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Laura Ashley shakes off frumpy image with slimmer fits

Laura Ashley is looking to shake off its frumpy fashion image for autumn 12 having revised key shapes and fits across its collection.

The home furnishings and fashion retailer, known for its floral prints, has revised blocks and fits for items including dresses, skirts and trousers, and introduced a slim fit trouser silhouette for the first time.

Head of design for fashion, Helen Balkham said: “In the past we’ve had shapes that have worked for us but that customer is falling away and we’ve got to move with trends. You could say we have a reputation for being a bit frumpy. We’ve introduced much more contemporary shapes, colours and stories for autumn.”

Other key changes include a reinvention of the Laura Ashley sundress, taking on 50s-style proportions. The collection will also feature skinny jeans in 12 colours, while leather and suede skirts have been added to the essentials line. Shirt dresses, made from 70s-inspired prints, will also feature.

Balkham added: “Waistlines are nipped in and lines are much cleaner and exaggerated than we’ve done before. We will continue to have our own handwriting through distinct prints and quality fabrics.”

Laura Ashley chief operating officer Sean Anglim told Drapers that the shift in fashion represented “real change” for the business. Contrary to speculation that the 240-store retailer is to wind down its clothing offering, Anglim said that Laura Ashley will look to increase the number of stores offering fashion from 140 in the coming season.

Laura Ashley UK’s like-for-likes grew 5.4% in the 18 weeks to June 2.Total UK sales advanced 4.1% over the period.

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