Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Liberty X-Factor; the Fizzy New-Look Liberty Is Joining Other London Stores to Fight off the World Wide Web, Says Barbara Chandler

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Liberty X-Factor; the Fizzy New-Look Liberty Is Joining Other London Stores to Fight off the World Wide Web, Says Barbara Chandler

Article excerpt

Byline: BARBARA CHANDLER

BATTLING against lively, creative boutiques that pepper London with delightfully innovative designs, and the global choice of homeware on the exciting New World websites, it is a challenging time for the big West End department stores.

Liberty has picked up the gauntlet and has given its fabled Regent Street premises a revamp.

In the store's famous oak-panelled central atrium, with its stout timber pillars, shop dummies pose provocatively in stockings and tiny leather-look bikinis - announcing a new department called: Liberty of London.

Here, at ground level, hard modern glass and mirrored display units show off mainly sumptuous bags and swimwear. But look upwards through the stairwell to the galleries of the third floor and you can just glimpse lavish settings for the new home furnishings department.

Nowadays, everybody loves Liberty (founded in 1875) for its cosy Arts and Crafts building.

Original motifs gleaned from Liberty's pattern archive have been used by creative director Tara Salmon for fashion and furnishing, mixed with inspiration from the building itself. So you will see the golden galleon that glints on the Liberty roof turned into a digitally mastered print woven into a monochrome bedcover or sequined onto a silver cushion.

Other designs feature peacock feathers from the iconic Hera design of 1876.

"I want to express Liberty's opulent past," says Salman emphatically.

On the fourth floor, buyer Ross Urwin is pushing Liberty's furniture and lighting as far into the future as he can. He visits art colleges and international trade fairs, scooping up the latest styles in modern materials with top technology.

Meanwhile, Liberty's chief executive, Iain Renwick, has been painstakingly restoring the fabric of the store. His commitment shines out from the freshly buffed woodwork, carefully cleaned stone and embellished plaster that is crisp and white once more. …

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