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Liberty (department store)

Liberty (department store)

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Liberty is a long-established department store in Regent Street
Regent Street
Regent Street is one of the major shopping streets in London's West End, well known to tourists and Londoners alike, and famous for its Christmas illuminations...

 in Central London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, in the West End
West End of London
The West End of London is an area of central London, containing many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings, and entertainment . Use of the term began in the early 19th century to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross...

 shopping district.

Early years


Arthur Lasenby Liberty
Arthur Lasenby Liberty
Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty was a London merchant, and the founder of Liberty & Co.Born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England, the son of a draper, he began work at sixteen with his uncle who sold lace, and later, another uncle who sold wine...

 was born in Chesham
Chesham
Chesham is a market town in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, England. It is located 11 miles south-east of the county town of Aylesbury. Chesham is also a civil parish designated a town council within Chiltern district. It is situated in the Chess Valley and surrounded by farmland, as well as...

, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 in 1843. He was employed by Messrs Farmer and Rogers in Regent Street
Regent Street
Regent Street is one of the major shopping streets in London's West End, well known to tourists and Londoners alike, and famous for its Christmas illuminations...

 in 1862, the year of the International Exhibition at Kensington in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. By 1874, inspired by his 10 years of service, Arthur decided to start a business of his own, which he did the next year.

With a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law, Arthur Liberty accepted the lease of half a shop at 218a Regent Street with only three members of staff.

The shop opened during 1875 selling ornaments, fabric and objets d'art from Japan and the East. Within eighteen months Arthur Liberty had repaid the loan and acquired the second half of 218 Regent Street. As the business grew, neighbouring properties were bought and added.

In 1885, 142–144 Regent Street was acquired and housed the ever-increasing demand for carpets and furniture. The basement was named the Eastern Bazaar, and was the vending place for what was described as "decorative furnishing objects". He named the property Chesham House after the place in which he grew up. The store became the most fashionable place to shop in London and Liberty fabrics were used for both clothing and furnishings. Some of its clientele was exotic and included famous some of the Pre-Raphaelite artists.

In 1884 Liberty introduced the costume department into the Regent Street store, directed by Edward William Godwin
Edward William Godwin
Edward William Godwin was a progressive English architect-designer, who began his career working in the strongly polychromatic "Ruskinian Gothic" style of mid-Victorian Britain, inspired by The Stones of Venice, then moved on to provide designs in the "Anglo-Japanese taste" of the Aesthetic...

 (1833–86). Godwin was a distinguished architect. He was a founding member of the Costume Society in 1882. He and Arthur Liberty created in-house apparel to challenge the fashions of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

.

During the 1890s Arthur Lasenby Liberty built strong relationships with many famous English designers. Many of these designers practised the artistic styles known as Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts movement
Arts and Crafts was an international design philosophy that originated in England and flourished between 1860 and 1910 , continuing its influence until the 1930s...

 and Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that were most popular during 1890–1910. The name "Art Nouveau" is French for "new art"...

, and Arthur Liberty helped develop Art Nouveau through his encouragement of such designers. The company became associated with this new style, to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as the Stile Liberty, after the London shop.

The store became one of the most prestigious in London.

1920s


The Tudor revival building was built so that trading could continue while renovations were being completed on the other premises and in 1924 this store was constructed from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable
HMS Impregnable
Two ships and two establishments of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Impregnable:-Ships: was a 98-gun second rate. This ship of the line was launched in 1786 and wrecked in 1799. was a 98-gun second-rate launched in 1810...

 and HMS Hindustan
HMS Hindustan
Five ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Hindustan or Hindostan, after the old name for the Indian subcontinent:*HMS Hindostan was a former East Indiaman by the same name. The Admiralty purchased her in 1795 and classed as a 54-gun fifth rate...

. The frontage on Great Marlborough Street
Great Marlborough Street
Great Marlborough Street runs west to east through the western part of Soho in London. At its western end it joins Regent Street. Streets intersecting, or meeting with, Great Marlborough Street are, from west to east, Kingly Street, Argyll Street, Carnaby Street, and Poland Street...

 is the same length as the Hindustan. It is a Grade II* listed building.

The emporium was designed by Edwin T. Hall
Edwin T. Hall
Edwin Thomas Hall was a British architect known primarily for the design of the Liberty & Co. department store, the Old Library at Dulwich College and various hospitals...

 and his son Edwin S. Hall. They designed the building at the height of the 1920s fashion for Tudor
Tudor style architecture
The Tudor architectural style is the final development of medieval architecture during the Tudor period and even beyond, for conservative college patrons...

 revival. The shop was engineered around three light wells that formed the main focus of the building. Each of these wells was surrounded by smaller rooms to create a homely feel. Many of the rooms had fireplaces and some still exist. The wells created a wonderful environment in which to drape exotic rugs and quilts, whilst the smaller rooms allowed the display of smaller items.

Arthur Lasenby Liberty died in 1917, seven years before the completion of his magnificent shops.

Post war


Liberty, during the 1950s, continued its tradition for fashionable and eclectic design. All departments in the shop had a collection of both contemporary and traditional designs. New designers were promoted and often included those still representing the Liberty tradition for handcrafted work.

During the 1960s, extravagant and Eastern influences once again became fashionable, as well as the Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that were most popular during 1890–1910. The name "Art Nouveau" is French for "new art"...

 style, and Liberty adapted its furnishing designs from its archive.

Nowadays Liberty sells fashions, cosmetics, accessories, gifts etc. in addition to its homewares and furniture, both instore and online.
Liberty has its own team of window dressers and is known for imaginative and often surreal window displays, especially during Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 time.

Since 1988, Liberty has had a subsidiary in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 which sells Liberty-branded products in major Japanese shops. It also sells Liberty fabrics to international and local fashion stores with bases in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

.

Collaborations


Liberty has a long history of artistic and inspiring collaborative projects – from William Morris and Gabriel Dante Rossetti in the nineteenth century to Yves Saint Laurent and Dame Vivienne Westwood in the twentieth.

Recent collaborations include renowned brands such as Nike, Kate Moss for Topshop, Hermes and Manolo Blahnik to name but a few.

External links