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Liberty of London

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published September 10th 2010
Liberty of London has its own signature style, such a rare pleasure for shoppers in a homogenizing world where shops seem only to sell variations on a standardised theme. This style, in the form of ye olde skoole floral chintz patterns and art deco era designs, is signature stamped on everything - from note books, to bags and umbrellas - and printed on material and scarves in all its detailed glory as if it were art.

And some fashionistas and design lovers would argue that Liberty print IS art.

Speaking of Liberty printed material, Liberty is one of the few places in central London with a haberdashery department, and definitely the only department store that still prints its own fabrics. Which is just one of the things that makes Liberty more that a department store.

All these little details: the wonderfully overstocked haberdashery department, a handbag section that fantasies are made of, a wing of vintage clothes and jewellery, and antique furniture, a scarf department!, carpets straight from where Persia once was, a perfume department with brocade on the walls and a chaise lounge, and a champagne and oyster bar in the men's department, is delivered up in a glorious Tudor wrapping.

The charming old Tudor Liberty building is one of the few things about this 'store' more unique than the products. Dark wood beams on the ceilings and walls, imperfect because when this building went up things were made by hand not en mass, a beautifully worn wood floor and subdued lighting gives an extra touch of proper old blue blooded class.

Which is why ladies who 'take afternoon tea', take it in Liberty so that they can pick up their essentials at the same time. There's something very civilised about the tradition of spending a day 'shopping in town', stopping for tea and cake somewhere to keep your strength up, and it's nice to know that this is one of the Liberty traditions that lives on here. The cafe is on the ground floor at the back and has spectacularly opulent wallpaper, a mix of lovely pots, cups and saucers and of course good quality teas, coffees and cakes. Among the teas is 'Mr Aoki's Green Tea', but there are about 30 on the menu, everything from fruit to perfumed and smoked.

A Classic Afternoon Tea of three courses is 18.95 and a Cream Tea is 11.95. And as the Liberty menu, and Oscar Wilde says: "I believe that it is customary in good society to take some light refreshment at five o'clock".
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Why? Some traditions are well worth preserving
When: Around mid-afternoon when you get a bit peckish
Where: Great Marlborough St London W1B 5AH
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