Liberty and Co. in the Fifties and Sixties

Thursday 14 January, 6–8pm


With Liberty archivist Anna Buruma

Hear the history of the world-famous London style and design institution Liberty and Co. during the 1950s and 1960s from Liberty archivist and expert Anna Buruma.

Since its inception in 1875 as the Oriental Emporium, Liberty’s has both been at the forefront of fashion and the decorative arts. Yet the 1950s were a frugal time and any retailer who wholeheartedly promoted modern design was taking a risk. In truth, Liberty & Co. played it safe, running its modern products alongside the more traditional ones, so as not to scare away longstanding customers. However the 1950s proved crucial in preparing Liberty for the decade that followed, when the department store found itself not just at one of the best shopping spots in London, but at the very epicentre of the world of fashion: Carnaby Street. Almost overnight, the emporium of traditional style found itself at the forefront of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. A new generation of designers adopted Liberty prints in their collections, and the store led several 1960s fashion trends, such as the revivals of Art Nouveau, Orientalism and Art Deco. During this time the Liberty textile design studio was used extensively by Jean Muir, Biba, Foale & Tuffin, John Cavanagh, Bill Gibb, Yves Saint Laurent and Bill Blass, among many others.

Accompanied by rare illustrations from the Liberty archive, Anna Buruma will document how Liberty learned from its mistakes and, indeed, successes to remain one of London’s most revered retailers for over 140 years.

The event starts at 6pm with a glass of wine in the Museum foyer; the talk follows at 6.15pm for 6.30pm in the Fashion Studio and lasts for approximately one hour including the chance to ask questions at the end. It is followed by a book signing. Ticket includes admission to LIBERTY IN FASHION exhibition and guests are welcome to view the exhibition before or after the event.

Anna Buruma is the author of ‘Liberty and Co. in the Fifties and Sixties’. She works as a freelance researcher and has been the archivist at Liberty since 1995 and curator at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design since 2005. ‘Liberty and Co. in the Fifties and Sixties’ is available for purchase from the Fashion and Textile Museum exhibition shop.

Price £15 / £12 students includes a complimentary drink and exhibition entry.
If you have any questions about this event please complete our enquiry form

Book online
Numbers are limited for this event, please book early to avoid disappointment.

Anna Buruma is also participating in the Liberty Study Day on Wednesday 3 February.

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