Liberty fashion show marks new own-brand RTW strategy, new design chief
Destination department store Liberty staged its first-ever runway show in London on Wednesday with the event marking its first own-brand ready-to-wear collection and the first collection from its newly-appointed head of design, Holly Marler.
Marler is an experienced designer who has worked at Alexander McQueen under Lee McQueen himself, and more recently at Temperley London. And traces of both labels’ influence could be seen in the collection, but with a very Liberty look overall.
The show, staged on the historic store’s fourth floor with its gallery set-up almost custom-made for an ‘in-the-round’ runway, came complete with musical entertainment and shone the spotlight on the spring 2020 collection. This will be wholesaled globally starting this month and will appear in stores this October.
It follows the company’s recent launches of own-brand nightwear and swim-and-beach collections and reflects the increasing importance of own-brand to department stores.
The new RTW spring collection has been inspired by influential female surrealist artists from the 1930s and the “total unconformity and liberty” of the Bloomsbury set. But there was also a 1970s edge with tiered ‘peasant’ dresses reminiscent of early Laura Ashley, focused on maxi lengths and intricate detailing.
But the key element of inspiration came from Liberty’s own extensive archive of over 45,000 prints with print the defining feature of the new offer.
So what’s included? The design team has come up with a 45-piece collection where the brand’s signatures such as the Ianthe print and the 1950s Liberty ‘L’ design have been worked alongside an on-trend feminine-retro vibe.
Marler said the prints “informed the silhouette of each garment from the beginning. We wanted to create a ready-to-wear collection for a mindset rather than an age; a creative, eccentric collector, with a love of beautiful things and an appreciation for the hidden details.”
The collection includes day and evening pieces (definitely veering towards dressy day rather than ‘everyday’), plus skirts, jackets, suits, shirts, robes and knits so it’s pretty comprehensive. For some pieces, the Liberty prints have been contrasted with plains in pattern/plain blocks, while others are a print jamboree in the retailer’s distinctive silks or Tana Lawn cotton.
Also featured are “unfinished” elements like reversed Liberty Silk ribbon, as well as trompe l’oeil, sequin embellishment and the brand’s first-ever lace.
As mentioned, it’s part of a wider move towards own-brands by many big-name retailers. In the department stores sector, larger rival John Lewis has achieved strong fashion growth through own-brands and Liberty itself has launched several major initiatives already this year. With Marler now on board, it looks like there will be a lot more to come.
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