This year’s Platinum Jubilee marks seventy years since Queen Elizabeth II came to throne. It’s hard to transport your imagination back to 1952; a time when the world wide web hadn’t yet been invented, decimalisation was still almost twenty years away and Concorde’s first flight sounded like a film. Of course, during those seventy years, Liberty have continued to be pioneers of fabric and print development, and throughout her majesty’s long and triumphant reign Liberty have produced prints which truly stand the test of time. The 1950s was an incredible, ground breaking time for Liberty’s print development and today we’re looking back at some of the post-war era’s beautiful designs, and Liberty’s development’s of them.
1950S LIBERTY PRINTS
The 1950s saw Liberty commission top artists and designers of the time to create prints and some of Liberty’s most abstract and geometric prints come to fruition. In 1952, distinguished designer, Robert Stewart, developed his Sun Man design which in 2021 was developed by the Liberty Fabrics team to become Noon, a colourful, vibrant and whimsical print featuring alternating sun faces, a motif synonymous with Stewart’s distinctive handwriting.
Now part of the Classics compendium, Elizabeth was sourced from a 1950s screen-printed scarf design from Liberty Fabrics’ Merton print works. The small, delicate rose and forget-me-not trail print was rescaled for the Classics collection in 2015 and is still available today in a variety of colour ways.
Post-war Britain also saw Gillian Farr, a member of Liberty’s studio, design Mitsi. It plays on Liberty’s history with its Japanese style cherry blossom and made it into Liberty’s Classic Tana Lawn range in 2011. The Asian inspired design also went on to inspire Mitsi Valeria, a print which often features in Coco & Wolf’s collections.
Inspired by nature in her native Trinidad and a topicalised interpretation of British landscape, Althea McNish’s designs injected some much-needed colour and vibrancy into the post-war textiles industry. In the late 1950s Liberty’s chairman, Arthur Stewart-Liberty, famously commissioned Althea to create new and exclusive designs for Liberty. One of the most popular designs was the abstract, Cascade, a heavily textured cotton poplin fabric from 1959, featuring a black and blue background with small, overlaid circles repeated in bright reds, greens and blues.
Originally printed as a furnishing fabric in 1959, Poppy Jubilee is a very large-scale pattern featuring impressionistic poppies alongside English cornflowers in bud - a story of English countryside in bloom.
With such a rich heritage of print development it is truly fascinating to look back at this era’s designs. We are eternally grateful to have such a generous archive of prints to rediscover when creating recolourings, seasonal collections and inspiring, heirloom pieces for your home. In a year in which we celebrate The Queen’s jubilant reign there’s little reason not to also celebrate other British institutions long and enduring resonance, especially when they are as fabulous as Liberty!