Liberty of London is one of those companies whose products make my heart skip a beat. Their Tana Lawn cottons simply cannot be beaten, and the scarves are some of the best in the world. I always have my eyes open for Liberty scarves and garments made with Liberty fabrics when thrifting, as quality of this caliber comes at a price. I also appreciate the history of the company, which has its roots in the Orientalist movement of the nineteenth century.
I can’t remember where I first saw this book, but after seeing the photos online I scurried off to Amazon to see if it were available. This was back in the summer, and the book just arrived last week. I spent much of that afternoon being absorbed into the world of Liberty textiles.
For those not familiar with Liberty’s history, the author, Marie-Therese Rieber, gives a good overview of it. She tells about the founder, Authur Liberty, and how his Oriental emporium became one of the world’s most famous stores. But the best parts of the book are the sections about the Liberty textiles and the clothing made from them. Above you see two early twentieth century evening wraps.
An interesting feature of the book is that it is somewhat interactive. The are several envelopes throughout that are filled with replicas of old Liberty advertising and other ephemera. These are quite interesting, but this type of thing adds considerably to the cost of the book. I enjoyed playing with all the little bits, but I’m not sure they actually add a lot to the value of the book.
Fortunately, there is more than enough great information in the book to make it valuable to the lover of textiles. There was an excellent feature on how the Tana Lawns were originally block printed by hand.
In the early 1930s Paul Poiret was commissioned to do designs for Liberty. The green and ivory gown on the left was designed by Poiret for Liberty in 1933. Seeing all these early 1930s designs along with the fabric swatches makes me want to spend a week lost in the Liberty archives.
The peacock scarf above is in one of Liberty’s trademark prints, the Hera. It was created in 1887 and continues to be a Liberty favorite.
In the late 1960s, Liberty prints became very popular with fashion designers, and so Liberty expanded the fabrics available to designers. Their fabric designers like Bernard Nevill and Susan Collier called upon the feeling of nostalgia for Art Nouveau and Art Deco in their work.
The last section of the book is about modern Liberty prints and the inspirations and stories behind them. This is the stuff textile lovers dream of. To fully appreciate this book, you have to love textiles, and Liberty in particular. It is not so much about fashion, and there is a small section on Liberty furniture and ceramics. Still, there was enough material that was new to me to earn this book a spot in my library.