brora Wool and cashmere geometric scarf, £225

The highlight of my career so far has to be...I remember once being in a run down toilet looking into a broken mirror before a show where I had personally laid out 60 chairs and only 3 people had turned up and I didn’t have a finished show, it was a preview and I felt like the bitterest loser ever but when I looked in the mirror I realised I had to honour the three people that had arrived and gave them a performance direct from my soul with beautiful Hugo Hamlet next to me as my (mute) co-star, when the script ran out I began to improvise and something happened, I started giving these words I don’t where from but they were truth about time and how the idea of getting better and better and bigger and bigger doesn’t matter if time isn’t linear, it was totally out there and I found the meaning of it all and the three in the crowd were amazed, I jumped off the stage happy, yes, we’ve got our show, I went over to the camera to stop recording and realised I had never pressed record so the speech was lost forever! I try to remember it to this day!

Brora x The Ashleys
Red cashmere thigh high socks, £95, Brora x The Ashleys

The last book I last downloaded is… A New Science of Heaven by Robert Temple - Robert himself reads the audio, I love him dearly, his book explains complex scientific theory in a graspable way - the book itself is a scientific exploration of all things heaven, it proposes the place where the spirit resides when it is not taking a human form, it explores the Kordylewski Clouds which are two super brains made out of plasma within our moon earth system. Also this book is dedicated to it is an easy winner, what an honour!