Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Laura Ashley

Harriet Walker: Christmas is as close to crawling back into the womb

I love Christmas but don’t worry, I’m not going to proselytise about it. I won’t pretend it’s any more than an excuse for gluttony and for corporations to sell people tat they don’t need. I go into the festive period with my eyes open, thanks very much, and I’m more fascinated than I am fanatical. But I do love it.

One Minute With: Mrs Stephen Fry, Diarist

Where are you now and what can you see? I'm sipping a cup of Colombian full strength in the Cuppa Cabana, dear. I can see a bustling high street, a hissing cappuccino machine and a polar bear in a Laura Ashley frock. I'd better stick to half strength in future.

Sitting pretty: The idea that sent Cath Kidson from one shop to a

Today, Cath Kidston's iconic floral prints and affordable household items, that lend more than a nod to the trend for vintage chic, appear in must-have lists and households across the world. Her empire spans 28 shops and concessions in the UK, two shops in the Republic of Ireland and five in Japan. The brand has beaten the odds in the economic downturn with profits rising in the past year from £2.9m to £4.6m. And with sales now reaching £31.3m, she clearly has a head for retail. These figures belie the brand's humble beginnings in a small shop in London's Holland Park.

The 50 best lights

From chic shades to garden globes, Kate Watson-Smyth selects the most desirable designs to brighten up your home this autumn

Sir Bernard Ashley: Forcible businessman and husband of Laura Ashley

Sir Bernard Ashley was the husband and business partner of the fashion and design legend Laura Ashley, who lent her name to the still-famous range of clothes, furniture and furnishings. In terms of a brand, Laura and Sir Bernard were a dream team: she the sensitive, creative designer who changed the look of millions of women and millions of homes; he the driven entrepreneur, ever intent on aggressive expansion of the business.

My Secret Life: Emma Hope, shoe designer, 41

The house I grew up in... was a long and narrow Tudor cottage in Surrey, set two miles from the nearest village. There was a yew tree in the garden that you could hide inside.