I bought a new (vintage) deck chair last week and coupled with the sunshine we’ve been having here, it has provided the perfect opportunity to sit down and finish reading this book which I’ve had since Christmas.
I don’t know if you saw the Liberty programmes on Channel 4 back in December? If not, you can catch them here – they were documentary-ish programmes looking behind the scenes at how Liberty runs. Sounds a bit dry but it wasn’t at all as Liberty seems to be packed with characterful staff and exciting happenings.
Anyways it got me interested in the history of the store and when I saw this book I had to have it.
Liberty’s was opened back in 1875 by Arthur Lasenby selling imported goods from the Far East. It was fashionable at the time, to like all things Oriental and so it went from strength to strength and grew rapidly beginning under other names in other premises until it became the Liberty that it still is today. Pre-Raphalite artists were drawn to buying the goods as it fitted the aesthetic they were striving for, filling their paintings with artefacts or draping models in the silks.
The store evolved over time to broaden its stock and develop dress and furnishing fabrics which quickly became world-famous as Liberty Art Fabrics. I love the photographs that show the behinds the scenes working (below) and I loved the left hand image not just showing the print production meeting in progress but also how many women were at the table given that it was taken in 1953.
This book has paper envelope pages very few chapters in which are tucked reproductions of letters from customers, old promotional flyers or posters.My favourite is the reproduction hand painted drawing of a design sketch inspired by an afternoon tea complete with the paint colour tests around the edge.
Well that’s just a taster really (it’s a big book!) – if you’re interested, I’d recommend the programmes as they are really entertaining and of course the book too.