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
London Fashion week is upon us again, so we caught up with Liberty womenswear buyer Rhian Grimstead to get her essential tips, designer must-haves and a sneak preview of what could be hitting the Liberty rails next season.
Which shows are you looking forward to seeing?
Christopher Kane because last season it was one of my favourites, also Jonathan Saunders as the collection really evolved last season so I’m keen to see what he’s done this time around.
What gets you through fashion week?
Baobab Aduna vitamin and mineral powder, we sell it online at Liberty.co.uk.
Where do you rest up between shows?
Back in the office or I’ll grab a cup of tea on Somerset House cafe if I only have 10 minutes to spare.
What’s your Fashion Week beauty essential?
This season it’s a scraped back ponytail with a bow in reference to Roksanda Ilincic SS14, the hair by Luke Hersheson was beautiful in the show, and with the wind and rain a blow-dry isn’t an option. I like to toughen girly hair up with a biker boot or leather jacket.
What’s inside your Iphis print Liberty London pouch?
Blackberry, Iphone5, Laura Mercier Secret Concealer, tissues, mirror, coco butter lip balm, travel card, show schedule and fashion week pass. And my show invites of course! They fit in perfectly as the pouch is big enough to hold everything!
For live updates from the shows, make sure you’re following Rhian on twitter @Liberty_Rhian.
The Liberty Art Fabrics department prides itself on the incredible talent of its collaborative designers and celebrates the opportunity to work with up-and-coming artists to create new season prints. One such artistic relationship gave birth to the, already iconic, ‘Queue for the Zoo’ design, inspired by Liberty’s Childrenswear department. Behind this bustle of exotic beasts is illustrator and children’s author, OK David. We caught up with him to discuss the popular pattern and delve a little deeper into the workings of his creative imagination.
Your wonderful host of illustrative animals designed for Liberty’s new season ‘Queue for the Zoo’ has been a real hit, becoming the best selling fabric for wholesale sales so far this year. Can you describe the concept behind the print and how it came to be?
Hello! Queue for the Zoo started really simply. Emma asked me to draw some animals but she left it up to me what and how to draw; I appreciated the freedom she gave me very much. Obviously it’s great to work with Liberty because it’s such a prestigious name, but the real pleasure was collaborating with Emma Mawston and the design team. Anyway, because I like birds quite a lot, that was where I began – with a flamingo and bluebird. The bluebird didn’t make it into the final design but the flamingo (in its knee-length socks!) did. I didn’t set out to draw animals from the African savannah or anything like that, they just galloped into my head and appeared in my drawing, like a story takes flight when you have the right characters. Soon I had a whole herd.
After the fourth or fifth animal, it was clear what this design was: a parade of colourful, patterned animals. Adding the little touches like the suitcase, the paper airplane and the giraffe’s Liberty trainers felt natural and obvious to me. They were drawing themselves by then.
By the way, if you look closely, the elephant is wearing a wristwatch on its tusk. I drew a wolf too, with a jelly baby on its tongue. Something appeals to me about details so tiny you miss them. It’s how people are too: I discover new things about people quite often.
Apart from designing for the SS14 collection, you were also on the panel of judges for the annual St. Martins/Liberty collaboration. What was the most exciting aspect of this process? Did you discover any new favourite artists?
Yes I did! I had so much fun with the other judges looking at the St. Martins artwork, which was of a really high standard. It was a privilege to get to see all their stuff and I have lots of admiration for how talented they all are at that school. Seeing how designs are spotted quite quickly among an artist’s work was interesting; when something is right it leaps out at you immediately: you just know when it will work. The judges were allowed to pick one fabric, which was a bit heartbreaking because I wanted to pick two.
Your design for the ‘Queue for the Zoo’ print represent’s Liberty’s Childrenswear Department, and the other prints within the collection are inspired by other areas of the store. What is your favourite floor or department within the building? Do you have any special memories of visiting the store?
This is a bit of a sneaky answer because it’s not part of the store, and the public don’t get to see it, but for me the heart and soul of Liberty is the design department behind the store floors, across the bridge over Kingly Street. It’s like a toyshop for me. You walk in the studio and see designs at every stage of completion on the walls around you, and all these very friendly, skilful people at work on fabrics. It’s a buzz to see all the stuff being made.
As for special memories, the day you mentioned, when I came to judge the St Martin’s competition, was so much fun and a great honour. I won’t forget it anytime soon.
As well as creating illustrations and designs, you write wonderful poems and stories. These often have a dark, folk-like style. What draws you to this way of writing and what other authors inspire your work?
I have always written stories and you’re right, they’re often dark in the way folktales are. Thank you for saying they’re wonderful. I write and draw in completely different ways, it’s strange. My stories are unsettling and dark, and my drawings are buoyant and joyful. I don’t mean for them to be that way but somehow they just are. I’m going to write and illustrate a picture book this year of Sierra Leonean folktales, so let’s see how that turns out. There’s a bit of dying in there but also some coming back from the dead, so hakuna matata…
As for writers, there are many I admire, but a few who have influenced me the most are: RK Narayan, William Steig, Ray Bradbury, Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Harper Lee.
How does London and city life inspire your stories?
I am a watcher really, and London is great for spying and plotting: two of my favourite things. The city is a moody, thoughtful place and I find stories come easily when there is so much life to spy on. I’d like to try other cities, to be surrounded by all kinds of people I can watch but don’t have to talk to if I don’t want.
I like talking to strangers. It’s great fun and leads to all kinds of invitations and opportunities. Then I meet up with friends to drink and chat about the things we’ve been up to, and scheme about what we’ll do next. Treat your home as if you’re on an adventure, that’s what I think.
Much as I like London, what I love more is exploring new places. I would like to keep travelling throughout my lifetime, maybe seasonally. Instead of winter, perhaps I’ll have a ‘voyage season’, when I seek ideas for stories and illustrations. I will take a recorder and travel the world collecting people’s stories, just like Alan Lomax. Another name I’d like to mention is Joseph Mitchell, a writer who wandered the streets of New York chronicling the characters and their haunts, and that sounds ideal to me.
Do you tend to work on a drawing first and the accompanying story afterwards, or do the words come before the drawing?
Every project is different. All I know is that I use both words and images, and I would find it a bit strange just to write without drawing, or just to draw without writing. Both are imaginative instruments, and when I do either I find I have to imagine quite keenly to get the ink flowing. Once you start imagining and thinking playfully, you do whatever it takes: write, draw, pace up and down…
What is your favourite children’s story or illustration?
A book called ‘Dominic’, about a little hound who has a different hat for every situation, and who decides one day to lock his house and go out into the world. It’s written by a Jewish immigrant to the States called William Steig, who coincidently invented ‘Shrek’. Please everyone, read this book! It is very wise, just like all William Steig’s stories. His illustrations are probably my favourite too, and have influenced my own very much. I like Quentin Blake’s of course, but somehow William Steig’s speak to me more.
Your art and writing often involves animals, what do you think it is about this theme that attracts people’s imagination and fascination?
Watching fireflies looping among long reeds, making glowing sword marks like shooting stars in space; or seeing how a hummingbird drinks from a flower; or understanding how little spiders climb up to the tip of grass stems and use their silk to fly themselves like a kite in the wind and then let go, before being carried into the upper stratosphere and across the world, frozen in a little bit of ice, and then defrost and go back to whatever they like to do… If you really think about it, how can you not wonder at that?
Animals are proxies for ourselves I suppose, just like people use sport as a proxy for the little wars and triumphs of life. That doesn’t seem to stop us from treating animals terribly though, and it’s a great shame. I love to collect stories about animals behaving in surprising ways: it makes you realise how much of a mystery another living creature is, and how wrong it is to disregard and mistreat them. Anyone with a complicated family knows your own blood is pretty mysterious too sometimes!
In my stories and pictures I anthropomorphise animals all the time but in fact I am quite against presuming what animals are capable of feeling. One day we’ll look back and see what a crime we’ve committed over the years, and hang our heads for a while and then we’ll move to another planet and do it all over again.
I am fascinated by the natural world, but being from the city, I am a wimp and don’t like being swarmed by rats or crawled over by bugs or flapped at by massive moths. I went to Sierra Leone recently and there was a light bulb outside my door that attracted these mothy pteradactyls and weird noodle-shaped beasts that were almost big enough to ride on… I unscrewed the light bulb in the end.
What is your favourite animal depicted in the design for the ‘Queue for the Zoo’ print; which was the most fun to draw?
Try drawing a flamingo’s neck and its hooked beak and you’ll see how fun they are to draw. I had a good time sketching out the elephants too, although I wished they were patterned like the okapi, with its stripy bum. I enjoy drawing patterned animals but more than one patterned animal would have been horrible to look at and would have given everyone eye-ache. People notice the giraffe first, probably because it’s patterned, is quite central and obviously has nice little trainers on its hooves.
Have you created anything from the fabric to wear or have in your home?
Yes! I have a shirt, which I wear to smart occasions, and my bodyguard Mary has a jumpsuit in the same blue colourway. We went to my friend’s wedding this summer and wore them matching. To remind myself of ‘Queue for the Zoo’ when I’m an old man and in case my great great great grandchildren don’t believe me, I’m going to have a few bits of the different colourways framed.
Visit the wonderfully colourful and imaginative world of Omprakash Kaga David at www.okdavid.com.
Shop ‘Queue for the Zoo’ and other fabrics from the Spring Summer 2014 Art Fabrics Collection.