Genevieve Bennett, Head of Design Interiors for Liberty Fabrics, joins us to discuss the creative process in designing The Modern Collector line of wallpaper and fabrics.
Raymond Paul Schneider: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Genevieve Bennett: The collection is called ‘The Modern Collector’ as was inspired by the founder of Liberty London – Arthur Lasenby Liberty. With his passion for exquisite textiles and objets d’art acquired on travels around the globe, our founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty was the original collector. He imagined the Liberty store as a great ship, filled with treasures and docked in the streets of London. Inspired by Arthur, the spirit of the collector lives on. The Modern Collector range is the next chapter of our story, bringing the vibrancy of the Liberty aesthetic indoors with three design heritage pillars as inspiration: Floribunda, Art Nouveau and The Tree of Life.
The idea was to celebrate Liberty’s historic love of craftmanship and design. Archival Liberty prints have been reinterpreted and reworked, appearing alongside contemporary new artworks created in our London design studio – for the next generation of iconic Liberty interiors. Mixing archive pattern and contemporary design was key to the collection.
Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Genevieve: We are lucky enough to work with an archive containing 45,000 pieces stretching back to the beginning of the brand over 125 years ago. We therefore always begin with this, but then layer in contemporary influences – art & exhibitions, fashion and interiors, floral and plant natural forms on top.
Drawing and painting is at the heart of everything we do so we always begin with sketching and painting. Layout and coloration comes next. We work with one core palette which links all our collections together – we may add 1-2 colors each season but essentially is the foundation of the collections. We are keen the customers are able to add to their Liberty collections year on year and they work well together.
Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Genevieve: The Collection has 3 themes which reflect the 3 design pillars of Liberty. We wanted to really establish these three design styles as the foundation for the Liberty Interiors Collection:
The Floribunda story offers a celebration of English flowers and gardens – from the grounds of great houses like Charleston and Great Dixter, to the humble wild plants found across the British countryside. Our designers drew from Victorian flower-pressing and botanical illustrations, inspired by blueprint cyanotypes pioneered by Anna Atkins in the 1800s.
The Art Nouveau story offers a continuation of our designers’ journey through collections of fantastic plants. Botanicals have always been an essential element of Nouveau design, appearing in highly stylized and sinuously exaggerated forms. The celebration of single motifs of flower and feather hearken back to the themes of medieval art, with particular favorite Nouveau icons including tulips, poppies, thistles, roses and peacock feathers.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life story is inspired by hand-painted Indian Palampore textiles of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Tree of Life textiles symbolize the personal journey through nature’s life cycle, with versions of this ancient motif found all around the world.
Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Genevieve: All designs are hand-painted and colored using original drawings and paintings. The Modern Collector sees a special focus on surface; lustre and matte effects are carefully balanced with line and tone, bold color and hue, and beautiful, unexpected texture. The collection features manufacturing processes which have been carefully selected to bring out the character of each design. Mixing skillful design with artisanal printing and weaving techniques, the process informs the designs, and vice versa, in a perfect harmony of art and craft. The result is a collection that combines expert craftsmanship with a powerful depth of storytelling, reflecting the beauty and quality of heritage fabrics with a fresh and contemporary appeal.
Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Genevieve: Liberty is known for its classic beautiful small scale handpainted florals – these are known throughout the world and are very versatile and sought after in the fashion world. The challenge which translating these into interiors is to maintain this beauty, delicacy and versatility when enlarged to furnishing scale. Wallpaper in particular can be very unforgiving – so we put great emphasis on redrawing and reworking designs to be suitable for furnishing fabrics and wallpapers.
Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Genevieve: Liberty is a movement dedicated to discovery, animated by arts, culture, design and the pursuit of beauty. Liberty is famed for its original curation, directional design and celebration of craftsmanship. In the spirit of our founder, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, we remain unapologetically eccentric and committed to bringing good design to all.
Liberty Fabrics has been at the cutting-edge of design and decorative arts since 1875 and now forms an international artistic movement. Designed by an in-house team in the heart of London, the wallpaper and fabric collection was printed in England & Italy using both innovative digital technology and age-old techniques.
The Modern Collector is available exclusively through Fabricut, click here to shop now.
Photography by Chris Everard.
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