Posted in sewing

What’s Up With Liberty of London?

So, despite more cousins than I can count in England and the fact that my mom lived in London for many years I did not know what Liberty prints were until I entered the online sewing world. I think they are cute enough. But, I wouldn’t recognize them if you didn’t tell me and I still don’t think I’ve seen any in person. So color me surprised when I saw this Target ad heralding their collaboration with Liberty of London. I do wish Target was just selling bolts of the fabric though.

I already checked the bicycle. Sadly, it’s just one gear.

And, then I read here that Liberty of London was releasing a makeup collection with MAC Cosmetics. Of course, they have a blue polish too (have I mentioned blues are my color of choice?).

So, this leads me to wonder, what’s up with Liberty of London? Have they always done licensing agreements? Did people outside the sewing world know about Liberty? Have I been living under a rock? Does this diminish their brand? Thoughts?

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30 thoughts on “What’s Up With Liberty of London?

  1. I am super excited about the Liberty stuff at Target, was not aware of the MAC line. I know they have a whole dept store in London, so maybe just brand expansion? I have two yards of the Mirabella lawn, and am saving it for the perfect project.

  2. I’ve always known about Liberty; they’ve been around for hundreds of years, I think, and, as I’m a confirmed Anglophile, they were just always something I knew about. Very fine lawn, and delicate prints, very clear and detailed, many of which I really wasn’t crazy about, but could appreciate as historical artifacts.

    The cotton, like the best, old-time, Turkish cottons, is?/was as smooth and fine as silk; a real pleasure to handle, and I did make a few blouses and at least one ill-fated dress from Liberty cotton.

    Licensing? This Target deal is the first I’ve been aware of. Does it diminish the brand? Probably, but I’m guessing that the Liberty I’m remembering from thirty years ago doesn’t exist any more. Even I won’t sew anything I have to iron any more, and I absolutely hate wearing anything that doesn’t have a tiny bit of stretch to it. I like fitted clothing; thin lovely lawn has no place in my new, comfy, stretchy life.

  3. I’ve been on their website once or twice and kinda recall having seen non-fabric items there, but sold solely in their London (or at least England) shops. This is new to me and it sounds interesting enough!

  4. This all part of the branding that not only Target but that H&M is doing. I’m personally not surprised and am astonished that others are. It’s a money maker for the designer because they get a fee for approving a few items to be sold for a limited time. It drives business into said retailer because the masses are getting the ability to buy a designer piece that they couldn’t have afforded otherwise. A win-win situation because it is limited pieces for a limited time.

    Oh and I can tell you are reading my blog lately because I posted about this on Saturday! *LOL*

  5. I adore Liberty of London and have for years. I know the names of certain prints and can instantly recognize them. Last Saturday, I was drooling over the array at B and J Fabrics in New York. A rather well known style arbiter, Simon Doonan of Barney’s had something like 37 shirts custom made out of Liberty fabric. (He’s English).

    I used to love the old Laura Ashley and wonder if the line’s prints weren’t inspired on Liberty. I bought a couple of yards several years ago for a beginning sewing project (the last time I tried to learn to sew). Fortunately,I didn’t use it, because it never would have worked with the pattern, which was skirt with an elastic waist. I’m going to try again this year with something new.

    I believe it takes a certain eye to work with them; I saw a saleslady at Paron in a tunic made from a Liberty print I love, it was either Mark or Bourton. But it didn’t have sufficient structure. Some prints look like nothing on the page and need embellishments like ruffles or smocking or embroidery, and some, I wouldn’t touch, such as “The Strawberry Thief.” I love that William Morris designed it, but it doesn’t seem very wearable.

    My favorite sites related to Liberty of London:

    http://www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/departmenthome/dept/fabrics?resetFilters=true

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_%26_Co.

    http://www.bandjfabrics.com/servlet/the-Cotton-cln-Liberty-of-London/Categories

    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/fabricdetail/1695

    http://www.calicoandivy.com/product10/listing/

    http://www.shaukat.co.uk/categories.asp?cat1=6&cat2=32 (I’m considering a trial order from this place as it has better prices than elsewhere.)

    http://tissusliberty.blogspot.com/

    Actually, there’s plenty up with Liberty.

  6. The Target lampshade I saw in an ad wasn’t very interesting. I adore Liberty of London and have for years. I know the names of certain prints and can instantly recognize them. Last Saturday, I was drooling over the array at B and J Fabrics in New York. A rather well known style arbiter, Simon Doonan of Barney’s, had something like 37 shirts custom made out of Liberty fabric. (He’s English).

    I used to love the old Laura Ashley and wonder if the line’s prints weren’t inspired on Liberty. I bought a couple of yards several years ago for a beginning sewing project (the last time I tried to learn to sew). Fortunately,I didn’t use it, because it never would have worked with the pattern, which was a simple skirt with an elastic waist. It would have looked like a rag with flowers. I’m going to try again this year with something new.

    I believe it takes a certain eye and degree of sewing skill to work with them. I saw a saleslady at Paron in a tunic made from a paisley Liberty print I love, either Mark or Bourton. But it didn’t have sufficient structure. Some prints look like nothing on the page and need embellishments like ruffles or smocking or embroidery, and some I wouldn’t touch, such as “The Strawberry Thief.” I love that William Morris designed it, but it doesn’t seem very wearable.

    My favorite sites related to Liberty of London:

    http://www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/departmenthome/dept/fabrics?resetFilters=true

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_%26_Co.

    http://www.bandjfabrics.com/servlet/the-Cotton-cln-Liberty-of-London/Categories

    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl/products/fabricdetail/1695

    http://www.calicoandivy.com/product10/listing/

    http://www.shaukat.co.uk/categories.asp?cat1=6&cat2=32 (I’m considering a trial order from this place as it has better prices than elsewhere.)

    http://tissusliberty.blogspot.com/

    Actually, there’s plenty up with Liberty, but maybe not at Target.

  7. I saw this ad too and I’m thinking if they sell sheets… that’s close enough – and enough for a summer dress!

  8. I first knew about Liberty’s from their fabrics which were sold in regular German fabric departments when I first looked about 20 years ago. When I spent a few months in London 12 years ago, Liberty’s was one of my favorite places to be. It’s certainly the most beautiful department store – in terms of interiors as well as merchandise – that I’ve ever been to. I’m not a shopping fiend, but Liberty’s is/was special. To me, admittedly not English, it has a very British, exclusive vibe – quite the opposite of American mass-marketing! I’d be interested if the wares on offer have the same standard as in the original store. Oh, and the fabric/notions/craft department is dreamy! Last time I went, I bought some very fine corduroy that was not too “little old lady”-like (not that anything’s wrong with that!).

  9. Apparently, I live under the same rock as you. I work for a British organization and travel to London 2-3 times a year, but had never heard of Liberty before I began sewing.

  10. I see that there’s a Liberty pop-up store that just opened today in New York City. I may well check it out. Members of my family, who are not all that interested in fashion, have been to the Liberty store on trips to London. (They also went to the V & A Museum for the textiles.) Unfortunately, I’ve never been to England.

    In college, I was interested in Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau and Jugendstil, so of course I knew about Liberty of London.

    I wouldn’t decorate my entire house with stuff from Target or Ikea, but some pieces are fine. I was at the apartment of a friend who is decorating her place in what I’d call “Mid-Century Modern” style, which is not really my taste at all although it’s nice. She’s been buying “vintage” pieces on craigslist. She had some flatware in the same color palette and I assumed it was vintage.

    It was from Target.

  11. I knew about Liberty before I started sewing. I’m not really a fan of their prints, although from time to time I see one I like. In these economic times I think all companies are looking for ways to expand their market share. I once saw an interesting documentary about an archaeological dig on the site of their original factory. It seems they are still working from the same location (or at least they were when the doco was made). They uncovered some long lost blocks for prints that they were hoping to put back into production. I like the historical side of Liberty.

  12. I had not heard of Liberty before I began sewing either. I have really only seen a few prints in person but what I have seen was beautiful.

  13. The Liberty of London store was a must see for me when I had an overnight layover in London on the way back from Budapest about 15 years ago. I found out how to get there and popped in 10 minutes before they closed. Still managed to pick up 2 pieces (as yet unsewn). The fabric selections were amazing and somewhat expensive and much more diverse than the cotton prints they are most known for.

    They have started putting the Liberty collection out in our local Target stores today – some of the pieces are quite nice. The prints seem to be variants of some of their classics like the peacock feather print and their paisely prints. I copped a feel of the fabrics, most of which are printed on polyester or synthetic blend. I was quite impressed with the quality of the women’s sleeveless sheath (cotton or mostly cotton) lined and well constructed sized up to 16+.

  14. Thanks for posing the question….I was wondering about Liberty of London as well. All of sudden I seem to be seeing the name a lot more in blog land and on line fabric shops. We don’t have Target here, but now I wish we did.

  15. I was wondering the same thing when I saw the banner last weekend! A little web research has revealed that it’s Liberty prints on non-liberty fabric, which is how the fabric I saw for 35 pounds/meter at the Liberty of London shop in 2007 is now in Target. I first heard about Liberty in a London bookstore while perusing the craft mag section. I chatted up a girl reading a knitting magazine and she said I should go to Liberty, “but it’s very dear.” So I went and realized that “dear” is British for couture prices…

  16. The Liberty of London store is an old-fashioned department store that carries gorgeous fabrics and trimmings along with housewares, clothing, shoes and bags, etc. Think a high-end Macy’s that carries fabric & notions too. When I lived in London it was my favorite place to window-shop because just about everything they carry is exquisite. Hands down they had the best purse/hand-bag department EVER.

    I haven’t been to London in a couple of years, but if Liberty’s hasn’t moved they are a few blocks from John Lewis, which also has a fantastic selection of fabrics. Also there are couple of tiny fabric stores nearby which are chock-a-block with a seemingly endless array of silks, linens and suiting fabrics. I seem to remember ordering a length of a jade green heavy-weight silk from a swatch book. (There is a fantastic toy store just around the corner also).

    I think they’ve been doing licensing deals on and off for decades — but not everything makes it across the ‘pond’ to the US. It really depends on what’s in style over here.

    Thinking about this is making me long for a trip to London!

  17. Liberty is one of those stores that foreign visitors feel they NEED to go to but locals just plain ignore. Seriously, I really don’t understand the appeal – it’s just a department store, with a tiny and eye-wateringly expensive fabric section. I could say the exact same words about John Lewis, just down Oxford Street. The Liberty prints are okay I guess, but I wouldn’t want to wear them myself.

    So if you’re visiting London and want Liberty fabrics, go to the aforementioned Shaukut’s or Goldhawk Road where you can get Liberty prints for sane amounts of money. Amongst other (IMHO) better fabrics.

    And if you’re going to Liberty just to see the store (You know it’s not real Tudor, right?), then I’m even more confused as to why…

  18. I never heard of Liberty fabrics until I found online sewing blogs, either. I’m not that big a print person, though, so it might not be a huge surprise. And since I’ve never been to London, it’s probably even less of a surprise.

  19. Liberty was a family-owned store until 10 or so years ago. The family sold to a Japanese(?) firm, which started pruning the stale wood and ramping up the merchandising.

    Fabric (&yarn) wise, it doesn’t look anything like it did twenty years ago, when I started sewing. They had very high end and unusual fabrics, Japanese, Lintons, handwovens, incredible silks etc which made their own prints looks pretty dowdy. Unfortunately there’s not much money to be made out of that.

    Last year, they introduced their own collectible nicknacks dept. decorated with their own fabric designs, but the pieces are ridiculously expensive. I know the target merchandise isn’t high end, but it’s at least affordable for collectors like me.

    Btw, they do an incredible, lesser-known high tea on the third floor.

  20. I went to visit their bricks and mortar store in London last year. They had yummy fabric although given the exchange rate, quite costly. The yearn was mostly Debbie Bliss and easily accessible in the States. They also were the only store I could find that sold Worn and Washed http://www.wornandwashedfabrics.com/ quilting fabrics. Great department store! ~ksp

  21. Liberty has been around for a long time, and they are famously associated with the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. Today Liberty is a high-end department store with the focus on the creative – cutting edge fashions and work by new British designers. They recently changed the ground floor around with one room devoted to scarfs and how to wear them, another to high-end handbags. Upstairs on the 3rd or 4th floor there are still fabrics available by the meter (for a price…I think the silk prints I saw about 2 weeks ago were 40 pounds a meter or close to that). Liberty Tana lawn fabric is very fine, exquisitely printed, and cool to wear in summer. It makes lovely blouses or children’s clothes. Be careful with these fabrics – handwash and dry out of the sun as they can fade. There is a small knitting shop where you can get expert, patient advice from the woman who runs that shop. There is also an astonishing home section with bed linens, decorative fabrics, accessories, all extremely refined and hip at the same time. It’s all heart-breakingly fabulous. If you make it to London, try to make it in mid-summer when **many fabrics are on sale**. You can buy a little piece to make a camisole, or to make a flower pin. And even if you can’t afford to buy anything, have a tea and a scone in the tea shop. They serve wonderful rose petal jam…

  22. I too only heard of Liberty of London after reading sewing blogs. I’ve been to their web site and looked at their fabrics, some are nice, but most I can live without. I’ve seen some vintage fabrics, and seem to like those better. I do have 2 vintage silk scarves that are lovely though. I love the paint job on the bike, but 1 speed? No thanks!

    Target has a good thing going with these limited run licensing agreements. It allows them to freshen up their image on a very regular basis, and the designers get a good bit of exposure to a possibly new audience.

  23. To answer your question: Yes, you were living under a rock! Sorry to be so harsh…lol…

    Liberty fabrics have the same effect on me like those Laura Ashley fabrics have…not excited. Whilst the quality is exceptional, the prints are a personal preference.

    A German brand….Westfalen Stoffe comes to mind, it is also a great cotton. Completely free of pesticides and made from organically grown cotton, is also excellent quality. Mainly used for children’s clothing thus the prints are mainly whimsical.

  24. I was under the same rock with you!! I had never heard of it until I began sewing a lot last summer. I think some of the fabrics are really cute, but some look like patterns I visualize grandmothers wearing!!
    I hadn’t seen the Target line. I must still be under the rock!!

  25. I always thought of Liberty of London as being smallish, closely placed designs in lighter colors, not pastels with some William Morris-ish type feeling to it. And I wish they were selling the fabric too!!!

  26. It drives business into said retailer because the masses are getting the ability to buy a designer piece that they couldn’t have afforded otherwise. A win-win situation because it is limited pieces for a limited time.

  27. You can buy a little piece to make a camisole, or to make a flower pin. And even if you can’t afford to buy anything, have a tea and a scone in the tea shop. They serve wonderful rose petal jam…

  28. Oh gag me! The “Liberty” clothing at Target is a real step down. So disappointing to see a quality name on such poor quality merchandise.

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