“Liberty of London views their 140-year run as a way to further refine a tradition of eclectic designs.”
After World War I, fabric buyer William Haynes Dorell introduced the lightweight cotton Tana Lawn fabric, naming it after Lake Tana in East Africa. Joined by high quality Silk, soft-touch Cord, Jersey and more, Tana Lawn continues as Liberty’s best selling fabric. It’s also the vessel for a wide range of floral and graphic prints, all of which are meticulously maintained in a vast archive stretching back to the 1880s. Fabrics are hidden from light in acid-free boxes, artwork securely placed in Melinex polyester sleeves and paper conservation is routinely being performed in conjunction with the Camberwell College of Arts. Amongst the pattern books, original drawings, product samples and fabric cuttings, over 40,000 prints are cataloged. Although Liberty’s network of designers are known to create compelling new artwork, the archive is constantly being referenced in order to offer fresh seasonal interpretations of classics. And in true Liberty fashion, a unique print name — either descriptive, named after their creator or someone special — precedes the fabric type.
As an introduction to the Fall 2015 Women’s Collection, Herschel Supply carefully selected the Liberty archive-influenced Deborah and Donna Leigh floral prints to compliment a partnership offering of backpack silhouettes.
Detailing Tana Lawn cotton, the Deborah artwork draws from a pattern book initially sourced at Merton Abbey Mills — a former textile factory that produced dyed and printed hand-woven fabrics for Liberty from the late 1800s until the early 1970s. The 1940s Deborah print sits amongst pastoral themed designs, with bouquets, garlands and accurately drawn flowers reflecting an interest in new plants entering Britain from around the world. The Donna Leigh, printed on Tana Lawn and tactile Cord fabric, was inspired by a William Kilburn design from the late 1700s. At the time, he regularly produced artwork for Muslin cotton that featured dark backgrounds with contrasting flowers. The renewed Donna Leigh maintains Kilburn’s original aesthetic, incorporating watercolored floral detailing.
These updated Liberty classics are amongst an anthology of lively printed fabrics — each connecting us to a considerable visual history that’s updated to suit a lifetime of approaching seasons.