Saturday, 20 December 2008

At Liberty

Liberty is a well known store in the heart of London’s West End shopping district. Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened his first store in Regent Street in 1875 to sell ornaments, fabrics and miscellaneous art objects from Japan and the Far East.
Among the first customers for his beautiful oriental silks were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Whistler and John Ruskin. Liberty prints and designs, created by artists such as William Morris, were a great influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

It's building fronts Great Marlborough Street and is one of the most prominent Tudor revival Arts and Crafts buildings in London and was specifically built to house the store.

Liberty first catered for an eclectic mixture of popular styles, but then went on to develop a fundamentally different style closely linked to the aesthetic movement of the 1890s and Art Nouveau. The company became synonymous with this new style to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as Stile Liberty after the London shop. Liberty still has a distinctive style and produces some of its own fabrics.

Unlike a typical large department store, the shop has resisted the trend for suspended ceilings and corporate display fittings. It retains the original Tudor Revival detailing (with some typical 1930s touches) inside as well as out. The interior is split up into a series of relatively small rooms, arranged around several windowless atria, which are lit by glazed roofs and have wooden balconies at each level. There are stairs and decorative lifts instead of escalators.

This rose trail pattern was based on an original design of Liberty from 1933. In 1997 it was updated and refreshed by Liberty's Design studio.
However, Liberty has not remained in the past and it's women's clothing department is at the cutting edge of modern fashion. Liberty designs remain very popular to this day and the store still sells its wonderful fabrics and has continued its strong links with the Far East and the basement houses an Oriental Bazaar. The top floor is crammed with period Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts furniture.


  1. Wow! Who cares about watching the changing of the guard! Quite obviously no tour of London would even begin until after touring the Liberty.

    Sounds like my kind of store.