Those unfamiliar with the British luxury brand may wonder what's so special about Liberty London fabric. Yet those who have even one piece in their collection will happily share some insight!
Established nearly 150 years ago, Liberty of London is a veritable design institution that symbolizes quality, celebrates heritage, encourages whimsy, champions artistry, and empowers self-expression. The retailer and design house is internationally respected and consistently sought after by everyone - from fashion wallflowers to confident connoisseurs of fine accessories.
But who is the powerhouse behind this beloved brand, and what of this prized Liberty London fabric?
The R. Hanauer team enjoys sharing the Liberty story with our in-store patrons, and - adding to our series of menswear history articles - we are delighted to share it with our Gentleman’s Guide readers as well!
Liberty Of London Fabric History
Arthur Lasenby Liberty was born the son of a draper in 1843 near London, England. At 16, he became an apprentice draper and also worked for an uncle, selling lace.
At age 19, Liberty took a job at Farmer and Rogers where he specialized in women's fashions. He excelled in the role - yet after 10 years of service and no opportunity to make partner, he decided to open his own business: Liberty & Co on London’s Regent Street. Here he sold interesting and beautiful home goods, sourced primarily from Asia, as well as fabric.
(Image: Liberty of London)
Liberty soon prospered. Within 18 months of being in business, he was able to repay the loan he had taken out to launch his venture and doubled the size of his shop. He was vocal about his vision, sharing, “I was determined not to follow existing fashions but to create new ones." And so he did …
As time marched on, Liberty added to the shop, taking on neighboring properties and expanding his inventory. He became famous for selling gorgeous carpets and fabrics of his own design - known today, of course, as Liberty fabric - which was used for furniture and clothing.
Liberty & Co became “the place” to shop for Europe’s elite and those with a keen eye for the unusual. Oscar Wilde, who regularly patronized Liberty & Co, generously endorsed the shop by saying, “Liberty's is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper".
Modern Day Liberty London Fashion
Liberty passed away in 1917, three years after being knighted. Fortunately, his dream lived on, and as was his aim, Liberty & Co grew into an lauded enterprise.
And it has continued to evolve to this day - all the while masterfully maintaining relevance among the traditional and eclectic worldwide.
Liberty print fabric has been a hot commodity since the 1890s, and continues to appeal to all ages across all continents. As has been the case since the beginning, Liberty collaborates with designers of all stripes, from runway mainstays and ready-to-wear icons, to produce high-demand Liberty print fabrics.
One of their first - and, you could say, most recent - collaborations was with British artist, poet, author, activist, and textile designer William Morris. In 2020, Liberty reimagined Morris’ work, creating a vibrant and exciting collection for a contemporary audience.
Collaborative partnerships have also included Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, Barbour, J.Crew, Nike, and Vans. In keeping with Sir Arthur Liberty’s spirit of innovation, Liberty also seeks to collaborate with emerging designers.
Why Is Liberty of London Fabric So Expensive?
If Liberty’s rich history is not enough to justify its cost, consider its quality.
The Liberty London archives encompass more than 45,000 original designs, all printed to the very highest standards at the Liberty Italian Print Mill in Como, Italy. Printing techniques range from traditional (and labor intensive) screen printing, to the latest and greatest in digital printing technology that affords near photographic accuracy.
The ultra-fine, long-staple Tana Lawn cotton used by Liberty is a brand signature. Following a series of sophisticated preparations, the tightly-woven fabric is soft as silk, wonderfully lustrous, and highly receptive to pigment. The end result looks and feels incredible, and is a joy to wear.
Liberty London at R. Hanauer
R. Hanauer proudly carries an expansive collection of Liberty London designs - including ties, bow ties, cummerbund sets, pocket squares, and accessories.
We can’t possibly pick a favorite, but standouts include:
Queue for the Zoo
Liberty London’s Queue for the Zoo print came about from a collaboration between Liberty’s design team and children’s author and illustrator, OK David.
The hand-drawn and painted print is a celebration of the department store’s third floor, which houses fabric, men’s clothing and accessories, children’s clothing, and luxurious gifts and home goods.
While every Liberty London bow tie is a statement piece to savor, there’s much to be said for the additional fabric of Liberty print ties - an absolute feast for the eyes!
The hand-drawn Adelphi Voyage print, inspired by two hand-painted 19th Century Liberty designs, is nothing short of spectacular. A fabric this vibrant is all but guaranteed to put a little extra pep in your step.
Emma and GeorginaE & G Cummerbund + Bow Tie Set
Emma and Georgina is part of the Liberty Fabrics’ Classics collection, meaning this quintessentially Liberty print is available year round.
Emma and Georgina is actually two florals in one - the Emma was brought to life in the 1970s and the Georgina joined the family in 2000. Together, they convey a page from a Victorian pattern book - which was precisely the inspiration.
Strawberries and Cream
The promise of Spring and sweetness of Summer are palpable in this charming and cheerful Strawberries and Cream Liberty print. It’s so delightful that the wearer, and those he engages, can't help but smile. If your city is like ours where strawberry season is cause for celebration, this pattern is a must have!
Liberty London’s King’s Island is definitely not your Dad’s paisley! Vibrant and full of movement, this fantastic fabric is equal parts classic and quirk. The bold yellow, saturated accent colors, and creative pattern placement is precisely the addition to your fine accessories collection that you didn’t know you needed!
Now when your Liberty print causes your conversation partner to ask, What is Liberty fabric?, you can proudly share an informed response.