Handpainted printed swimwear: Liberty’s first resortwear collection

The store selected prints from its extensive archives to adorn swimwear, sarongs and silk wrap dresses for the beach and beyond

Arboreal swimsuit, £245
Arboreal swimsuit, £245

Given the perennial popularity of the Liberty print – the sleep and loungewear range launched in October 2017 and sales have risen 68 per cent year on year – it makes perfect sense for the heritage brand to diversify. The latest launch for the almost 150-year-old emporium is its Travel & Swim collection (from £150 for a cotton sarong), with a ready-to-wear line to follow in October.

Arboreal wrap dress, £550
Arboreal wrap dress, £550

The line, overseen by Liberty’s director of product Amelia Hornblow, is based around four handpainted prints from the extensive Liberty archives. “It took us four months to settle on the prints,” she says. “We wanted the collection to be joyful and fun, to evoke a holiday feeling but still have that Liberty sensibility.”

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Arboreal, an elegant jungle-inspired print, definitely fits the bill. “We’ve never really done a print with bananas and monkeys before,” continues Hornblow, “but we wanted this collection to be braver.” Legend is a beautiful block print based on an archival design said to have been created originally by architect and arts and crafts designer CFA Voysey. The Mina print is inspired by Liberty’s iconic Tree of Life print and features peacocks, tigers and bold flowers; colour-saturated Valencia is replete with citrus fruits and leaves.

Valencia bikini set, £245, and wrap dress, £550
Valencia bikini set, £245, and wrap dress, £550

Rescaled and reimagined, the larger graphics work particularly well on the swimsuits (£245) and pieces such as the Mina sandwashed-silk wrap dress (£595). “The Tree of Life print literally looks likes it’s growing up the body,” says Hornblow.

Mina wrap dress, £595
Mina wrap dress, £595

The swimwear took another four months to complete, says Hornblow. “We had to perfect the fit on different body shapes and create prototypes, but we also had to develop styles that would allow the prints to sing. We wanted the prints to be in harmony with the body.” A one-piece is available in two designs: button-front (£275) or a simple tank shape (£225), both featuring invisible bust support. There are two bikini styles: a vintage-looking bandeau top with side boning and moulded cups, with high-waisted bottoms; and a skimpier triangle style with shoestring ties (both £245).

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After the launch of the sleepwear collection, it quickly became apparent that customers were wearing their Liberty-print silk robes and shirts as daywear over jeans. Designed for the beach and beyond, the Travel & Swim collection also includes sandwashed-silk shorts (£225), sarongs in silk (£295) and cotton (£150), and gauzy cotton chiffon shirtdresses (£295). Silk printed scarves and Venetian silk slippers are to be added imminently.  

Alyson Walsh is the author of Know Your Style, published by Hardie Grant, £12.99. She blogs as That’s Not My Age. To read more of her How To Spend It columns, click here.

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