Of all my time living in England I cannot believe that I had never been in Liberty until now. Its only one of the most renowned and unique shopping experiences in London. Originally opened in 1875 and owned by Arthur Lasenby Liberty who travelled the world looking for individual pieces in order to provide inspiration for both his staff and customers.
Arthur Liberty was born in Chesham in 1843 and in 1874 after 10 years in the business, decided to borrow £2000 and invest in what would become history in the making. Liberty was made to signify integrity, value, quality and above all else it was used as a platform to showcase beautifully designed products.
Situated off Regent street in Central London since 1885, Liberty is housed in an iconic Tudor building and although originally selling ornaments, fabrics and objets d’art it now sells everything from furniture to clothing, scents to stationery and is famous for its own Liberty print and scarves.
In 1884 Liberty introduced Edward Godwin through it doors. A distinguished architect he soon took directorship of the costume department. It is said that both men together where very likeminded and they soon created an apparel to put Paris fashion to shame. As a result the store became the most fashionable and famous place to shop in London. Their iconic prints where and still are used for clothing and furniture.
By this point Liberty owned a huge building and were still buying property. The store was spread out from Regent Street to Great Marlborough Street so in 1924 this incredible icon started renovation work and was constructed from two ships, The HMS Impregnable and the HMS Hindustan.
Arthur Liberty wanted his store to feel homely and so the main shop floor is built around three wells which focused the main building and then he build numerous rooms off this. Many of the room still have their original fireplaces. Sadly Arthur passed away in 1917, seven years before the completion of his flagship department store.
All the departments have a collection of eclectic designs, both traditional and contemporary. In 1975 Liberty celebrated its centenary. Now run by Ed Burstell – managing director, it is thriving and even has its own show on channel 4. Walking through that door is like walking through time. It’s antique, creaky and eccentric. Liberty is truly unique and you are missing out if you don’t enter those doors steeped in history.
Arthur Liberty was once quoted for saying “I was determined not to follow existing fashion but to create new ones”, and this is exactly what he did in Liberty of London.