Arthur Liberty - founder of Liberty in London
Who was Arthur Liberty (1843-1917) founder of Liberty in London? He was born in Buckinghamshire and initially worked as an apprentice draper and fashion warehouse manager.
In 1875 he borrowed money from his future father-in-law for a building on Regent Street, creating the first Liberty store. He proclaimed, ‘I am determined not to follow existing fashions but to create new ones.’
He chose to focus on exotic imported goods from Japan and the far east. Japan had been isolated from the world for 200 years until 1859, after which there was an explosion of Japanese influence on design in the West. In the UK, this became the ‘Aesthetic’ and ‘Arts & Crafts’ movements, and in France it was ‘Japonisme’.
The shop was a hit, with Oscar Wilde declaring, ‘Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.’
In 1924, Arthur began to build the current store using timbers from three old battleships! The idea was to create a feeling of being at home and therefore a relaxing shopping experience. Unfortunately, Arthur died before the store was completed but his bust now overlooks the entrance.