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The History of Liberty

Posted by Fabrics Galore on

 

Image source: Telegraph 

Liberty of London is a long standing and celebrated brand, that showcases quintessentially British designs on its fabrics. Fabrics Galore has stocked Liberty fabric since it opened 25 years ago and is one of the only London based fabric retailers that is trusted with this privilege.

Early History: 1862-1875 

Liberty of London has an intricate and colourful history. It first opened in 1875 by Arthur Liberty, son of a draper from Buckinghamshire. He moved to London and in 1862 began working at Farmer & Rogers, a cloak and shawl emporium on Regent Street. It was the age of great exhibitions and the International Exhibition in Kensington coincided with Liberty’s first year of work for the firm. For the first time in Europe the exhibition showcased a Japanese pavilion, which was hugely popular with visitors. Farmer and Rogers bought a lot of the Japanese goods after the exhibition closed and opened their Oriental Warehouse, which Liberty was given the task of managing. The Oriental Warehouse soon became the most profitable part of the business, with artists like Whistler, Rossetti and William Morris as its customers. Liberty struck up friendships with these customers and visited their studios and advised them on purchases, so when Liberty decided to leave Farmer and Rogers to set up his own business on Regent Street, they promised they would come to him instead.

 

The shop was christened Liberty of London and absolutely flourished. Not only was Liberty echoing artistic movements of the time, but it was guiding and contributing to them too. The Aesthetic Movement and the Arts and Crafts Movement were steered partly by Liberty. And fashion was changing as well as art, women were moving away from tight, corseted Victorian clothing and looking to Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic paintings to inspire them. Along with inspiration from fabrics from the East which were more lightweight and delicate. Liberty saw an opportunity and they began to produce in house textiles in a ‘house style’, using techniques borrowed from the West to produce new types of fabric to suit these customers. Liberty silks soon became a hugely important part of the growing Aesthetic Movement. But Liberty was not only producing textiles, they began branching out to furniture, dressmaking and much more. Liberty wares were highly in demand and soon customers from all over the country wanted their houses furnished with Liberty.

Famed for Floral & Graphic Fabric Prints

The timeless nature of Liberty prints is shown in the fact that they are still produced and just as popular today. Here’s a look at some of their most famous designs…

 

Hera

This print, which comes in several colours, was designed in 1887, one of the oldest Liberty designs which is still in production. It is Liberty’s iconic peacock feather. Birds were hugely popular motifs in the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century. It is called Hera after the Greek goddess who is associated with the peacock.

 

Ianthe

Another trademark Liberty print which was concocted by French Art Noveau designer, R. Beauclair, at the turn of the century. It has since been slightly altered but retains the huge Art Nouveau influence. Ianthe is the Greek God of violets, so one may infer that the original designs was based on violets. The print was revived by Liberty later in the 20th century and brought back into production and has since become a print they are deeply associated with. This design also went on to influence Liberty’s Iphis print.

 

Michelle

This floral is a slightly later addition to Liberty’s huge collection of prints. It was developed from an archive design dated 1933 by an artist who had drawn other prints for the house. It is a typical Liberty floral, delicate and detailed with vivid colours. You can order the Michelle Liberty Art fabric online.

 

Lord Paisley

This ornate paisley print was based on a scarf from the 1950s. Liberty redesigned it in house for the Spring/Summer of 2007.

Take a closer look at the Lord Paisley Red Liberty Art fabric from above.

Fabrics Galore also stocks this beautiful Blues Lord Paisley fabric from Liberty.

Famous Collaborations

Liberty has always collaborated with brilliant people to create even more brilliant designs. Most famously they took on William Morris, whose name is now interwoven with Liberty’s history. One of the most famous prints to come from this collaboration was Strawberry Thief. This print was designed in 1883 by Morris, part of a large group of designs which feature animals and flowers, both popular motifs in the Arts and Crafts Movement which Morris was heavily involved with.

Make sure to browse the freshly updated Liberty fabrics collection!

Since they have collaborated with everyone from Vivienne Westwood and House of Hackney to Hello Kitty, and most recently they launched a sleepwear collection with singer-songwriter Florence Welch! Liberty is a company with a rich history, whose legacy continues to thrill and excite people not only in Britain, but all over the world. 

Fabrics Galore can cater to all your dressmaking and quilting needs when you visit our online fabric shop.


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