In the spirit of looking forward, this week my focus is on a brand that strives to fuse the past with the future. Liberty London may have been founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1875, but in 2020 it is still the one store, even when many believe a bricks and mortar location to be “outdated”, that inspires gasps of wonder. “Oh, I just love that place,” is the chorus often heard from loyalists the world over. The founder’s plans for the building focused on it being a “London emporium laden with luxuries and fabrics from distant lands”. A bold project, and yet it is one that has stood the test of time.
As much as the building itself draws admiration, Liberty is famed for its beautifully curated collections, its directional merchandising and, of course, its fashion. Their buyers do a first-class job. Alongside the designer and contemporary labels sits its Liberty London ready-to-wear line, which launched last year. This is created by an in-house design team with access to a 45,000-strong archive of prints.
I search high and low for new fashion finds for my personal styling clients and this is the ready-to-wear collection that proves its worth, particularly for those wanting a look that will “make me feel great every time” and not look “too now” (the Rubik’s Cube of fashion conundrums). Ranging from cotton tea-dresses to silk scarves, from tote bags to blouses, this is where anyone who has a love for timeless florals should cast their eye... or mouse.
Take this rigid workwear shirt I’m wearing here – in spring it’s more akin to a jacket and works well over a T-shirt or sleeveless dress. Come winter, I will wear it buttoned up over a roll neck as a more practical layer of warmth. The fabric’s palette includes enough pinks for sunnier days, which work as a boost on the coldest of winter mornings (because wrapping up in grey or black is not always the answer).
Shape-wise, this is boxy, which I love as I lean towards more boyish cuts, but the very same print (and this is where the design team are clever) has been made into a silk shirt with frill cuffs and bow-collar detail for those who want a more delicate look. Head designer Holly Marler brings her experience from stints at Alexander McQueen and Temperley London, so you know you’re in safe hands.
But how do you make a store experience come alive in the midst of these bizarre times, when the likes of you and me perhaps don’t want to venture to Regent Street? You hold strong and make your website even more enticing. Chief marketing officer Madeleine Macey explains: “We’ve launched virtual appointments with our digital ‘Ask a Liberty expert’ programme across Beauty, Home and Fashion. Our shop staff are the heart of our iconic store and this (service) enables anyone, anywhere to connect with our knowledgeable and personable team... you can book an appointment during which one of our experts guides you through the store, as if you’re on a Zoom call, it’s great fun.” It’s a refreshing example of technology and human expertise working in tandem. Macey is upbeat; “We believe that this programme will long outlive any Covid situation, as it’s a really enjoyable service.”
Ophelia Cotton Drill Workwear Shirt, £395, Liberty
I hope the paralysis of Covid has not diminished your determination to think creatively when it comes to trying new brands, looks, colours or even something as simple as sourcing a gift. So often we are drawn in by a “free delivery” message or the frantic “Buy within 20 minutes and you’ll receive your item tomorrow” direction.
The irony is we all have more time on our hands. More time to peruse, more time to spend (literally), more time to wait just a day longer for that seemingly perfect solution to our endless online searches. And now we can add Liberty London to the list of “People to Zoom”. Oscar Wilde said that “Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper” – I implore you to be a little more artistic. There are treasures to be found! And we need not always lean on Mr Bezos.
Ginnie's favourites this week...
Lady bird placement, £25, Bell Hutley; Healing bracelet, £40, T Balance; Flat white coffee, £0.95, Sainsburys; Trainers, £60, Superga. Portland Iphis Canvas Cross Body Bag, £395; Pia Silk Charmeuse Pyjama Set, £425; Ophelia Silk Prairie Shirt, £395; Alicia Quilted Skirt, £295, all Liberty
Virginia Chadwyck-Healey's column appears each Sunday in The Sunday Telegraph and is published online every Sunday at 8am on Telegraph Fashion.