Liberty of London

This blog’s lovely namesake is the famous and massive department store- Liberty of London!  It is famous for bringing in ‘Oriental’ designs to London’s elite. They are known for their home goods, fabrics, scarves and clothing.

 

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I found out they were the subject of a museum exhibit so I HAD to go!

 

Fashion and Textile Museum

 

The Fashion and Textile museum focuses on contemporary fashion and the exhibit did too. But they integrated a lot of the Liberty designs (which feature prominently on the textiles of course!) Like on the couch!

 

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The Liberty exhibit took over the whole museum- there were no permanent displays at all.  It stretched over two floors but it felt nice and compact.

 

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In the first room they started with this drawing of the Liberty store by Naomi Kratz which I adore. The store is still going strong just off Regent Street. They also had a nice timeline from the birth of the founder Arthur Liberty to the founding of the store in the 1875 to the present day.

 

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This dress is amazing! I love how the wallpaper behind is a Liberty print (that’s still in use! It’s called Ianthe).

 

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The labels were amazing because they had a sketch of each item of clothing on display! I found it really handy and a wonderful addition.

 

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The 1970s Liberty Girl Gang. The exhibit move chronologically through Liberty’s history right up to the present (with its many collaborations!). I liked the continuity from the timeline in the first room through the entire exhibition.

 

This exhibit started really strong but I found the last panel really soured it for me. It talked about the current works by Liberty and how its history has influenced them today. But the label was really orientalist and problematic.

Any discussion of Liberty should include its past as a purveyor and procurer of items from Asia and Africa. They made money and a business on the trend/ idea of Orientalism via seeing these things as wild, exotic and mysterious.  The ‘orient’ of course is just another part of the world where people live, sleep, eat and die just like us and they should be treated and portrayed as equals. Not as ‘sensual’ like the text states. (rant over)


Rating: 3/5

Pros: Cool topic, great graphics and labels, cohesive thought and organization, lovely items on display, nice cafe, friendly staff

Cons: cramped shop, uncritical eye towards the topic, not many places to sit for those with mobility issues

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