After being spotted by Liberty at the Best of British open call in 2011, ex-costume designer Alexandra Mann’s bold and exotic wash bags have seen huge success. Made from fabrics sourced in vintage markets and far-flung locations, each creation is an individual investment for your travel collection.
For Get Creative Alexandra is offering custom-made washbags; choose a personalised present for a friend or indulge your own creative spirit.
We caught up with the British designer to find out more about her designs, brand and what products she’s obsessing over in the Liberty beauty hall.
How has your business changed since Liberty’s Best of British Open Call in 2011?
I am not sure I had a proper business before! I was exclusive to Liberty for a year so the most important thing that I learned was how to run my business and cope with growing orders all whilst being stocked in one of the best stores in the world. Not nerve racking at all! I showed at Maison et Objet in Paris this September and am working on growing the brand.
How do you bring your flair for costume into your designs?
Costume design was always working from a script and I get to let loose on my own brand. Liberty customers like things to be as unique and vibrant as possible so I try to make each cutwork bag more crazy than the last. From the first order Liberty were really forward-thinking and agreed that sizes of the bags and what I delivered fabric wise was up to me and always a surprise. They change with each new delivery, it keeps things fresh for the customers.
What drew you to make bags in the first place?
I knew I wanted my own brand and I loved printed fabric. I made a washbag for a friend and it grew by word of mouth. Sunday Times Style and Vogue both approached me to cover my products and the next year Marcus from the menswear blog ‘The Chic Geek‘ recommended I try out for Best of British. I met with Susie Bubble and Sarah Coonan and an order was placed. The beauty team have been very supportive and helped me grow the business. I am working on a collection of leather and fabric hand bags at the moment. They are very architectural and quite different from anything else I have done before.
Where is your favourite place to source fabrics?
I like a good rummage. Every fabric shop has a potential find. Mostly London and some car boot sales for vintage curtain material. I’m always on the lookout! Obviously I am very fond of Dutch wax cloth and its bold graphic punch. There are several places I go but I can’t give away all my secrets! I try to keep fabrics as varied as possible so there is something for everyone.
Do you have plans for any more products alongside the wash bags?
I am currently expanding the beauty brand to eye masks, shower caps, candles, slippers, leather bags and dressing gowns too… I try to think of what I need and if it isn’t available to buy for my taste.
Which bag (if any) do you use yourself?
I actually use a small make-up bag that is gold studded wax cloth and a small leather pouch. I take them everywhere I go. Weirdly I don’t actually have one of my appliqué bags. I just realised I must make one!
How will you be customising your wash bags for Get Creative?
For Get Creative I decided to give Liberty customers the chance to name or initial their bag. They are popular online but there has never been a way of selling them through the store before. I think these will work well as gifts for everyone from a new mum, a treat yourself or even your husband.
What are your top tips for at-home customising?
Fabric paint, glitter and glue is a good place to start but it’s different with bags as they need to be durable especially when they come into contact with water. They almost need to be personalised before they are made up, which is why I am offering a bespoke service. However, badges are a brilliant way to jazz up a bag! You can even make your own badges or sew on buttons like a pearly queen.
Finally, what are your top 5 essential products from the Liberty beauty hall and why?
Malin + Goetz – Mojito Mojito lip glass: It’s clear and tastes and smells gorgeous. I really love the simplicity of this brand and their scents are original.
Better You – Magnesium Flakes: I cannot stress enough how much this product drains away stress and makes for a lovely night’s sleep. It’s magic, and really good after a workout to ease stiffness.
Egyptian Magic – Skin Cream: This cream is very rich and really is a miracle like it says on the tin. You can use it on your hair and to add dew over make up, and it works well after a bath on legs during the long unforgiving winter months. It kinda does everything!
Liberty were delighted to be invited to the UK Fashion & Textiles Awards on 23 May. Celebrating the very best of British manufacturing and design, we were thrilled to win the 2013 Retailer of the Year category! There to accept the award on Liberty’s behalf was Lee Whittle, our General Store Manager and Hollie Maddox, our Acting Head of Marketing. We caught up with Lee to find out how the evening went.
Tell us about the beginning of the night…
Our fantastic night at the UK FT awards started off with a welcoming glass of champagne as we arrived at the amazing venue (One Mayfair) and then milled about among the fashion industry leaders, brands, retailers, and celebrities. We were then shown to our table where we sat with Caroline Nodder, Editor-in-Chief at Drapers, as well as the family business Abraham Moon – that later went on to win Supplier of the Year. We were really interested to learn about the Abraham Moon wool business, and found out that we had a lot in common. Even older than Liberty – at a grand old age of 176 years – the Moon business still retains its core values of authenticity and quality. It was great to celebrate their win with them, and then to find out we won Retailer of the Year!
How did you find out we had won?
We were looking through the programme of the evening and saw that Liberty was the only name under the nominees for Retailer of the Year. It turned out that we had already won the award, having been voted for by members of the UK Fashion & Textile Association, with the final vote cast by the judges – which included leading industry figures and journalists. It was great to know that Liberty had been awarded the prize by our business peers, and that we’d been recognised for supporting British designers.
What was it like going up to collect the award?
Surreal! I got to shake hands with Anne, The Princess Royal as she gave me the award and then air-kiss Myleene Klass while a model dressed in Levi’s x Liberty print strutted down the catwalk. We then stood with all the other winners including Christopher Raeburn, Emma Shipley and, of course, the Abraham Moon representatives for a photo. Hollie joked that it was my P-Diddy moment as I managed to strike a pose with Myleene Klass and our model. Fantastic!
Any final thoughts?
It was a really great night for Liberty. The reception we got from everyone was so warm; everyone commented on how much they loved the store and our products and we had more than one person asking how to get their products stocked at the store. For me, it confirmed what I’ve always believed, that Liberty truly is the best and most innovative retailer, retaining its place at the heart of the British Fashion industry.
Last month, Liberty was invited to take part at a very special event in New York celebrating the very best of British. For four days only, Visit Britain and British Airways hosted “The Big British Invite”, taking over a 15,000 square foot space in the heart of Soho, Manhattan and giving New Yorkers an enticing glimpse of Britain’s finest cuisine, fashion, nightlife and cultural establishments. Amongst a host of notable British brands, including five star English afternoon tea experts The Sanderson Hotel, Liberty provided a brilliantly British experience with its renowned scarf styling tutorials. We caught up with Liberty scarf stylist Hannah Matthews, who was lucky enough to represent the store at this exciting event.
“When I first came to Liberty and learned to style scarves over three years ago, I never would have dreamt that one day I’d be sent across the world to give New Yorkers a taster of the Scarf Hall experience. It was a real honour to be asked to go, but I didn’t quite realise how incredible the event was going to be until I got to the Soho address, welcoming everyone in with a red carpet entrance! As guests arrived at the warehouse space just off Broadway they were greeted with a cocktail and boarding card, before being invited to try out the British Airways First Class cabin. Soul star Estelle then called guests to departure, and they began their journey through the myriad of British delights with delicious refreshments along the way.
After stopping for a carrot meringue at the Sanderson’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea, a whisky cocktail at Worship Street Whistling Shop and a dance in the Silent Rave Room, New Yorkers were more than ready to learn some scarf styling tips with us in our beautiful Liberty space. We transformed our area to capture the essence of our infamous Scarf Hall and flower entrance, complete with antique features and the delicate scents of wild flowers. In fact our home-grown visitors, including Estelle, fashion icon Alexa Chung and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens commented on how our Liberty space made them long for home!
Upon arriving at destination Liberty, visitors were invited to try some of our famous styles, including “The Liberty Bow Tie”, “The Liberty Head Scarf” and “The Liberty Wrap”. However, the clear favourite among the famously fashion savvy New Yorkers was the flamboyant “Rose” styled as a headband. Even the men seemed to prefer this style above all others! So confident were the visitors in learning the styles, that they were soon freestyling, with some very interesting results…
I felt so incredibly lucky to be involved in such an innovative and fun event that represented modern Britain in a truly refreshing way, and Liberty couldn’t have been more at home alongside its fellow British pop-ups. New Yorkers experienced Liberty’s rich heritage, our unrivalled prints, and signature styling, amongst a variety of wonderful British highlights. A perfect showcase for Liberty’s offbeat yet luxuriously quintessential Britishness.”
Liberty’s Managing Director, Ed Burstell was chosen by The Big British Invite as one of the campaign’s launch ambassadors. Watch the video of Ed inviting visitors over to visit London and our historic store below.
With the arrival of the Draw In Light ‘Take Heart‘ Autumn Winter 2012 collection, our Womenswear department has been left mesmerised.
Inspired by the science of anatomy, the collection draws from a heavy visual influence of skeletons. Yet from such a tough, bony and gruesome source, the collection manifests into a beautiful display of art, played out on luxury fabrics and in palettes of hypnotising colour.
We spent some time with the London based Draw in Light design duo Polly Wilkinson and Harriet Barford to talk about how their hand silk printing artfully creates such an ethereal aesthetic out of such dark imagery.
Draw in Light is now in its 5th season here at Liberty. Tell us what we can expect from the new collection…
The new collection is inspired by anatomy and rich pigment colours. The collection has graphic black and white prints of 1800’s skeletons, hand painted brush strokes and is fabricated on luxurious sand washed silk and devore velvet.
You describe the ‘Take heart’ collection as the ‘internal and external framework of our anatomy’. Where did you find your inspiration for this collection?
The inspiration came from anatomical and scientific drawings; we researched the print ideas at the Hunterian Museum and looked at pictures from the Welcome collection along with ancient scientific books.
You’re known for your amazing screen-printed fabrics – how did you create the prints for this collection?
A large proportion of our prints were created using an open screen and hand painting pigment hues with dye through the screen. The only graphic details being small resists of little diagrams. The velvet print of a heart of thorns was made using a devore technique. The graphic skeleton was made using a process called discharge in where you remove the colour from the base cloth.
This collection includes silk and velvet – how are these different to work with?
The silk is beautiful. You use acid dyes to print with. After you have created the print and let it dry you put the fabric into a steamer: it’s like magic the colours appear so bright afterwards. We use sand washed silk that has a beautiful handle and feels like suede. The velvet is just so special as it can be dissolved in the pile leaving behind a sheer fabric. The texture is a beautiful contrast.
Which items from the new collection would we find hanging in your own wardrobes?
You print all the fabrics for you collections yourself – tell us about the printing process and how long it takes:
We hand silkscreen all of our fabric in our studio in London. The bit that takes the time is setting up the screen, as it has to be stripped, washed, coated and exposed. Then you have to mix and match the colours that you will be using. The printing process is the fun and easy bit, but very messy though! Ours hands and finger nails look as though we’ve been digging graves. That sounds a bit morbid especially when considering to this collection, but it’s true!
If we were a fly on the wall in your studio whilst you were printing the latest collection, what secrets would we discover about Draw In Light?
You would discover that we have a puppy – a miniature English Bull terrier, called Bruce. You would see the artistry in our designs, which is the reason that our t-shirts are expensive; they really are a one offs. We like to think of them as a ready to wear piece of couture. Not many designers make their own fabric; I think it’s really nice to know that the designer has touched the end product and that it’s not made in a factory. We also seem to have very pretty interns.
The ideal Draw In Light woman is an individual. She doesn’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing. She is cross discipline and enjoys Art as well as Fashion. She has an intelligence that appreciates the integrity that is found in UK industry. It has a social and economic impact to produce here.
What are your top 3 items to get you through a long night printing in the Draw In Light studio?
Loud Music – David Bowie, Houses, Future Islands, Prince, Grimes.
We may have been known to have the occasional glass of wine while printing!
Won over by the Draw in Light duo? Shopthe new collection in store on the first floor or online here
The AW12 ‘Take Heart’ collection
Win the chance to design and print your own unique pieice of couture with Draw In Light
Draw In Light are offering one Liberty blog reader the chance to spend half a day printing with the designers in their studio. The half-day will result in the winner making their very own bespoke piece of Draw In Light fabric that will later be made into a shape of their choice, apersonal piece of couture.
For your chance to win simply answer the following question:
Which year were Draw in Light discovered at our Best of British Open Call?
Click here to submit your answer. Entries are open until midnight on the 14th September 2012. Good luck!
Polly Wilkinson is one half of London design duo Draw In Light, who were discovered at the Liberty Best of British Design Open Call. Polly, together with Harriet Barford, makes beautifully hand printed pieces which are available online and in store now. Polly kept a diary of her day as they presented at London Fashion Week, in a unique set-up where artists took part a live life drawing class whilst modelling the Draw In Light Autumn Winter 2012 collection…
My day starts. Going through what we need for the show in my head, making sure we remembered everything! I try to get some more sleep.
Jump into the shower, do my make-up and get dressed into a white shirt, black cashmere jumper, silk jacquard trousers and Dries Van Noten perspex heel boots. Feeling anxious about the show.
My car arrives. In it already is Brian Doherty, our set photographer. We drive on to pick up Harry, dressed in a beautiful red paint Draw In Light dress with creeper boots, and head into Fashion central.
The set is ready from the day before; hair and make-up prepare their stations. The models, life models and art teacher arrive. The hair team is headed up by Yumi who has just got back from shows in New York.
Harriet has her fringe cut by Yumi whist I get a blow dry. Models are made to look like English schoolgirls, fresh faced and natural with a British side-parting and slight scruff… We have cast a mix of real Central Saint Martins students and models from Premiere.
Girls are dressed in Draw In Light’s AW12 collection “Take Heart”
Our Life Drawing Teacher talks the girls through the class.
Our three beautiful nudes arrive on set. Ffion – Saint Martins student and life model, Kim – life model and 55-year-old novis and life model Inderjeet Lee, who stole the show with her slender limbs.
Debussy’s notes filter through the air. Scented candles fill the room, huge plumes of white flowers are displayed in the fire hearths. The sun shines though the leaded glass windows of 2 Temple Place, onto polished wooden floors and our fresh-faced class.
A last scuffle as we get the final things in place. Running only a few minutes late…
Press, buyers, family and friends enter into the class, including Norman, Harriet’s 91-year-old grandfather. It is an intimate affair: my two sisters, Phoebe and Hermione, model and draw in the class.
The class is in full swing and the teacher is directing the girls and life models in practice and poses.
11:00 Caroline Issa arrives along with Susie Bubble and sister Louisa Lau – dressed in Draw In Light. Max from Art Wednesday pops in and tells us while tweeting what an innovative idea he thinks this is.
The room has a great atmosphere and mix of people looking at the live class, sketches and drawings that have been produced.
The class is told to finish off their drawings, which by now have got a beautiful flow to them.
Our Nudes are applauded for the uninhibited generousity they showed to bare all in the name of fashion and art.
North6 production have whisked us out of the room, our set is cleared and we are back in the green room to pack up our kit and change the girls.
We only found out about our presentation at LFW last Monday so it is an incredible feat… Our team have been dedicated and hard working over the last five days to get the show ready.
The result of all that effort was a flurry of interest in Draw In Light, the support from Caroline Issa, Yasmin Swell, Susie Bubble, Kyle Robinson and Paper Mache Tiger (our agent) along with Tamsin Blanchard from the Telegraph was integral to its success. Relative|Mo played the biggest part of all our supporters for offering us the opportunity to express ourselves as Draw In Light. Harry and I are now sitting in our local pub in Hackney eating pizza, drinking wine with our wonderful team, feeling humbled, proud and happy. Thank you especially to Liberty London for being Draw In Light’s first stockist and believing in us. We hold you in the highest esteem.