Give Me Liberty or Give Me Manolo: Blahnik is Back at London’s (Maybe The World’s) Best Department Store

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June’s Meadow Liberty Print Shrunken School Boy Blazer, $225

Now that almost every store in the U.S. is a Macy’s and Harrod’s in London  has lost its lustre and affordability under new ownership and seems to be courting the very, very rich instead of its traditional “just affluent” customer, let’s celebrate Liberty London. It’s famous for its heritage, its prints (see J.Crew for Liberty print shrunken school boy blazers, skinny jeans and P.J.’s) and the sometimes eccentric, edgy  surprise of offerings. To Manolo Blahnik it’s his favorite store on earth and  for Time Out London’s readers, 450px-Liberty_(store)_London_UKtheir top shop in town.

Manolo Blahnik
“I have known about Liberty
since I was a young boy. My
mother used to order Tana Lawn
fabric and make us outfits.
The store is so beautiful and
its history is so rich.”

Arthur Liberty
“I was determined not to
follow existing fashion
but to create new ones.”

Ed Burstell, Managing Director
“Liberty is one of the
last great emporiums of its
kind left on earth…it’s the
most unique store that
I have ever come across”

Oscar Wilde

“Liberty is the chosen
resort of the artistic
shopper.”

Time Out London
time-out-2Shopping at Liberty is an
experience to savour…a perfect
clash of innovation, tradition
and English eccentricity.”

Sally Tuffin
“My tuffinfirst visit to Regent Street
was a pure fantasy of delight.
Stepping into the ‘House of Liberty’,
and emporium of exotic colour and
design, and then to walk down
the street under snowflake
Christmas lights – pure heaven!”

With a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law, Arthur Liberty accepted the lease of half a shop at 218a Regent Street with only three staff members.

The shop opened c76d1f31b1dece0eef9a497dec84eea7168e2050d59ead50809e670a6d0d8cb8395639_10150543924522471_1615344424_n 396463_10150543924457471_286989209_n 403117_10150543924822471_988441631_n 408775_10150543924907471_598956492_n 408846_10150543924597471_7074656_n 408928_10150543924637471_1289703968_n 409409_10150543925047471_271926608_n 417633_10150543924557471_676475327_n 431529_10150543924967471_1533783448_n 427986_10150543925397471_1653195649_n 418245_10150543924772471_264642630_nduring 1875 selling ornaments, fabric and objets d’art from Japan and the East. Within eighteen months Arthur Liberty had repaid the loan and acquired the second half of 218 Regent Street. As the business grew, neighbouring properties were bought and added.

In 1885, 142–144 Regent Street was acquired and housed the ever-increasing demand for carpets and furniture. The basement was named the Eastern Bazaar, and sold what was called  “decorative furnishing objects”.  Named Chesham House after the place where  he grew up, the store became the most fashionable  in London and its clientele included famous Pre-Raphaelite artists.

In 1884 Liberty introduced the costume department into the Regent Street store, directed by Edward William Godwin (1833–86). Godwin was a distinguished architect. He was a founding member of the Costume Society in 1882. He and Arthur Liberty created in-house apparel to challenge the fashions of Paris.

During the 1890s,  Liberty London helped popularize  the  emerging Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau  design movments. The shop’s influence was so important, that  in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as the Stile Liberty.

Still privately owned, Liberty London is considered to be the best store in London and maybe the world.  (Especially since all the disturbing, customer-unfriendly changes revelaed this Christmas  at Harrod’s).

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