OVERVIEW – Taking Liberty fashions: celebrating 140 years of a clothing design icon

Image courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum

By AARON McGILLIVRAY

A MAJEURE retrospective celebrating fashion from innovative retailer and design studio Liberty London arrives in Scotland for the first time.

Showcasing over 100 garments and fabrics spanning 143 years, the exhibition explores how textiles bring art into everyday life.

Probably best known as one of the fashion brands that helped define the Swinging Sixties, the famous Liberty brand is explored in the exhibit, Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion. It traces the history of Liberty as a source of major trends in cultural history, including aesthetics, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, pop, and psychedelics.

The exhibition, at Edinburgh’s Dovecot Gallery as part of The Fringe, presents a historical investigation, showcasing early Far Eastern-inspired clothing, through to iconic designs from the Swinging Sixties and more recent collaborations with the greatest British designers.

Founded by Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty, the first store was established in London in 1875 to sell dyed silk fabrics from the Far East, but quickly grew to become the destination of choice for discerning fashion shoppers.

As the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain went international, Liberty traded in woven items, wools and silks imported from Asia, attracting the attention of artists and innovators of the time, notably William Morris, Oscar Wilde and Edward Burne-Jones.

Liberty Art, Fabric & Fashion at the Edinburgh Fringe
Image courtesy of Liberty London

Liberty believed that the use of industrialized methods to produce textiles was essential in order to make beautiful things available at an affordable price and he hired local textile factories to weave fabrics and printing companies to create new colourfast dyes, so to reproduce the popular fabrics he bought abroad.

Celia Joicey, Director of Dovecot, said: “The exhibition celebrates how a British textile brand can become a global success as well as a synonym of artistic quality and creativity. Liberty has a long association with art and design in Scotland, from the Paisley motifs and the Arts and Crafts movement to the modernity of Jean Muir.

“This exhibition is an opportunity to explore Liberty’s Scottish textile ties in the context of the company’s commitment to international avant-garde fashion design.”

The exhibition Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion is presented in partnership with Edinburgh Art Festival and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and in association with Liberty London, with support from the Dovecot Foundation.


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