Ever wanted to learn how to make your very own clothing, but found the thought of following a dress pattern more daunting than Everest? Print aficionado, Keighley is here to put you at ease. We caught up with Liberty’s loveliest print designer to pick up some dress making tips, and pry into the world of the Liberty Design Studio and what it’s like to work there. We also got a glimpse of Keighley’s collection of handmade garments – flirty floral frocks, retro A-line minis and a host of snug fleece sweatshirts – all enough to make you green with wardrobe envy.
How long have you been a print designer at Liberty, and how did you end up working in the Liberty print design team?
I’ve been at Liberty for about two and a half years. I studied fashion print at Central St. Martins and was on a sandwich course so I could spend a year in the industry before my final year, most of which I spent at Liberty. I loved it and was offered a job for when I finished my degree which was really exciting.
What part of the print design process do you love and find the most exciting?
I love the actual designing part the most; drawing, painting or lino printing the design. But getting the brief and the research part, when I’ve got lots of ideas buzzing around my head, is pretty exciting too. Once the design has been approved the colouring stage is really interesting. When the design starts to be coloured it really comes to life and it always amazes me how colour can transform the design.
You sometimes go on field trips to get inspiration for the seasonal fabric designs. What has been the most memorable trip you’ve taken with the team?
The most memorable trip was Florence. One of the other designers and I went at the end of last year and it was just incredible. There is so much beauty packed into such a small city. We went for three days and managed to see so many inspiring things, I can’t go into too much detail as it was research for Autumn/ Winter 2015 – which is still very top secret!
Working so many seasons in advance, how do you ensure designs will remain relevant and current?
It’s great working so far in advance because it allows us to almost set the trends and create designs that will go on to inspire others who will use the fabrics in their collections. Our briefs are always so inspiring and within our collections we try to create gorgeous designs and beautiful colours that will appeal to a variety of customers. We also have an innovation team who search for great new base fabrics to put our designs on to. We have recently launched denim and fleece, which are both amazing and so wearable (I think I have five Liberty fleece jumpers now!).
What is your favourite Liberty print, and what does it mean to you?
Oh that’s quite a hard question! I’m going to have to mention a few. I’m quite attached to all of my designs as I work on them for so long, then we can name them after someone and that makes you feel even more attached! I named my very first design ‘Jacqueline Helena’ after my mum; I designed it at St. Martins when we did a collaboration competition with Liberty in our second year. My first design as a designer here was inspired by sound and was named after my brother, ‘Joshua Graham’. I also love ‘Kevin’ (my dad!), a design from Autumn/ Winter 2014 which was inspired by star constellations. From Spring/ Summer 2014, I think my favourites are ‘Sheree’ which was inspired by the Liberty Bath House and named after my auntie, and ‘Jess and Jean’ which was inspired by the furnishing room. I’ve just seen that Sessùn have used it for a dress which I’m really excited to buy. I haven’t even mentioned the designs I love that I haven’t designed! I must just mention ‘Alice’s Garden’, a design from Autumn/ Winter 2013. This is ‘Anna’s garden’ (also a beautiful print which was inspired by a scarf print from the archive) made really tiny and put onto fleece, it’s just gorgeous. ‘Wild Flowers’ from Autumn/ Winter 2014 was created from a paper cut sculpture of a botanical book, it was also printed on fleece, so I made a gorgeous jumper and also recently upholstered my wooden desk chair cushion with it, which looks lovely.
Is it true there is a print named after you? Have you made anything from the design?
Yes! ‘Keighley’ was designed in Spring/ Summer 2012, I absolutely love it and have brought metres of it. I can’t decide what to make, it has to be something special. Luckily, Paige Denim used ‘Keighley’ and made a really cute pair of denim shorts which I obviously bought.
You make many of your own items using Liberty print, what has been your favourite project so far?
When I was interning I collected lots of different scraps and made a quilt which is on my bed so I love waking up to that. But making clothes is fun; being able to see something I like then try and re-create it is great. I went through a phase of making lots of fleece jumpers, but at the moment I seem to be making lots of A-line mini skirts out of the denim and also material from our new Furnishing Fabrics collection. I also really enjoy making presents, it’s lovely to give someone something you’ve made, even if it’s something little.
Many people feel daunted by the prospect of making clothing, what advice or encouragement do you have for those first timers?
Don’t be daunted! It really is quite easy if you start with something simple, like an elasticated skirt, for example, or a T-shirt style dress. The best way to start is to get hold of a garment that you like the shape of and that you can ideally cut up to create a pattern. It’s a really good way of seeing how garments are put together and the more you practice the more you will get used to knowing what the patterns need to look like to be able to fit the body. Trial and error is the best way to learn if you haven’t had any training in it.
Finally, will you be making anything from the new season ‘Gallery of Prints’ collection? If so, which print will you be using?
As we design so far ahead I’ve had the Spring/ Summer ’14 fabric around for a while, so I’ve made a smock dress from ‘Jonathan’, some boxer shorts and an iPad case out of ‘Sheree’ and lots of cushions out of ‘Jess and Jean’, which look lovely. Also, a little rag doll for my niece’s first birthday with a patchwork dress of ‘Sheree’, ‘Jess and Jean’, ‘Jennie and Steve’ and few other designs from other seasons. I went to have a look at the collection on the shop floor the other day and was reminded of how much I love ‘Isle of Wight’, so I really want to make something out of that… I’m not sure what yet.
Textile graduates Harry Barford and Polly Wilkinson founded Draw in Light in 2009, specialising in ethereal and elegant womenswear. Using free-hand silk screen printing techniques, each garment is individual by nature and charged with their signature raw femininity.
The British designers collaborated with the Liberty design team to create a print for the Spring/Summer 2014 Gallery of Prints collection. Their print, ‘Summer’, is a surreal landscape created with the brand’s signature freedom of expression. Harry and Polly would use their print to create clothing, teddy bears and home furnishings. We caught up with them to find out more about their unique collaboration with Liberty.
Having been spotted at Liberty Best of British in 2010, what does it mean to you to be asked to collaborate on a Liberty print fabric?
We felt honoured to be able to collaborate on a Liberty print. It’s wonderful to be part of such a historic side of the Liberty business and wonder what people will be making with the cloth. I’d love to see some kind of patchwork teddy.
How do you think your print represents both your own brand and Liberty?
The Draw in Light signature is based around a free-hand approach to silk screen printing, combined with delicate illustration. This is represented in the landscape and trees. I think the magic of the Liberty team is to take a large scale print like this and put it into a beautiful repeat and scale that works perfectly for the fabric.
What was your favourite part of the design process?
Splashing paint around in our studio and of course coming to see the Liberty print archive – an Aladdin’s cave of print and colour.
Is the design process for a fashion print similar to when you design a print for fabric?
Absolutely identical. I think the only difference in fashion is that you have to consider flattering colour and scale. Really a lot of our prints could be placed on any object; fashion is just our way to display our print.
Did you use any unusual techniques to create your design?
We are very hands on. We mix all our colours from our studio and print with mostly free-hand. This means we can print in a loose, creative way, meaning our prints are really unique. More like ready-to-wear art.
Will you be making anything out of your Liberty print and if so, what?
We have made some cushions. Simple but beautiful! It’s lovely to see the spectrum of colour.
What can we expect in 2014 from Draw in Light? Any new year’s resolutions for the brand?
We are very focused this year. It’s about British heritage and our take on what we consider classic. I think our constant resolution every year will be to be inspired and yet always refine our ideas.
What do you love most about the Liberty store?
The consortium of stock and heritage. We try and visit at least once a month to buy presents and check on our rail.
Discover and shop more prints from the new season Liberty Art Fabrics collection >
Helen Bullock has attended fashion shows all over the world in her capacity as a designer and illustrator. For London Fashion Week, we asked her to collaborate on a window display with the Liberty Visual Merchandising team – the result is a colourful celebration of all things fashion, Liberty and London. Read our interview with Helen to discover how the windows came about and visit them yourself on Great Marlborough Street.
What were your first thoughts for the Liberty windows? Do you feel this has been reflected in the finished result?
I had a variety of meetings with the VM team, and we all seemed keen that the window should be heavy with colour and texture, and more than anything feel very hand-done so you get the sense of creativity behind it. As I got further along in the design process, it became clear to me that the key to window’s development was energy – I was really keen to get a sense of immediacy within it, to keep it feeling alive.
Which aspects of London Fashion Week did you want to evoke in your display?
The creativity and diversity that London is known for.
Did you draw inspiration from and London Fashion Week designers?
Not one specific designer, but I think the boldness and bravery we see in British fashion was a driving force.
How do you think Liberty best represents London designers?
I think Liberty selects some great pieces for the store that really reflect the talent of the city’s designers. As a very new designer/illustrator, I was really encouraged to have collaborated with a store of such great establishment. It reflects that Liberty is a store prepared to take risks and really support London’s creative community.
See more of our London Fashion Week windows and our window archive here.
What was your favourite part of the window dressing process?
From start to finish, every element was new and exciting. Having one of your favourite stores say that they want to work with you was such an incredible moment. Also the freedom I was given throughout the whole process made it such a great experience. Actually getting into the store and making everything start to become real was daunting yet really invigorating, and being amongst a really great team furthered the enjoyment. I’ve never painted/scribbled on windows before… that was definitely fun, like a form of permitted vandalism! Something I’d like to do more of.
How did designing Liberty’s windows differ from your usual design work?
It’s hard to describe actually – the work I do for myself is always on quite a large scale, so I didn’t really think it would be that different. However, really did take a long time to get my head around. The windows have lots of different planes and borders – I took quite a few trips to the store to stand staring at the windows for ages (looking insane no doubt). In the end though I had to go back to thinking of them as a flat canvas. It was all a very fluid process, and I had to be continually in the moment, and prepared to be flexible with my ideas. Quite nerve racking, but very exciting.
What does London Fashion Week represent for you, as opposed to Paris/New York/Milan?
Well, I’m here in the city for a start, with quite a few of my friends showing their work. It feels quite intimate really, a scene that you can be part of. It’s fun and unexpected. I always see the other [cities] as a little more grown-up and sophisticated – London is perhaps the teenager of the bunch, still experimenting and growing.
Where would you love to see one of your illustrations in the future?
I have a lot of my work online with various magazines that I work with, but it would be great to see them in the real world in a tangible format. I’d love to work directly with designers as part of their visual merchandising or look books, but really somewhere large like a bus! I love when things get taken to a large scale.
See more of the windows and past displays from our archive here