Quintessentially British and Quintessentially Quirky
Liberty London has been at the cutting edge of design and decorative arts since 1875
With a roll call of Petronella, Eustacia, Ianthe, Felix and Isabelle you would expect to find yourself in a school classroom here in the beautiful Cranbourne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where Guillotine England is based …… but you would be mistaken, as these are the names of some of the most iconic Liberty Art Print fabrics that we use to line some of our Nehru cashmere, linen and merino gilets.
“I was determined not to follow existing fashion but to create new ones” Arthur Liberty said of his approach to style and design.
Arthur Liberty began his career as an apprentice for a draper. He then took on a job at Farmer and Roger’s Great Shawl and Cloak Emporium – a position that set him on course of his life’s work. After ten years of work there, learning about textiles and other arts, he decided to branch out and open his own business in 1875 named “East India House” where he solely sold Oriental imports – namely rugs, decorative objects and of course, fabrics. The demand for these gorgeous fabrics became stronger and Liberty made the decision to import undyed fabrics and have them handprinted in England in the style of Oriental fabrics. Liberty starting marketing their fabrics as “Made in England” and their growth as a British brand began.
The Felix and Isabelle design that we have chosen to line our Primrose Hill gilet was derived from an archival paisley shawl drawing. The fabric that we use to line our gilets is made from Tana Lawn cotton which was named after the Lake Tana in Ethiopia (an early source for the yarn) and it is a modern masterpiece of production. This is a cotton that behaves like silk. it is constructed from the long stable fibres of Egyptian cotton. It is a lightweight but fine threadcount which makes it perfect for lining our gilets due to its silken feel. Many customers indeed ask if it is mixed with silk but it is 100% cotton. The material retains its shape well and the high quality also means that creases quickly fall out. The fabric is also extremely durable – which is why you still see so many vintage fabrics around today!
Liberty pride themselves on their colour palette, quality control and designer links with designers from William Morris and Gabriel Rossetti in the 19th Century and Jean Muir, Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood in the 20th Century. More recent collaborations have been with Nike, Barbour and Manolo Blahnick.
When you wear Liberty fabric you are wearing a piece of art.
Here at Guillotine we love the paisley pattern as it has been a popular motif in fashion for centuries. From its ancient Persian and Indian origins with its hidden messages and mysterious symbolism the iconic motif has had quite a journey.
Imports from the East India Company via the “Silk Routes” brought the textile pattern to Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries and following the arrival of luxurious Kashmir shawls (some of which cost the price of a small house). The pattern took the continent by storm and the shawls were imitated throughout Europe, notable in Wales and the town of Paisley in Scotland. From that point onwards the English term for the motif was “Paisley” though it is also known in the US as “Persian Pickles” or in the Welsh textile industry as “Welsh pears”.
We also associate paisley bandanas with cowboys and their popularity coincided with the American Revolution. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries paisley bandanas were being printed containing political and military advertisements on them. During the 60s in America the trend soon became popular with Harley Davidson motorbikes and then during the 70’s the paisley bandana became associated with United States gang culture.
The next surge in paisley’s fashionability was helped along by The Beatles during their Eastern-influenced phase. John Lennon even painted his Rolls Royce with the pattern. It became emblematic of the “Summer of Love” during the psychedelic era.
So what is behind paisley’s incredible longevity? Its symbolic power has probably played a part. The original Persian droplet-like motif – the boteh or buta – is thought to have been a representation of a floral spray combined with a cypress tree, a symbol of life and eternity. The seed like shape is also thought to represent fertility, has connections with Hinduism and bears an intriguing resemblance to the famous yin-yang symbol. It is still a hugely popular motif of Iran and South and Central Asian countries and is woven using silver and gold threads on to silks and fine wools for weddings and other celebrations.
Sophisticated, arty and bohemian with a flamboyant connotation which has always been popular for men’s ties and scarves.
It remains appealing, exotic and cool all at the same time – think Janis Joplin, David Bowie and Mick Jagger rocking the vibe again for the new roaring 20’s!