Sunday, 25 January 2009
I've decided to broaden the scope of the blog a bit, and introduce a little more of what I write about fashion, given that I do it every week in my column for Stella (the Sunday Telegraph magazine). Hope you enjoy it... Here's today's, and please let me know what you think!
One of my earliest memories of fashion – though fashion seems an inaccurate word to use for the things that thread together our past – is the childhood clothes that my mother sewed out of Liberty Tana Lawn; the lovingly smocked dresses for my sister and I, with tiny versions for our dolls, made from remnants bought in the January sales.
Recently, I’ve noticed that the mere mention of the words ‘Liberty prints’ is enough to make grown women turn misty-eyed, persuading several working mothers of my acquaintance to stay up into the small hours, sewing Tana Lawn dresses for their daughters as an act of maternal devotion. Those of us with less nimble fingers, but still harbouring a continuing passion for Liberty, can choose from a new collection of the prints at Gap (skirts and shirts for £45 apiece); or Kate Moss’s forthcoming range at Topshop, based on fabrics from the Liberty archives. These include an original Art Nouveau design, updated with new colours, a cheering red poppy print, and a lilac floral silk scattered with bluebells (a fabric now christened Lila-bell, in honour of Moss’s daughter).
Who knows quite what Arthur Liberty, the founding father of the company, would have made of these ventures (or the forthcoming fabrics for next winter, designed by the Turner-prize winning artist Grayson Perry, who wears bespoke Liberty print frocks)? But one hopes he would have approved, given that his stated wish, upon opening the Liberty shop in 1875, was to provide an opportunity for customers to buy ‘beautiful and affordable things’. As for why the Liberty archive of 40,000 fabrics should now be so influential – drawn upon by Nike and Luella Bartley, amongst others – well, perhaps it’s a sign of the times; a safe haven of prettily-coloured floral nostalgia, when the future is ashen-grey.
Not that Liberty isn’t looking forward: its various collaborations include an innovative project with Central St Martin’s College of Art, where the students are designing reinterpretations of the archive floral prints. And for those of us who are old enough to remember our mothers’ handiwork, but too young to have been properly schooled in needlecraft, there’s a new series of sewing classes at Liberty, starting in early March. (The courses cost from £35).
With this in mind, I’m off to buy some thrifty remnants from the haberdashery department, because who says austerity can’t also be beautiful? That’s the theory, anyway, though if you spot me in the dunce’s corner of the sewing class, at least I’ll be wearing a readymade Gap Liberty print blouse…