The year was 1825; the location was London, England; the visionary was a man by the name of Arthur Lasenby Liberty. The intersection of these three primary conditions resulted in the birth of one of the oldest and most well known art and design brands in the world, Liberty London. From the beginning, the intention was clear and precise. “I was determined not to follow existing fashions but to create new ones,” stated Liberty, and it was this spirit of adventure which culminated in the opening of an inaugural retail space in the illustrious West End of London. More aptly described as an emporium, Liberty’s first store showcased luxuries and fabrics from distant lands. Interestingly, the store was the realisation of its founder’s dream “to metaphorically dock a ship in the city streets”. Its original collection of ornaments, fabrics and objets d’art from around the world proved to slake the overwhelming upper-society thirst for the beauty and artistic riches of Japan and the Far East. As it does to the present day, the early range combined directional design, artistry and innovation and encompassed “beautifully intricate collections crafted with exquisite materials and specialist techniques”. Even author, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was moved to proclaim, “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.”

Due to its successful use and swift consumer acceptance of its imported fabric collection, Liberty erected an in-house design studio so that it could begin producing a signature range of eclectic designs. The earliest designs originated from the owner’s simple and straightforward wish to positively influence people. Specifically, he purported to assist in creating home environments that fostered and nurtured happiness. This would explain why Liberty prints have always embodied a lighthearted playfulness, an attribute intrinsic within the myriad celebrations of life. The original designs were printed utilising traditional woodblock methods, and the current modern-day team continues to rely on traditional design methods. Each design is created by hand and finished with pencil, paint and ink. The resulting print collections are applauded for their fine details, intricate patterns and the use of original Liberty colours. Liberty colours, it is worth noting, were the colours produced in 1878 in collaboration with Sir Thomas and Arthur Wardle Ltd., innovators in fabric dyeing, printing and finishing. These foundation colours and prints affected social change in interior design and dress on a worldwide scale, so much so that the Art Nouveau period in Italy is also referred to as Stile Liberty, or Liberty Style. Not surprisingly, the Liberty art fabrics were quick to help shape the store’s image in the late 19th century.

Liberty London


Liberty London


Liberty London


Flash to 2021 and the Liberty Fabrics department continues to be celebrated as a bona fide design institution. It is world renowned for its historic 50,000-strong print archive and for its in-house studio, an inexhaustible source of drawn and hand-painted new artworks. The department’s offerings reflect a storied heritage and a century-spanning passion for art and design – including, among others, ornate Art Nouveau layouts, classic 1930s “ditsy” florals, bold geometrics, landscapes and “offbeat conversationals”. Liberty has been designing and printing fabrics for over 140 years, and it does not “seam” to be calling it quits anytime soon. These fabrics are favoured by big design houses, eco-friendly labels and home crafters, alike. They are fabrics that offer colourful canvases with which to realise bespoke creations of all kinds. In the spirit of its visionary and adventurous founder, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, the company continues a trailblazing tradition via progressive collaborations, original prints and exceptional craftsmanship. At zero risk of indulging in sensationalism, one thing is for certain: wearing a Liberty print equates to wearing a piece of art and design history. Furthermore, who does not crave a bit of nostalgia?

Lifestyle & Design

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