We hope you’re ready for the second episode of ‘Liberty of London‘, Channel 4‘s fly-on-the-wall documentary about our beloved store in the heart of Soho, airing tonight at 9pm. So far you have all loved meeting the characters and employees in the first episode, and tonight you get to know some of the pinnacle people a little more with more trials and tribulations that are just part of everyday life here at Liberty.
You’ll also get to meet our wonderful head of press and communications, Kate (pictured above with our Managing Director Ed Burstell and Head of Fashion Stephen Ayers. She and her hard working press team work tirelessly around the clock to ensure everything runs smoothly for our business, and that both customers and clients walk away with good experience of the store and what we can offer.
We caught up with Kate to find out just what she’s got her eye on for Christmas this year.
“I’m a big fan of self gifting at Christmas. Very indulgent, I know, but you’ve worked hard all year and deserve a treat don’t you? It’s also the perfect way to ensure you get exactly what you want!”
1. Richard Nicoll Stella Printed Silk Dress, £415.00
“I will be swanning round in this Richard Nicoll dress in between Christmas and New Year, using its diaphanous and forgiving cut to mask all food and wine excesses.”
2. Cire Trudon Abd El Khader La Grande Bougie Candle, £385.00
“I’m going to buy this giant Cire Trudon candle for a few of my pals and also put it on my list to Santa. The smell is so bewitching and will mingle perfectly with the wafts of pine needles and over excitement Christmas always brings.”
3. Liberty London Iphis Zip Pouch, £95.00
“This little beauty should help me with my New Years resolution to get my finances in order, or at least provide a place where I can store my receipts.”
4. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower 100ml, £210.00
“I always think fragrance is a nice gift for someone who is hard to buy for (hint, hint) and this is my favourite. I am also really into the new limited edition Liberty print box, which Mr Frederic Malle himself chose from our print archive to represent Carnal Flower visually. What’s not to love about that?”
5. Anna Sheffield Rose Gold Pavé Champagne Diamond Licol Ring, £1,440.00
“How major is this ring by Anna Sheffield? Almost too major is the answer! I love how Ms Sheffield uses delicate gemstones and precious metals in her work, but in an almost irreverent way. I’m going to rock this on my index finger and love showing it off… Which reminds me I must book a festive manicure at Margaret Dabbs!”
6. John Derian English Padlock Mini Glass Tray, £59.95
“I love this whimsical little trinket tray by John Derian. It’s the perfect thing to bring order to my chaotic dressing table. I’m going to put tomorrow’s jewellery out on it every night before bed.”
7. Givenchy Leopard Print Ponyskin Shoulder Bag, £1,125.00
“I like how this Givenchy bag is very uptown at first glance, but then when you take in the cross body chain and the claw fastening its very downtown too. I’m taking this to all my Yuletide festivities and matching my jewellery and nail polish to its rose gold chain strap.”
8. NARS Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil in Mexican Rose, £17.50
“These Nars lip pencils are a marvel and make for great stocking fillers. I haven’t tried this shade yet but I’m hoping someone might buy it for me.”
For lots more incredible and thoughtful gifting ideas, shop our collection of hand picked gift edits.
This season, our vast emporium of unique and wonderful treasures and designs from all over the world celebrates its heritage and eclectic collections in the form of a special keepsake. ‘Liberty: British Colour Pattern‘ is a lavishly illustrated book that takes a look into the vaults and archives of our great store and explores the history of our remarkable range of products and prints. Including previously unseen photographs of pieces buried deep in our extensive archive, the book features 135 years of Liberty’s most iconic and groundbreaking textile prints, as well as its collaborations with contemporary artists, fashion designers and illustrators.
Head of Design for the Liberty Design Studio, Emma Mawston, was one of the contributors to the book. We caught up with her to find out how she helped the publishers and authors gather content from the archives and the Design Studio to retell the history of Liberty print.
“This is a historic album of pattern and design for all those who treasure anything artistic and inspiring – especially those who love Liberty. I found the early parts of the book fascinating and learnt wondrous things about Liberty that I was unaware of. It is a work of art to be read over and over again, and each time you pick up on something that you may have missed in previous perusal.
On pages 68 to 87 you’ll find my fashion fabrics. We started with hand printed colourways found in my attic, complete with peeling off paint (as we often painted over and over colourways to achieve the desired colour combination). We became masters of colour mixing and discovered which tints mixed best with which. Purple lake was a great base colour. I delved back fifteen years to pull out past collections to give an insight into the brief surrounding each. The most important and relevant collections which most represented each concept were then chosen to be published.
The first collaborator I worked with was Grayson Perry for autumn/ winter 2009, and I can’t think of a more amazing artist to have worked with. Not only did Grayson come up with amazing designs never seen before at Liberty or anywhere else, he also worked each design into perfect repeat by hand. The majority of textile designers struggle to do this. It is very fitting that two pages of the book are dedicated to Grayson where readers can view his sketches of original artworks for the prints Cranford, Sissy and Flo, which are usually only accessible to Liberty and high end customers. Since then we have worked with the most amazing collaborators, not all mentioned in this book but all contributing to the look and ethos of Liberty Art Fabrics.
Just about every designer who has worked within the Liberty Art Fabrics Design Studio has a least one design within the ‘New Direction’ section, representing the diversity of print within this era. We are lucky to be able to draw and research in the most relevant way for each collection, creating original prints from hand drawn artwork.”
Buy the book Liberty: British Colour Pattern
Shukla’s Liberty story starts in 1973 when she started as a temporary member of staff who was immediately asked to stay on. Since then, she has become a self-confessed fixture of the home department on the 4th floor in-store. She has a thousand stories about her time here, so we got her to pick her favourites.
Job title: Sales Associate (I’ve never wanted to do anything else)
Years of service at Liberty: 40
Favourite Liberty moment: The Centenary celebrations, and the wonderful Japan at Liberty exhibition in 1980, there was nothing else in London like it at the time.
How do you feel about being on Liberty of London? Proud to represent Liberty?
I love Liberty and I love to talk about it!
What does it mean to you to work at Liberty?
Now I feel like this place is my real home, I love it so much. They all gave me so much love here – customers, management, owners… every one of them.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve served?
Katherine Hepburn. She was a hilarious and lovely lady. She used to call me her little Indian princess!
Has anyone recognised you since the show?
Since the Channel 4 trailer has been out people keep coming and saying, ‘Oh Shukla, you’re famous. You’re a celebrity!’ I bump into people all the time in restaurants and in the street.
Liberty of London premiers on Channel 4 on Monday 2 December at 9pm.
We hope you managed to watch the first episode of Liberty of London on Channel 4 last night! It’s very exciting to see our beautiful store, all dressed up for Christmas, appearing on the nation’s screens – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! One of the stars of the episode is our delightful receptionist, Judy. We caught up with the glamorous Front of House to find out more about her role at Liberty, having a print named after her and her top tips for Christmas.
Job Title: Receptionist
Years of service at Liberty: Just under 15 years.
Favourite Liberty moment: There are so many favourite moments; this for a start! I never look in the past, I try to look forward all the time, I think that’s how I am. On the spot I can’t think of anything in particular, but everyday there’s something happening, there’s always something dramatic happening. I just make fun; you’ve got to have a sense of humour.
How do you feel about being on Liberty of London?
I love it! Bit scary, very daunting, but for me it’s like a once in a lifetime, so I’m making the most of it! A lot of people are scared of the cameras and it’s funny because all of the people that you think are going to be all bravado are not, I’m quite surprised. Often you think, why did I say that? You forget what you’ve said; I felt like Ricky Gervais sometimes, you know when he runs out of things to say and he sort of looks up and he brings in everything, doesn’t he? That’s how I felt.
What is the most exciting part of the run up to Christmas at Liberty?
All the different people. I see the suppliers first when they come in, and just everything’s exciting about it. The store looks absolutely beautiful and I long to see the windows, which are fantastic this year. I must say, I come down Argyll Street and they look stunning, I think it’s one of the best times really, it’s like a starburst and I think that’s liberty all-round: a big star!
You have a liberty print named after you; do you own anything in the print?
I keep forgetting that, you feel quite privileged. I didn’t have any knowledge of it until someone said, “We’ve got a print named after you here”. I didn’t know how the design was going to be, what colours or anything. They made up this lovely blouse for me and they gave me some of the material and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to go down in the archives! When I’m dead and buried, I’m going to put the Liberty print in my coffin. I won’t be there, but there’ll be this skeleton there with the Liberty print! So there’s a legacy there which I think I’m privileged to have, really. I haven’t made anything from the fabric yet, but I’ll make little hankies, I like to make little hankies for people and I’ve given my grand-daughter some so she can make something.
Your baking is legendary around Liberty, what’s the most impressive cake you’ve ever made for the office?
Is it really? Crikey! I usually make cupcakes because if I made a large cake there wouldn’t be enough slices for everybody – some people have big slices and so we’d probably only serve about half a dozen people! I make lots of cupcakes and I like to do my own thing with them. I think they all go down pretty well. People like the chocolate ones with the lumps of truffle inside. I like doing little surprises inside, but I also just like doing lemon drizzles. Plain lemon drizzles with crunchy lemon topping – that is a classic really.
You are very involved in Liberty’s charitable initiatives and there’s been a lot going on this year. Which activity do you feel has been most effective in raising funds and awareness?
Everybody has a charity which touches their heart and for me that’s the homeless people. I sat there one day and I thought; I can’t imagine anything worse. When you go home at night on those cold, cold days and you walk from the bus stop or tube station and know you’re going to a nice warm house, it must be the most awful feeling to think you’ve got nowhere to go. When you speak to people and they tell you of the life they used to have, you realise it could happen to any of us. So that’s where my heart is, I can’t bear to see people cold or hungry.
We’re having a big towel drive at Christmas. When I rang up the charity, ‘Crisis’, and asked them about a coat drive, they said they had plenty, but what they did need were towels. They feed 20,000 people over the Christmas period, and when they come and have their dinners, they give them a shower or a bath and they have a medical check. So they really need towels, I’d never thought of that.
Your desk faces the portraits of Sir Arthur Liberty and Lady Emma Liberty. How do you think they’d feel about the TV show?
Well, I think Arthur would love it because he was always ahead of his time, and I just think he would absolutely love it! He just wanted everything to be different and didn’t want to go with the flow of existing fashion. He wanted to create new ones and I think he was that sort of person. I mean obviously when he was born, television wasn’t around, but I think he’d be loving it now. Emma always looks so stern, but I think she was his, you know, partner for life, and I think she would absolutely love it too. I always think they’re still here!
As the face of Liberty’s Head Office, and the first person most visitors meet, what keeps you enthusiastic in your job?
I’m a very social person, and I love speaking to people. I talk too much! Even as a little girl my mum was always telling me off: “Don’t talk to strange people!” But I always find people lovely and I don’t feel they’re dangerous. Obviously some people are, but I’ve always been like it. I suppose it’s in your genes, maybe that’s why I’m like I am. I’ve got Irish blood in me, I think the Irish like talking! My mother was the same, she knew everybody even when she got very old. The place where she used to go in Palmers Green for a little cup of tea everyday (she used to waddle down there) made her a lovely birthday cake once. So you know, I think I take after her I suppose.
What’s the most amusing thing to have happened in Liberty’s reception?
There are so many things! When I was originally in this building, I had a visitor who asked to leave something with me, I said it was fine, but when I looked, it was a whole salmon – a whole fresh salmon! It was wrapped up and I thought, ‘Oh that’s alright.’ So he went out, and then this dreadful smell started – awful! It got to five o’clock and he still hadn’t picked it up and I thought, ‘I can’t believe this. I’ve got this great, massive salmon stuck on my desk and he’s never going to come back. What am I going to do with it?’ Eventually he did come back, but I thought people do take advantage when you’re a smiley person!
Finally, any Christmas tips for our readers?
I think over the years I’ve cooked so many Christmas dinners and it’s best to not get panicky about it. If anything goes wrong it doesn’t matter, you know? Have a laugh. I’ve had my mother and my mother-in-law having arguments; we’ve had sprouts flying all over the kitchen and we’ve had to calm everything down! It’s best just to take it in your stride, because it is a stressful time, especially if you’re the host. Just enjoy it. If the dinner’s late, so be it. It’s you that’s bothered, nobody else, they’re all happy having a drink and opening their presents, so take everything in your stride. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong.
Don’t forget to check back to read more from the Liberty staff featured on the show over the next couple of weeks!
Liberty of London episode 2 will be on Channel 4 on Monday 9 December at 9pm.
Visit the Channel 4 website to catch up on any episodes you missed.
We’ve very excited that ‘Liberty of London‘, the three-part fly-on-the-wall style documentary on our famous department store premiers tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm. We can’t wait for you to start meeting some of the fantastic staff, heads of department and characters who work behind-the-scenes and with our customers here at Liberty!
Our ardent MD, Ed Burstell, is part of the team responsible for turning our historic store’s fortunes around. Originally from New York, Ed started his career as a cosmetic buyer for Bloomingdale’s. This was followed as General Manager for Henri Bendel where he oversaw marketing and PR, store planning, human resources and finance. Before joining Liberty, Burstell was Senior Vice President for all non-apparel at Bergdorf Goodman, with a turnover responsibility of $275 million.
Ed took on the Managing Director role at Liberty in 2008 and has since played a huge part in revitalising our flagship store by executing a new layout and new assortments of products. Since his arrival, Ed has helped attract a large number of international designers to the store, as well as opening Liberty’s first full service hair salon, a foot spa, beauty treatment rooms, a men’s shaving bar, doubled the size of Liberty’s Beauty Hall and introduced departments such as stationery, precious jewellery, vintage clothing, Eastern objets & antiquities and arts & crafts furniture.
Using Liberty’s iconic prints, Ed and his team have helped secure collaborations with brands such as Levi’s, Target, Hermès, Dr Martens, Barbour, Nike and Manolo Blahnik, placing Liberty back on the map as a global shopping destination.
Wondering what’s on Ed’s Christmas list this year? Find out below as he shares his most wanted gifts from Liberty this season:
1. Liberty London Paisley Jacquard Wool Scarf, £85.00
“During the winter month’s I live in scarves. This blue paisley jacquard wool scarf from our Liberty London collection is top of my Christmas wish list.”
2. Diptyque Insolite Limited Edition Candle, £45.00
“Year’s in the making and a true collaboration between Diptyque and Liberty, Insolite (meaning uncommon) is a great unisex smell. With top notes of orange, lime, Cannelle this is a real festive must-have.”
3. Newgate Clocks Black Battersby Wall Clock, £120.00
“The classic style of the Bback Battersby wall clock by Newgate Clocks would make a perfect edition to my office wall. Colleagues, take note!”
4. Timorous Beasties Napoleon Bee Print Velvet Cushion, £125.00
“I’m moving house early in the new year and have been stockpiling homewares for my new home. This Timorous Beasties velvet Cushion is something I’ve had my eye on for some time.”
5. Liberty London Ianthe Leather 2014 Diary, £60.00
(Monogramming £5.00 per letter in-store only)
“I’ve always kept a hardcopy diary and my one new year essential since joining Liberty is a monogrammed Liberty London 2014 leather diary.
6. Aesop Moroccan Neroli Shaving Duet, £53.00
“An essential in my beauty cabinet, I’ve been using this for several years.”
7. Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 100ml, £66.00
“I love the simplicity and cleverness of Escentric Molecules – it only contains one single ingredient (known as Iso E Super in the fragrance industry).”
8. Quail Otter Face Egg Cup, £10.95
“These egg cups brighten up my Sunday mornings. Egg and soldiers, bring it on.”