It has begun! London Fashion Week is on (Sept 13-17). The biannual spectacle of frocks and fashionistas has landed at Somerset House, occasionally dispersing to satellites sites across the city in a flurry of whatever fabric and cut is currently de mode. This is one of the most exciting opportunities to see the best in British design and creativity. It also gives us a bit of an idea of what we’ll be wearing next summer… if you can imagine such a season from the depths of a soggy autumn afternoon and that chunky cashmere sweater you’re wearing.
But what’s this? You can’t pop over for a swift visit to London Fashion Week? Fear not. I have another option for you.
- It’s open all year round.
- It’s my favourite showcase for contemporary and avant-garde British and international fashion.
- And it beats its rivals hands down. HANDS DOWN.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Liberty.
Ooooh… I cannot wax lyrical enough about this jewel of a department store. It’s situated on Great Marlborough Street, just behind Oxford Circus and Regent Street and at the top end of Carnaby Street. Arthur Lasenby Liberty founded the business in 1875, originally as a store that sold decorative arts and textiles from Japan and the Far East and thus tapping in to the 19th-century vogue for japonisme and all things Oriental.
A fashion – at the time known as the “costume” – department followed in 1884. By the 1890s some of the greatest designers of the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements were working with Liberty to produce the most defining prints, patterns and objets d’arts of the period.
It wasn’t until 1924 that the beautiful mock Tudor emporium, which defines the Liberty shopping experience, was built. The father and son architectural duo, Edwin T. and Edwin S. Hall, were the masterminds behind this stunning edifice.
It’s a monument to upcycling; the timbers of two deconstructed ships, HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan, create the framework upon which the most luxurious and exquisite of wares are displayed.
The glorious atriums for example? Originally intended as spaces to display Ottoman carpets….
…they can also offer thrilling light and art installations to dazzle the discerning shopper.
Speaking of which, in the 19th century Oscar Wilde noted that “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper” and that still applies today. Vivienne Westwood Anglomania, Sophie Hulme, Barbour & Folk are just a few of the fashion labels to chose from whilst fabrics, home wares and a very select beauty edit are amongst the other delights on offer.
So whatever time of year you come to London, get thee to Liberty for the city’s most carefully and elegantly curated shopping experience.
Zoë F. Willis is a writer and enthusiastic London resident. You can read more about her adventures and creative exploits at http://thingswotihavemade.blogspot.co.uk/