Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A Grouch about Liberty of London

Went to Liberty's sale in Regent Street - it's one of our twice a year fun outings, even though I also sometimes shop at Liberty's at full price (when I'm feeling rich).

I haven't been doing much shopping lately and I don't think I've actually been there for a year. I was frankly shocked when I went in. For those who don't know the store, it's an extraordinary gigantic half timbered building reputedly made out of an old sailing ship, a great rambling place all of oak and with leaded and stained glass windows. Amazing. The firm was founded with the idea of offering really good design. In the 100-odd years since then, they've had sporadic bouts of producing gorgeous original designs as well as keeping their old designs going - liberty prints, peacock prints, etc.

Now, they've revamped the sales areas, and in doing so lost a lot of the enticing atmosphere, and cruelly exposed the derivative quality of the goods they're currently selling and the fact that they're not commissioning any interesting or original things themselves. I saw a lot of one design, on everything from towels to purses, in a sort of wiggly art nouveau pattern. How cheap can you get, to just use the same design on all kinds of different goods. Clearly nobody has given any thought to making beautiful things, it's just a crass branding exercise.

The fab interior, all turn of the century oak and arts and crafts fireplaces, is still intact, although the bitty and unsympathetic displays look a bit strange in it.

Something pretty incompetent going on, but I'll be really sorry if Liberty of London bites the dust. It's an institution, and it used to be an institution in a good way, where you could always be sure of getting something amazing and creative.

I have decided I will take my sale shopping elsewhere. So there.


  1. I agree. Left without buying anything as well.

  2. Oh dear, I still like it. Especially their frocks. Although I do agree that the bags aren't up to much this time and I would like to see some more liberty prints in the main display. I think the new scarf section is lovely, and they still have scarfs in the main front bit too.

    Was disappointed not to see half as many bargains in their sale this year though. Perhaps they are feeling the crunch?

  3. It's interesting you say this, the last time I was in Liberty, a couple of years ago, it struck me how "flat" it was looking - in as much as everything was, as you say, so derivative. It was really disappointing and for the first time ever, I left without buying anything.

  4. I think it now belongs to the owner of a group of upmarket hotels, no doubt thinks entirely in terms of branding etc. without understanding that people can develop a personal affection for a place's quirkiness and originality. Trading on your name works for a while but I don't know if it is destructive in the long term


Blog Archive