London’s most eccentric and much-loved department store, Liberty, has been undergoing its biggest ever renovation, with a much-expanded Liberty of London offering exclusive foods and a complete revamp of the men’s and women’s fashion floors. One of the final pieces of the jigsaw is the spectacular redesign of the women’s fashion area stretching over two floors round the distinctive, Tudor-style central atrium, which opens on October 18.
The design unites two floors with a nod to Liberty’s Arts and Crafts heritage – 50ft-high Liberty print curtains fall from the ceiling of the second floor to the carpet of the first, which is printed with a huge William Morris floral design. For the new season, 20 highly individual design names have been added, exemplifying Liberty’s eclectic and individual approach – they include Rejina Pyo, Rosetta Getty, Teija and The Vampire’s Wife. Floor one will be for super-brands such as Valentino, Dries Van Noten, Marni and The Row, with smaller and contemporary brands upstairs, including an ever-changing pop-up space that kicks off with La Double J, the Italian brand run by stylist JJ Martin and using vintage Mantero prints.
At the heart of floor two, in a side gallery, lies a very original project. Sarah Mower, highly regarded fashion critic and the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent, has created Sarah’s List – seven fledgling designers whose work she feels deserves showcasing and who have created exclusive pieces for Liberty. They include preppy skirts and knits from Le Kilt, cloisonné enamel jewellery by Georgian designer Sopho Gongliaschvilli and a capsule collection from 2014 graduate Richard Malone. During London Fashion Week in September, new graduate Richard Quinn showed his first collection, based on blown-up and deconstructed Liberty prints, at the store and his exclusive pieces include a 1950s-inspired dress.
Polish-born Marta Jakubowski is another young star, her slightly 1980s-inflected tailoring is exclusive to Liberty (such as a red quilted coat, £1,065, and pink jacket, £840, and matching trousers, £535), as is Conner Ives, who works with recycled Liberty print fabric to make patchwork shirts (£820) and skinny scarves.
Liberty is well known for its enthusiastic fans who will be keen to snap up such unique pieces. Arriving on opening day might be prudent.