Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the exhibition Liberty in Fashion which focusses solely on the Liberty style from its creation until now. The exhibition is being held at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey London from the 9th of October until the 28th of February.
I was really excited to see this exhibition, especially on the second day it was open and it did not disappoint. Although a little small the space was set over two floors with several different sections, each section explored a different “era” of Liberty design.
Section one looked at a small introduction to Liberty and it founder Arthur Lasenby. Liberty was founded 140 years ago and started off as a warehouse supplying fashionable goods from the Far East, however Liberty soon discovered a distinctive style in British Fashion which led it to becoming one of Britain’s most well known fashion houses. Lasenby’s goal was to create new styles and not copy styles that had come before, the production of their own fabric and also “Art Colours” aided this progression.
The exhibition starts off by looking at a Dialogue with the East. Japan’s trading with the west in the 1850’s soon enabled Japan to become synonymous with Liberty. Lasenby’s Oriental Bazaar was known for selling silks originally from the Far East and also items such as fans and china, however soon it would begin to source items from other countries enabling the completion of the demand for more exotic merchandise. During the 20th Century, Liberty took a lot of inspiration from the east for its own designs and design work.
Next it brought us to the Artistic Dressing. This was the opposite of the next movement that came in during the 1860’s and 1870’s looking at more embellished dresses with corsets. Artistic dressing brought back the looser fitting garments of the east and looked more at natural shape. Art embroidery was the main focus of the dresses due to the lack of frills.
Pre World War One, Liberty’s production involved floral prints and this production increased during the inter-war time. However the 1920’s brought in prints on a dark background and pastel shades on light background which reflected a more romantic style such of that of the 1930’s.
During the 1950’s the theme of Art Nouveau prints came into style. Designer William Pool redrew Art Nouveau patterns and added more vivid colours, this was released as the Lotus collection and sold on silk, wool and cottons. This pattern continued until retro revived of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
In the 1960’s British Fashion design was at the forefront. The younger generation of designers wanted to create a new way of dressing and has a concept of “Englishness”. This was at the time that Mary Quant invented the mini skirt and designers such as Jean Muir and Marion Donaldson used Liberty prints in their works.
In the 1970’s Art Deco, classic cinema, flea market finds and antique clothing was brought back into fashion after London gave way to a yearning for the past. Small dense florals were brought back and favoured amongst designers.
Since 1875, Liberty has grown bigger and bigger now producing more products than ever and sourcing from all over the planet. It continues to advise and educate and also inspire.
The exhibition overall was really interesting. Not only did it give us and insight into Liberty but also an insight into how the fashions changed with how the world changed. I thought the way in which the exhibition was set up as eras was a great way to show the progression of the brand. Although the exhibition rooms were inside where no natural light could reach, the artificial spotlights worked extremely well giving the right about of light to the designs. I appreciated some of the backgrounds of the dresses such as the style of wallpaper and also sometime more physical objects such as peacock feathers. I would definitely consider visiting the museum again as it really enticed me ! I thought it was a good size and a reasonable price for entry and I would love to see some more insightful exhibitions in this space.
Background patterns and textures