February 26, 2016

Liberty Love

In December, I planned a family trip around a pilgrimage to the Fashion and Textiles Museum in London to enjoy the Liberty in Fashion exhibition.  It was something of an eye opener navigating London on foot having lived in the West Country so long, but Bermondsey was sunny and not as scary as I expected, alighting the train beneath The Shard.

Having travelled so far, we actually went straight into the cafe, and after an exceptionally good coffee, I left my boyfriend, son and baby to entertain themselves while I enjoyed the exhibition uninterrupted and very willingly, alone.

I hadn’t expected to see these cases of treasures, the beautiful packaging, the wonderfully illustrated literature and exquisite typography. And the most covetable of all objects, the fabric swatch book.  What would I give to handle that swatch book!

I’m not going to put into my own words, the printed narrative that accompanied the exhibits,  in fact, I’m not going to dedicate much to explaining it at all, only swoon over the images I managed to snap and hope that they bring you somewhere close to the joy of being there too.

The simple, muted tones and soft lines of this collection of 1940’s and 1950’s dresses halted my progress for some time…I also attracted the attention of the guide for standing too close (so as to scrutinise the craftsmanship) desperately trying to mentally bank the shapes of the panels and yolks and little gathering details and touches.  The piping detail in particular of the bodice close up (above), has inspired me to revisit buttons and piping for decoration without function.  Beauty for the sake of design, not as a solution to design.

A few of my other favourites, including the novelty print A-line mini skirt, depicting Royal Mail steam ships! Amazing fabric.

The Exhibition included a display ‘The Art of Pattern’ Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell for Liberty 1961-77.  This was a moment of pure joy to me.  Seeing, with my own eyes, hand painted originals of fabrics I own and adore.  To suddenly fully understand the immense undertaking of the tiny ditsy prints in brush and paint.

How amazing to see a curled tatty paper development sketch of a print overlaid on the finished silk fabric, with a magazine page depicting the eventual garments.  Such patience and vision.  Nothing instant, no Photoshop and digital printing, pure, raw talent brought to life at the hands of many skilled people.  I was genuinely moved at the beauty and the visual representation of the time and care put into everything.

I have always understood the processes, having experimented with many surface pattern design techniques at art college; but something about this display imbedded an even deeper love of the quality of design and execution that Liberty is renowned for. I can see it it all of my fabrics suddenly…Im not sure its helped my addiction, but its raised my appreciation

The exhibition ends on Sunday, if you can go, you Must 🙂


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