Liberty was founded in 1875 - when founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty borrowed £2,000 from his future father-in-law and took a building on Regent Street with just three staff - but the present Marlborough Street site, with its ships’ timbers and leaded windows, was built in the 1920s. The interconnecting jumble of rooms, with the odd fireplace and cushioned window seat, makes for an intimate feel – as if you’ve strayed into a private room in a stately home. It’s not an accident, Arthur wanted customers to feel as if they were exploring someone’s home, keeping the shopping galleries small, albeit linked to three rather grand atriums.
Although Liberty trades well on its history, it constantly squeezes innovation into its wood-panelled rooms. Over the years Liberty has launched its own clothing and homeware lines, most recently including its own ready-to-wear line this year, designed by head of design Holly Marler. Formerly at Temperley and Alexander McQueen, under Lee McQueen himself, Holly has an eye for charming and thoughtful detail. Liberty fabrics can now be spotted a mile off by those in-the-know and can be worn as easily as a wardrobe staple as a wall covering.
Alongside one of the best edits for fashion shopping in the world, its expansive beauty hall juxtaposes world-renowned makeup and skincare brands beside lesser-known, but equally high quality, offerings.
Piercing expert Maria Tash, widely worn by celebrities and members of the fashion community, has her own parlour on the ground floor, while those who want a remodel for their home rather than their body can head up to homeware. Renowned for their unparalleled selection of rare finds, remarkable antiques and future-facing interior designers, the home department caters to even the most weird and wonderful visions.
The men’s floor showcases emerging designers as well as British staples, and offers the modern man a Pandora’s box of clothing, footwear and accessories, from brands including Matthew Miller, Études Studio, Marni and Wood Wood.
But for all its pomp and fizz, Liberty doesn’t take itself too seriously – there’s a genuine sense of whimsy in its approach to retail. Collaborations with world-renowned brands add Liberty flair to iconic and much-loved clothing and accessories, and the stores collaboration with Florence and the Machine singer Florence Welch last year garnered lots of notable fans. It also hosts Open Call workshops for entrepreneurs to pitch new products more easily than ever before. To take part artists, creators and designers need just upload a photo of their unique work to Instagram using #LibertyOpenCall for the chance to have it immortalised in iconic Liberty Fabric. Visitors can also have their moustache expertly trimmed and waxed at Ruffians barbers or their barnacles plucked off by expert chiropodists in the Margaret Dabbs Sole Spa.
Unapologetically eccentric and truly innovative, Liberty is a London icon.
VIDEO: Time Out's guide to Liberty, the best shop in London
As featured in the 100 best shops in London