PREVIEW – Taking a fashion Liberty: celebrating 140 years of a clothing design icon

LIBERTY ART FABRICS & FASHION at the Edinburgh Fringe
Image courtesy of Fashion & Textile Museum


A MAJOR retrospective celebrating the fashions from innovative retailer and design studio Liberty London is coming to Scotland for the first time.

Featuring more than 100 garments and fabrics spanning 143 years, the exhibition explores how textiles bring art into everyday life.

Probably best known as one of the fashion brands that helped define the Swinging Sixties, the renowned Liberty label is explored in the exhibition,  Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion. It charts Liberty’s history as a source for key trends in cultural history, including Aestheticism, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Pop and Psychedelia.

The exhibition, at the Dovecot Gallery in Edinburgh as part of the Fringe,  presents a historical survey, featuring early garments inspired by the Far East, through to iconic designs of the Swinging Sixties and more recent collaborations with leading British designers.

Founded by Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty, the first store was established in London in 1875 selling dyed silk fabrics from the Far East, but quickly expanded to become the destination of choice for discerning fashion buyers.

As the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain went international, Liberty traded in imported woven goods, wools and silks from Asia, attracting the attention of artists and innovators of the time including William Morris, Oscar Wilde and Edward Burne-Jones.

Liberty Art, Fabric & Fashion at The Edinburgh Fringe
Image courtesy of Liberty London

Liberty believed that using industrialised methods to produce textiles was essential in order to make beautiful things available at an affordable price and he engaged local textile mills to weave cloth and printing firms to create new colourfast dyes, to replicate the popular fabrics he sourced from overseas.

Celia Joicey, Director of Dovecot said: “The exhibition celebrates how a British textile brand can become a worldwide success as well as a byword for artistic quality and creativity.  Liberty has a long association with art and design in Scotland, from Paisley patterns and the Arts and Crafts Movement to the modernity of Jean Muir.

“This exhibition is an opportunity to explore Liberty’s Scottish textile connections in the context of the company’s commitment to international avant-garde fashion design.”

The exhibition Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion is presented in partnership with Edinburgh Art Festival and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and in association with Liberty London, with support from The Dovecot Foundation.