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Period Drama

23.09.21

The menagerie of delights that lies within the iconic world-famous English Emporium that is Liberty London, includes a brand-new, show-stopping interiors collection. Abode2 reflects on the brand’s enduring appeal

British merchant Arthur Lasenby Liberty was an adventurous man who dreamed of docking a ship in the streets of London. And in the 20thcentury, Arthur’s seemingly far-fetched dream became a reality.

In 1875, he opened the doors of a shop on Regent Street called East India House, with just three staff. It offered furniture, fabrics and porcelain from far-flung, exotic destinations, including Persia, Asia and Japan, to a Victorian public intrigued by the East.

The store proved a huge success and, in 1924, it relocated and expanded into the eponymous emporium located on Great Marlborough Street, just a stone’s throw from the busy throngs of Oxford Street.

Fast forward to today and flying in the face of the maelstrom conversion to online shopping, perhaps the most endearing aspect of this prestigious store, is its ability to still attract a sizeable, loyal clientele, showcasing luxury artisanal goods with eclectic influences from around the world, all the while flying the flag for great British design.

Style consultant Anastasia Kuatkhina reflects: “Liberty has been synonymous since the mid-20th century with the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau revival-style fabrics designed by their in-house team and it’s a point of difference that still carries weight, even in today’s ‘new norm’ retail world. The shop’s archive alone contains more than 43,000 designs, and many are still available to buy by the metre in-store. What puts them head and shoulders above the rest however, is their love of curating British brands such as Another Country and SCP, alongside cutting-edge Danish design heroes including Carl Hansen and Hay. Many of those designs are one-offs too, striking a balance with larger piece collections from the bigger designer brands.

Stroll through the store’s 4th floor furniture collection and it’s undeniably a place where old sits with new. Design classics mingle with obscure hard-to-find objects, and contemporary pieces are offset by vintage relics and Arts and Crafts. Handcrafted John Sankey sofas lounge gracefully alongside modern and re-worked tables, desks and storage solutions, with leather clad Baileys Home armchairs. Les Couilles duChien meanwhile is on hand for antique, vintage and unusual items from across the globe, iconic Fratelli Tosi Murano mirrors, and great British design from Soho Home and eclectic East London favourite House of Hackney.

“It’s easy to be inspired - the Liberty design team are always one step ahead,” adds Anastasia. “Instead of chasing trends, the print design team draw inspiration from art history, cultural icons and a vast fabric archive to create collections. Their work isn’t governed by industry trends. Instead, they put a lot of time into researching meaningful themes that they want to represent each season.”

This practice means it takes from 12 to 15 weeks to complete a collection, with the team working from complex research findings to inform its direction. Past collection shave begun by looking at the work of eccentric English muses– from King George IV, whose interior choices informed the look of Brighton Pavilion, to John Lennon, who wore a Liberty print shirt on stage in the 1970s, and modern-day supermodel Lily Cole.

Concludes Anastasia: ‘To this day, a voyage of discovery still awaits customers, with history hidden amongst six floors of cutting-edge design, unexpected edits and beautiful object d’art from all four corners of the globe. There’s really no better place to shop the future.”

New beginnings for Interiors Emporium

Retaining the classic style Liberty is known for and fusing it with contemporary ideas and fresh thinking has enabled the Interiors Emporium to showcase the best and brightest in modern home decoration from some of the most inspiring designers across the globe. From hand-thrown ceramics to graphic printed blankets and mouth-blown glassware, each piece has been carefully crafted with a rich infusion of personality. The enchanting window displays and dedicated placements of items, enable buyers to view the bold, bespoke artworks and unique hero pieces to curate and transform their own living space. This year, plants reign supreme, with a stunning new wallpaper and fabric collections echoing the biophilia trend, with Liberty’s design team referencing botanical symbolism and documentation, as well as their rich heritage of art and design. Taking inspiration from three pivotal print stories from the archive – Floribunda, Art Nouveau and The Tree of Life – The dedicated in-house creative team have designed beautiful prints, as well as hand painting and re-working vintage designs from the 45,000 strong archive, bringing the vibrancy of the Liberty aesthetic indoors.

Drawing on their tradition of championing traditional British manufacture, Liberty worked with an historic factory in Loughborough to produce wallpaper according to the most exquisitely high-quality techniques, with an emphasis on intergenerational knowledge and hand-touch production elements. Liberty’s Design Director for Interiors Genevieve Bennett explains: “The Modern Collector sees a special focus on surface: lustre and matte effects are carefully balanced with line and tone, bold colour and hue, and beautiful, unexpected texture. Artisanal techniques inform the designs, and vice versa, in a perfect harmony of art and craft.” She adds: “We were keen to extend the rich botanical colour story we began in 2020 for the Modern Archive Collection by selecting a resplendent palette of Pewter, Lapis, Lichen, Lacquer, Jade and Dragonfly, evoking a rich botanical sensibility. With hues designed to combine harmoniously together, these are future heirlooms designed to last through the generations.”

As we head into a new era where virtual experiences and online shopping come to the fore, Liberty’s customers are becoming curators and ambassadors for the brand, uploading their own images of Liberty fabrics, clothing and furnishings alongside the professional styling of Liberty’s esteemed team. As collaborations become more ubiquitous and the lines between purveyor and recipient blur, steering retail into unfamiliar waters, the observer can only look to the horizon to glimpse Liberty’s next destination.

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