"Heritage is something we build upon, not hide behind."
A Short History of Liberty of London Fabrics
Shortly after the Liberty shop opened on Regent Street in 1875, Arthur Liberty printed the first of the soon to be famous Liberty Silks. Imported from India, the Mysore silk was dyed in England and then hand-printed with wooden blocks.
Liberty’s imported oriental silks were dyed, printed or woven in Britain and France. The cottons were printed in Scotland, Cumbria and Lancashire. In 1904 Liberty took over a print works that specialised in block-printed silks just up-river from William Morris’ works in Merton. It is because of this print works that the company still has such a large textile archive.
"Liberty’s greatest triumph in those early days came from a co-operation with Thomas Wardle, the dyers and printers of Leek in Staffordshire, who also worked for William Morris. Between them, Liberty and Wardle introduced dyes which had until then been supposed to be a closely guarded secret of the East…delicate pastel tints which they called ‘Art Colours’, and that became described all over the world as ‘Liberty colours’. Silk in Liberty colours were an influential element in the Aesthetic Movement. Liberty’s windows had white painted fretwork screens, and the silks were draped in front of these in graduated tints. They became one of the sights of Regent Street." Liberty's: a biography of a shop, Alison Adburgham, 1975
Today designers for Liberty still come and visit the archive for inspiration. New patterns are either designed by the in-house Studio or are commissioned from freelance designers. Each spring and autumn season new textile collections are produced to complement the range of classic designs that are not so bound to the seasons. Some of these latter designs, such as Peacock Feather, date back to the 1880s.