If you are in DC on May 10, or in NY on May 12, stop by J. Press after work. They are holding an event, Prasan Shah of the Original Madras Company and Rhys Moore of St Johns Fragrance Company are giving presentations (I am doing an interview with them in a few hopefully) and there will be a signature cocktail served. I do not know what the signature cocktail is, but if it is a Madras and they are not asking me to make them, someone is missing out. I only do three things well. Making a Madras is one of them. More details later. Not on what I do well. On the event.
And from my friend James Taylor at Waterhollow Tweed, a brief history of Liberty of London (James curated the photos as well):
A BRIEF HISTORY OF LIBERTY OF LONDON… A STORE MADE FROM ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS!
Although not as well-known in the United States, Liberty of London is an iconic English store, famous for its items (such as ties, scarves, and dresses) made from cloth printed in its own artistic patterns.
Liberty’s was founded in 1875 by Arthur Liberty. Arthur was the son of a draper, and came to London in 1862. He first worked for Farmer and Rogers, a business that specialized in cloaks and shawls. Farmer and Rogers were famous for their Oriental Emporium, which sold Chinese and Japanese cloth; this had started after they had bought up the Japanese silks that had been exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Farmer and Rogers attracted an artistic clientele, among them William Morris, Whistler, and Rossetti. Arthur befriended these persons, and when he set up in business on his own they took their custom to him.
Liberty was wise enough to take advice from his artistic clients, and the store became involved in both the Aesthetic Movement and then the Arts are Crafts movement. Recognizing the desire for lighter Asian textiles Liberty started producing Western versions of them printed with designs from the British art movements. This was incredibly popular, and Liberty branched out–from textiles, to clothing, to soft furnishings.
They continued to be at the forefront of fabric design: The Art Nouveau period say Liberty produce appropriate fabrics, while much later–in the 1960s–they reissued some of their classic designs from the early C20th in eye-popping colours.
By the 1920s Liberty was so succesful that it built its iconic–and still used–mock-Tudor store on Great Malborough Street. The store was constructed from the timbers of two ancient wooden battleships that has been scrapped by the Royal Navy as no longer useful in an era of submarines and steel warships: The HMS Impregnable and the HMS Hindostan. The floor of the store was made from the decking of these ships.
HMS Impregnable was built in 1810, from 3,040 English oaks which were an average of 100 years old. (So, when you walk the floors of Liberty looking for a new tie, you are walking on wood that started life a century before the United States.) Designed after Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, she was a formidable three-decker warship, seeing action during the Napoleonic Wars as the flagship of Admiral The Duke of Clarence (later King William IV). She was sold for breaking in 1906; her timbers were acquired for Liberty’s builders in 1922.
HMS Hindostan was built in 1841 as a twodecker warship. She was scrapped in 1921 after serving primarily as a training ship.
Liberty became associated with upper-class English country houses, “shabby chic”, and the British countryside. Liberty’s association with upper-class English clothing continues: One of their recent collaborations was with Barbour, where they supplied Liberty prints to line Barbour’s iconic waxed jackets.
Liberty continues to flourish!
I’ve always been fascinated by that style of architecture, but it does seem to be a waste of square footage given today’s premium.
Thanks for the interesting bit of history, Mr. Taylor. I always love wearing liberty-print cotton ties in the summer, especially with seersucker suits or a navy blazer. Roughly one more month before I pull them out.
Also, there’s ADAMLEY:
Nice to read about the history. Nice to also note that one of those ancient warships was called HMS Hindostan, the old name for India.
The very first ready-made shirt I purchased as a young man in India in the mid-sixties was made by Liberty’s of London. Until then, what people did was to buy cloth and take it to their tailor who made it up into shirts (or trousers). Tailoring was inexpensive and it cost more to buy a ready-made shirt than to have one tailored to fit you! So it goes.
Fascinating history Mr. Taylor. Thanks for the enlightening post. Liberty prints don’t get a ton of exposure in the States, and my first encounter with them was a crossover project with J. Crew several years ago (which they still do, I think). I had wondered whether there was ever any crossover between Liberty and William Morris.