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.
We simply can’t get enough of Draw in Light‘s Autumn Winter collection. Rich ocre shades, soft draping, hand printed fabrics and luxurious devore combine to ensure these pieces come in right at the top of our sartorial wish list. What’s more, we’ve got some exciting news: our womenswear buyer Stephanie Jones has helped to design a completely exclusive Hot Rainbow Dress for the SS12 collection. Look out for it in store at the end of November!
“The dress really embraces this summer’s trend for vibrant pops of colour. It reminds me of a hot summer sunset – the perfect outfit for sipping cocktails on the beach! Harriet and Polly are so talented – I’ve always admired how they take the detail of fine art printing and translate it into beautiful wearable fashion.” Stephanie Jones, Womenswear Buyer
This week we caught up with designers Harry and Polly to find out more about the evolution of their unique brand,
You branched into velvet for the AW11 collection – how did your processes differ?
The Process is still a Screen Printing based process, you print with a chemical that dissolves the natural pile of the fabric. Hence you get the lovely mix in texture.
You’ve also used a clearer motif – tell us about your inspiration for the collection
The motif is an X ray Image of Harriet. The idea of really being able to wear the designer is a real concept.
As we experimented with texture in Autumn Winter we were really keen to keep exploring this! You will see the introduction of leather, denim and again the devore technique being used in a very clever way for a long dress that exposes the legs from mid thigh. Polly – This is going to be the piece I wear and wear.
If you could have a shopping spree around Liberty right now what would you grab?
Belfast based Abigail Percy and Ryan Bell make beautiful botanical printed homewares, which combine Abigail’s pen and ink illustrations with Ryan’s eye for colour and graphic design. Their unique designs were discovered at our Best of British Design Open Call. Amidst the chaos of London Design Festival they took some time out to answer a few questions for us…
How did the brand begin?
“Ryan and I were both working as designers in our own right (myself as a jeweller, and Ryan as an accessories designer) when we met online on a business forum in 2008… I was living in Glasgow, and Ryan in Belfast, so we began a long distance romance!
When visiting with each other for weeks on end, we would work together in our home studios, and it quickly became apparent how well we gelled in a work environment and creative ideas started flowing. We knew we wanted to collaborate, and, as we both loved homewares and textiles (I had always designed patterns to accompany my jewellery work and Ryan already worked with textiles when creating his bespoke handbags) abigail*ryan homewares was born!”
Where do you source your imagery and what inspires you?
“We actually generate all our own imagery! I spend a lot of time photographing plants and flowers (from many angles) and also collect seeds and leaves to press and keep. I then work from my photo’s (or from life) to create pen and ink illustrations. It’s painstaking work, with some of the drawings taking several days, but we just love the results and the unique voice it provides our collection! Ryan is the graphics whiz on our team, so he then sets about scanning and compiling the drawings and we turn them in to our pattern designs for digitally printing onto cotton.
The natural world, is, of course, a huge inspiration to us – not only as it gives us our subject matter, but also when planning colour stories. Colour is such a huge inspiration to us, we constantly reference fashion and interiors for ideas and never know where our next combination may come from!”
What is great about British Design?
“We genuinely believe it has an individual voice in the design world- you can spot British design a mile off, and its eclectic, vibrant and unique look and feel is a breath of fresh air amongst the sea of ‘everything else’.
Also, by supporting British design, you are supporting your local economy, and this is as much a political choice as a lifestyle one. We feel very strongly about sourcing as many of our materials and services in the UK as possible, and, as we like to say ‘Buying British is the fairest of Fair-Trade’!”
What do you love about Liberty?
“Can we say everything?
I’ve been visiting Liberty since I was a teenager and, honestly, it’s one of the most inspiring shopping emporiums I have ever visited. The way each and every section of the store feels like a small boutique is so very special, and the way the work of individual designers and makers is championed with the same enthusiasm as world-renowned brands is fantastic. By championing British design talent, and in opening its doors for the Best of British Open Call, Liberty has truly created a new level of aspiration for designers. Giving them a chance to pitch their work and gain an ‘in’ to speak to buyers is an invaluable experience. Within the UK, that is a very special and unique opportunity, and one that continues to set Liberty apart from any other store.”
What’s next for abigail*ryan?
“Our next big project is the release of our Heirloom range. We are designing and hand producing one-off and limited edition quilts and floor cushions, using traditional patch-work techniques updated with our own ideas on composition and colour. We want to create pieces that will be handed down within families for generations, so these will be very special gifts, perfect for births, marriages and special birthdays.
We are using our own exclusive cottons, printed in a smaller scale to our usual line, and combining them with beautiful, locally milled Irish linen – which is just so special to work with and wears beautifully with age.
On top of that, we are also scheming a new wallpaper line – but that will be a little down the track! In addition, we will be releasing at least one new pattern design before Christmas…”