The Liberty Best of British open call has been championing British design since 2009. Ahead of the next event this Saturday, catch up with some of the success stories from previous years.
Do you have a unique and innovative product you dream of seeing stocked on the renowned shelves of Liberty?
The British Design Open Call offers upcoming designers and entrepreneurs the chance to present their designs to our expert panel of judges, and if they’re successful their designs will be chosen to be stocked in our hallowed halls. The 6th of its kind to take place at our Regent Street department store, it is a unique opportunity to show products directly to Liberty’s Managing Director, Ed Burstell, his esteemed buying team and industry experts – including top names from press and fashion retail.
Want to know what to expect from the day? Watch our video from previous years to discover more >
Over the past six years we’ve had many success stories from our open calls; several of the designers we uncovered are still stocked at Liberty. Here are a few of our bestselling brands:
Vicki Murdoch’s kitsch collection was discovered at our 2011 open call. Her hand drawn prints take inspiration from nature for a playful and whimsical take on classic home accessories. Vicki uses traditional, intricate and very time-consuming pen and ink techniques, evoking imagery that is both otherworldly yet reassuringly familiar.
“Best of British was incredible for my brand, it allowed me to show my work to an amazing store and wonderful buyers, and then to be stocked there was a dream come true and the best possible platform for any brand to start from.” – Vicki Murdoch
Read our interview with Vicki Murdoch from when she was first discovered.
Discovered at the Best of British Open Call in 2013, Maia Franchesci’s collage-inspired scarves caught our buyers’ attention thanks to their surrealist edge.
“The best thing about being stocked in Liberty is being able to connect with people through a story, an object, a symbol, a particular colour… The exclusivity I am given allows me to do this.” – Maia Franceschi
Menswear designer Christopher Raeburn was picked up at our very first open call in 2009. His designs are recognised for their re-appropriation of military fabrics and iconic outerwear created from de-commissioned parachutes. You can still shop the Christopher Raeburn collection in-store in our menswear department today.
“A menswear order was made at Best of British which gave us a lot of credibility. We were also able to do an installation which had a lot of impact on press and buyers globally – the resulting changes really helped to grow our business.” – Christopher Raeburn
We discovered this unique hat label in 2013. Designer Emma Cheape is the creative force behind the peaks, sourcing her fabrics from vintage markets in London and creating very individual styles of headwear.
“I took along a range of about 10 hats in different styles, colour ways and fabrications on the day. Taking a broad selection is good because it shows the buyers everything you can do/offer which I believe is important because you can never really know what is going to appeal to them.” – Emma Cheape
After being spotted at Open Call in 2011, Alexandra Mann’s brightly coloured wash bags have been a must-have in the Liberty bath shop. Having just completed her first collection in Liberty print, Mann is developing the line with new fabrics and textures.
“I presented my bags to Liberty Beauty and Accessories Buyer, Gina Ritchie, and guest judge Susie Bubble who wanted all the make-up bags as clutches. The next minute I had Kate Brindley, Head of Communications, MD Ed Burstell and Beauty Buyer Sarah Coonan, all stood around the table having a full on discussion about my bags and what to do with me. I met with Sarah two weeks later and she placed a substantial order.” – Alexandra Mann
Draw In Light
Discovered in 2010, design duo Draw in Light have not only had their screen printed fashion stocked in Liberty, they also designed a print for Liberty fabric in 2014.
“What we love about Liberty is the consortium of stock and heritage. We try and visit at least once a month to buy presents and check on our rail.” – Polly Wilkinson
Launched in Liberty after being spotted in 2013, Bare Biology fish oil is the concentrated Omega 3 oil with an environmentally friendly conscience. Made to boost your skin’s health from within, this great-tasting oil is now a must-have in the Liberty beauty hall.
“I queued for about four hours on the day but it whizzed by – the atmosphere was incredible, the energy, nerves and excitement were palpable. When it was finally my turn, I was shown to the table and I did my pitch. I couldn’t believe it when they both said they loved my product! When they told me I should be very proud of myself I nearly cried because, as a 41-year-old mum who’d been out of the workplace for 8 years, it was an incredible confidence boost.” – Melanie Lawson
Peter Wilkin Organics was discovered at the last Best of British open call just seven months ago. Now stocked as one of our Beauty Must-Haves, the naturally derived formula boasts innovative ecological and cultural principles.
“Best of British enabled my product shelf space in the highly competitive world of luxury cosmetics, without having to compromise on the product quality or the brand values of organic and natural ecology. I have moved into a new laboratory and have been able to focus on developing new products. Being stocked in Liberty has also given me the opportunity to begin to work with other British businesses and suppliers while I am still a small company.” – Peter Wilkin
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.
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.