Style File: Taking Liberty

A hook-up with the Swedish brand Acne is bringing London’s offbeat department store up to date, says Rebecca Gonsalves
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Each of London’s world-renowned department stores has its own personality, rather fitting when you consider the way they now cater to every aspect of consumer lives, and that of Liberty is by far the most eccentric. Situated slap-bang in the middle of the high-street hub that is Oxford Street and the home of the Swinging Sixties, Carnaby Street, the mock-Tudor façade provides a portal to an old-world idea of luxury that is particularly English.

Founded in 1875 by Arthur Liberty, the expansion of the emporium calls to mind Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise, recently adapted for BBC audiences, while Channel 4 viewers were treated to a peek behind the scenes in the run-up to Christmas. As well as selling the goods of others, Liberty has a strong heritage in the Arts and Crafts movement – in particular fabric design, with its floral prints being of particular renown. In recent years, the brand has capitalised on a seemingly insatiable appetite for these prints with a series of brand collaborations that successfully marry the old world with the new.

The latest of these is with the Swedish brand Acne, which has printed its signature leather pieces with archive Liberty designs. “I’m obsessed with digging in archives and morphing elements of design history with our universe,” Jonny Johansson, the creative director of Acne, says. “I have a personal and long history with Liberty prints, having used them as a source of inspiration in my early years as a designer.”

“Our customers really get behind our collaborations,” Stephen Ayres, the head of fashion at Liberty, says. “I think the main reason for this is the fact we choose  carefully who we partner with to create a product from two of their favourite brands. As each collaboration uses our print, which is such a huge part of our heritage, in a unique way they are essentially buying into a piece of the Liberty history.

“We have a long and successful relationship with Acne, and as a brand they really understand what Liberty stands for and appreciate our heritage. This collection is not what you would typically expect from the use of Liberty print, less whimsical and a little more attitude.”

While the prices match the prestige of the two parties involved, by its limited-edition nature such a project has been in high demand since it launched on Friday.